Alexander's Column

The 2019 SOTU Review: A Trump Administration Triumph

There is a new opportunity in American politics, if only we have the courage to seize it. Victory is not winning for our party. Victory is winning for our country.

Mark Alexander · Feb. 6, 2019
“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” —Article II, Section 1, Constitution of the United States (1787)

Today we observe Ronald Reagan’s birthday. In the years since his presidency, through the Bush (41), Clinton, Bush (43), and Obama years, analyzing State of the Union addresses has been more about endurance than inspiration.

But, surprisingly, that changed last year with Donald Trump’s first address, “Our New American Moment.” His second address last night was even better than the first. These SOTUs did not follow the worn template of providing a wish list but instead were a running recap of administration and congressional successes over the last two years. The Trump administration’s accomplishments are formidable.

In both instances, President Trump’s remarks strongly contrasted the difference in Republican optimism and Democrat pessimism — Republican advocacy for Liberty and self-reliance versus Democrat advocacy for dependence, statism, and now unapologetic socialism based on their failed policies of the past.

We concluded years ago that the Democrat Party was not one of the oppressed but of the depressed. And that deranged institutional depression has become epidemic.

Again in his latest SOTU, Trump instilled pride in who we are as a nation. It was framed by unity rather than partisanship. “Victory is not winning for our party,” he declared. “Victory is winning for our country.” He began and ended his address with calls for unity and he highlighted numerous areas that should enlist universal agreement, largely about America’s promise and historical achievements. There were several issues in the middle of his speech that should unify Americans, especially the Trump administration’s strong economic record. But Democrats would have no part in a call for unity.

Trump opened by saying, “Members of Congress, the state of our union is strong.” Yet over his shoulder, Nancy “Sourpuss” Pelosi shook her head. Clearly, good news is bad news for Democrats, whose best political hope is to drive the nation into recession before 2020.

Americans may disagree on how to achieve border security and an orderly legal immigration process, but we should all be able to agree that caravans of migrants should not be free to cross our border.

Trump noted, “In the past, most of the people in this room voted for a wall — but the proper wall never got built. I will get it built.” He completely shifted the immigration debate to protecting American jobs and people.

Trump declared, “Here, in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country. We are born free, and we will stay free. Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.” That shouldn’t be controversial, although socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders and other socialist Democrats looked like they were suffering heart failure.

Record-low unemployment — especially for black and Hispanic Americans — rising wages across the board, and an overall strong economy are not partisan issues; they are facts. Yet in each instance when we should all agree, many if not most Democrats sat on their hands rather than applauding. However, Trump did get almost the entire room chanting “USA! USA!” after mentioning the stats on the number of women now in the workforce.

People may not see eye to eye on when abortion is appropriate — there’s not much common ground between “never” and “most of the time.” But it should be beyond dispute to say that children should not be killed at the moment of or even after birth.

“Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life,” Trump said. “And let us reaffirm a fundamental truth: All children — born and unborn — are made in the holy image of God.”

Notably, Trump did receive almost unanimous approval for what we believe was the best gathering of gallery guests in any State of the Union.

Trump concluded, “We must choose whether we are defined by our differences — or whether we dare to transcend them. We must choose whether we squander our inheritance — or whether we proudly declare that we are Americans: we do the incredible, we defy the impossible, we conquer the unknown. We must choose between greatness or gridlock, results or resistance, vision or vengeance, incredible progress or pointless destruction. Tonight, I ask you to choose greatness.”

I rate this high among the best modern-day SOTUs, and many who viewed it agree. The Leftmedia network CBS reluctantly reported its findings regarding public approval of Trump’s State of the Union: 76% of those watching the speech approved, including a 30% approval rating among Democrats and 82% among independents. Notably, 72% approved of his immigration plan. (We hope Trump will not derail the success of this SOTU, as is his penchant, with some petulant, dis-unifying social-media post.)

Of course, last year’s CBS polling, also found that almost 80% of Americans who watched the SOTU address “felt he was trying to unite the country, rather than divide it. Two-thirds said the speech made them feel proud.”

Didn’t work then either.

Chief among those not approving were Pelosi and DNC Chairman Tom Perez.

For her part, Pelosi concluded: “It will take days to fact-check all the misrepresentations that the president made tonight. Instead of fearmongering and manufacturing a crisis at the border, President Trump should commit to signing the bipartisan conference committee’s bill to keep government open and provide strong, smart border security solutions. … President Trump must now take concrete steps to work with Democrats to strengthen the health and economic security of families across America. After two years of the president’s empty words, the American people deserve real results.”

Actually, this is a fine example of Pelosi’s “alternate universe” perspective. The Trump administration and Republican Congress have clearly strengthened “the health and economic security of families across America” and, demonstrably, the American people are experiencing “real results.”

And for those who are Pelosi observers, she has a poker tell smirk — when she knows Trump has succeeded where Democrats have failed, she starts doing that smirk thing, as if trying to get the spinach out of her teeth. The Demo/MSM machine was certainly consumed with what it claimed was a teenager’s smirk two weeks ago — but not a word on Pelosi’s smirk, and all the other Demo smirks on the left side of the room.

Predictably, according to Perez: “After attending Trump’s State of the Union tonight, I know this for certain: The only way that we will be able to stop his outrageous, divisive agenda is by taking back the Senate and putting a Democrat in the White House in 2020. I am going to fight like hell to make sure we’re building the infrastructure necessary to continue to elect Democrats up and down the ballot in the months and years ahead.”

The bottom line: There will be no unity in the next two years, because Democrats and their Leftmedia publicists thrive on division and partisanship, the antithesis of unity. They have reconstructed their political platform on a “Hate Trump” foundation, rejecting Rule of Law, the most basic tenets of morality, and America’s First Principles.

(If you are interested in our coverage of the Left’s response to the SOTU, read our summary of Stacey Abrams’s remarks. Suffice it to say, it was all about division, particularly racial division, but the fact is, her Democrat Party has turned MLK’s dream into a nightmare.)

As is my practice after SOTUs, what follows are some key excerpts from President Trump’s remarks. But first, as I have done in the past with Barack Obama’s SOTUs, which were inundated with references to himself, the Trump references were very different. In his 5,200-word speech, he referred to himself 39 times, versus 99 references to “our,” 97 references to “we,” and 15 references to “us.”

President Trump:

Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, the First Lady of the United States — and my fellow Americans. We meet tonight at a moment of unlimited potential. Millions of our fellow citizens are watching us now, gathered in this great chamber, hoping that we will govern not as two parties but as one Nation.

(Trump opened his remarks, bypassing the scheduled formal introduction by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.)

The agenda I will layout this evening is not a Republican agenda or a Democrat agenda, it’s the agenda of the American people. Many of us campaigned on the same core promises: to defend American jobs and demand fair trade for American workers; to rebuild and revitalize our nation’s infrastructure; to reduce the price of health care and prescription drugs; to create an immigration system that is safe, lawful, modern and secure; and to pursue a foreign policy that puts America’s interests first.

There is a new opportunity in American politics, if only we have the courage to seize it. Victory is not winning for our party. Victory is winning for our country.

In the 20th century, America saved freedom, transformed science, and redefined the middle-class standard of living for the entire world to see, and when you get down to it, there’s nothing anywhere in the world that can compete with America.

Now, we must step boldly and bravely into the next chapter of this great American adventure, and we must create a new standard of living for the 21st century. An amazing quality of life for all of our citizens is within our reach. We can make our communities safer, our families stronger, our culture richer, our faith deeper, and our middle class bigger and more prosperous than ever before.

But we must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution — and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise, and the common good.

Together, we can break decades of political stalemate. We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions, and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future. The decision is ours to make. We must choose between greatness or gridlock, results or resistance, vision or vengeance, incredible progress or pointless destruction.

Tonight, I ask you to choose greatness.

(At this juncture, Trump summarized his administration’s policy successes — economic, regulatory cuts, and energy production. Notably, most Democrats did not applaud the economic achievements, including those most directly benefiting middle-income earners.)

After 24 months of rapid progress, our economy is the envy of the world, our military is the most powerful on earth, and America is winning each and every day. Members of Congress: The State of our Union is strong. Our country is vibrant and our economy is thriving like never before.

(Chants of “USA! USA!”)

The only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations. If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn’t work that way! We must be united at home to defeat our adversaries abroad.

(This was a reference to the Mueller/Comey/Clinton collusion to set up Trump for a takedown.)

This new era of cooperation can start with finally confirming the more than 300 highly qualified nominees who are still stuck in the Senate — some after years of waiting.

(There was no specific mention of Trump’s successful federal judicial nominations including two Supreme Court justices — there are more than 50 judicial nominations still awaiting approval.)

On Immigration:

Now is the time for the Congress to show the world that America is committed to ending illegal immigration and putting the ruthless coyotes, cartels, drug dealers, and human traffickers out of business. … This is a moral issue. The lawless state of our southern border is a threat to the safety, security, and financial well‑being of all Americans. We have a moral duty to create an immigration system that protects the lives and jobs of our citizens. This includes our obligation to the millions of immigrants living here today, who followed the rules and respected our laws. Legal immigrants enrich our nation and strengthen our society in countless ways. I want people to come into our country, but they have to come in legally.

Tonight, I am asking you to defend our very dangerous southern border out of love and devotion to our fellow citizens and to our country. No issue better illustrates the divide between America’s working class and America’s political class than illegal immigration. Wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders while living their lives behind walls and gates and guards. Meanwhile, working class Americans are left to pay the price for mass illegal migration — reduced jobs, lower wages, overburdened schools and hospitals, increased crime, and a depleted social safety net.

Tolerance for illegal immigration is not compassionate — it is cruel. One in three women is sexually assaulted on the long journey north. Smugglers use migrant children as human pawns to exploit our laws and gain access to our country. Human traffickers and sex traffickers take advantage of the wide-open areas between our ports of entry to smuggle thousands of young girls and women into the United States and to sell them into prostitution and modern-day slavery. Tens of thousands of innocent Americans are killed by lethal drugs that cross our border and flood into our cities — including meth, heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl. The savage gang, MS-13, now operates in 20 different American States, and they almost all come through our southern border.

Year after year, countless Americans are murdered by criminal illegal aliens. I’ve gotten to know many wonderful Angel Moms, Dads, and families — no one should ever have to suffer the horrible heartache they have endured.

In the last 2 years, our brave ICE officers made 266,000 arrests of criminal aliens, including those charged or convicted of nearly 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 killings. My Administration has sent to the Congress a commonsense proposal to end the crisis on our southern border.

It includes humanitarian assistance, more law enforcement, drug detection at our ports, closing loopholes that enable child smuggling, and plans for a new physical barrier, or wall, to secure the vast areas between our ports of entry. In the past, most of the people in this room voted for a wall — but the proper wall never got built. I’ll get it built. … Simply put, walls work and walls save lives.

On Women in the Workforce:

No one has benefitted more from our thriving economy than women, who have filled 58% of the new jobs created in the last year. All Americans can be proud that we have more women in the workforce than ever before.

(Standing ovation and chants of “USA! USA!” even from many Democrats — with the huge caveat that they were cheering themselves for taking over the House last November.)

On Trade:

We are now making it clear to China that after years of targeting our industries, and stealing our intellectual property, the theft of American jobs and wealth has come to an end.

Therefore, we recently imposed tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods — and now our Treasury is receiving billions of dollars a month from a country that never gave us a dime. But I don’t blame China for taking advantage of us — I blame our leaders and representatives for allowing this travesty to happen. I have great respect for President Xi, and we are now working on a new trade deal with China. But it must include real, structural change to end unfair trade practices, reduce our chronic trade deficit, and protect American jobs.

Another historic trade blunder was the catastrophe known as NAFTA. I have met the men and women of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Hampshire, and many other states whose dreams were shattered by NAFTA. For years, politicians promised them they would negotiate for a better deal. But no one ever tried — until now.

Our new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement — or USMCA — will replace NAFTA and deliver for American workers: bringing back our manufacturing jobs, expanding American agriculture, protecting intellectual property, and ensuring that more cars are proudly stamped with four beautiful words — made in the USA. Tonight, I am also asking you to pass the United States Reciprocal Trade Act.

On the Rise of Socialism:

We stand with the Venezuelan people in their noble quest for freedom — and we condemn the brutality of the Maduro regime, whose socialist policies have turned that nation from being the wealthiest in South America into a state of abject poverty and despair.

Here, in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country. America was founded on Liberty and independence — not government coercion, domination, and control. We are born free, and we will stay free. Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.

On Syria, Afghanistan and Iran:

Our brave troops have now been fighting in the Middle East for almost 19 years. In Afghanistan and Iraq, nearly 7,000 American heroes have given their lives. More than 52,000 Americans have been badly wounded. We have spent more than $7 trillion in the Middle East. As a candidate for president, I pledged a new approach. Great nations do not fight endless wars. When I took office, ISIS controlled more than 20,000 square miles in Iraq and Syria. Today, we have liberated virtually all of that territory from the grip of these bloodthirsty killers. Now, as we work with our allies to destroy the remnants of ISIS, it is time to give our brave warriors in Syria a warm welcome home.

(Republicans in the Senate have broken with Trump over Syria and Afghanistan withdrawals. There is concern among military leaders that leaving Syria and Afghanistan will result in a resurgence of Islamists, as was the case when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton decided, ahead of Obama’s 2012 reelection, to abandon Iraq.)

My administration has acted decisively to confront the world’s leading state sponsor of terror: the radical regime in Iran.

To ensure this corrupt dictatorship never acquires nuclear weapons, I withdrew the United States from the disastrous Iran nuclear deal. And last fall, we put in place the toughest sanctions ever imposed on a country. We will not avert our eyes from a regime that chants death to America and threatens genocide against the Jewish people.

(Trump turned his attention to another of his gallery guests, Judah Samet, a survivor of both the Nazi Holocaust and the Tree of Life synagogue attack in Pittsburgh. He also introduced another holocaust survivor, Joshua Kaufman, a prisoner at Dachau Concentration Camp, who was seated next to former Army Sergeant Herman Zeitchik, who was among the American soldiers who helped liberate Dachau. As Trump mentioned Samet’s 81st birthday, the full House serenaded him.)

Affirming Life for Children Before Birth:

There could be no greater contrast to the beautiful image of a mother holding her infant child than the chilling displays our nation saw in recent days. Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments before birth. These are living, feeling, beautiful babies who will never get the chance to share their love and dreams with the world. And then, we had the case of the governor of Virginia where he basically stated he would execute a baby after birth. To defend the dignity of every person, I am asking the Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb.

Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life. And let us reaffirm a fundamental truth: All children — born and unborn — are made in the holy image of God.

The final part of my agenda is to protect America’s National Security. … Under my administration, we will never apologize for advancing America’s interests.

In Closing:

Here tonight, we have legislators from across this magnificent republic. You have come from the rocky shores of Maine and the volcanic peaks of Hawaii; from the snowy woods of Wisconsin and the red deserts of Arizona; from the green farms of Kentucky and the golden beaches of California. Together, we represent the most extraordinary nation in all of history. What will we do with this moment? How will we be remembered? …

We must choose whether we are defined by our differences — or whether we dare to transcend them. We must choose whether we will squander our inheritance — or whether we will proudly declare that we are Americans. We do the incredible. We defy the impossible. We conquer the unknown.

This is the time to re-ignite the American imagination. This is the time to search for the tallest summit, and set our sights on the brightest star. This is the time to rekindle the bonds of love and loyalty and memory that link us together as citizens, as neighbors, as patriots. This is our future — our fate — and our choice to make. I am asking you to choose greatness.

No matter the trials we face, no matter the challenges to come, we must go forward together. We must keep America first in our hearts. We must keep freedom alive in our souls. And we must always keep faith in America’s destiny — that one Nation, under God, must be the hope and the promise and the light and the glory among all the nations of the world!

Thank you. God bless you, God bless America, and good night!

(The Heritage Foundation has in-depth analysis and SOTU fact-checks.)

Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis
Pro Deo et Libertate — 1776

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