President Donald Trump urged Americans to come together Tuesday in a State of the Union speech seeking to turn the page on two years of divisive turmoil and transform him into a bipartisan national leader.
But opposition Democrats almost instantly rejected the overture, while Trump’s steadfast insistence on building US-Mexico border walls promised new political strife in the near future.
At times joking, at times impassioned, Trump told Congress and a huge television audience that “we must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution — and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise, and the common good.”
On foreign policy, Trump reaffirmed his determination to get US troops out of Afghanistan and Syria as quickly as possible. And he announced he would extend his trailblazing personal diplomacy with North Korea by meeting reclusive leader Kim Jong Un on February 27-28 in Vietnam.
Trump touted what he hopes will remain his strongest card with voters — “the hottest economy anywhere in the world.” He also called for a bipartisan push to eradicate the AIDS epidemic in the United States in a decade.
But the key aim in the speech, littered with soaring rhetoric and interrupted continuously by applause from the Republicans, was to announce a new, more inclusive presidential tone ahead of Trump’s 2020 reelection bid.
The problem is that in two years of his administration Trump has driven an already polarized country into bitter, even violent debate over almost every aspect of politics.
The divide was stark from the moment Trump entered the House of Representatives chamber, with Republicans scrumming to shake his hands, but most Democrats keeping out of the way.
And the moment Trump swung onto his favourite topic of building a wall on the Mexican border to stop an “onslaught” of illegal immigrants, Democrats angrily shook their heads. A decision by Democrat women to wear white, in honour of the early 20th-century suffragette movement, was seen as a visual rebuke of Trump.
After the speech, Senior House Democrat Steny Hoyer declared that Trump “leaned on falsehoods and fear to obscure the reality of a presidency lacking in leadership and harmful to America’s future.”
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