Trump appeals for unity, pushes GOP agenda in national address

50 views
US President Donald J. Trump, left, gestures at the podium in front of US Vice President Mike Pence, left, and Speaker of the House US Rep. Paul Ryan during his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress inside the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday. — Reuters

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump appealed on Tuesday for national unity and strong borders in his first State of the Union address, calling for “one American family” after a year marred by acrimony, division and scandal.

Delivering his biggest speech of the year, this most polarizing of presidents sought to put the spotlight on a robust economy, while pointedly calling on a packed joint session of Congress to enact tough curbs on immigration.

“Tonight, I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people we were elected to serve,” he said.

“Tonight, I want to talk about what kind of future we are going to have, and what kind of nation we are going to be. All of us, together, as one team, one people, and one American family.”

Trump’s opening tone was uncharacteristically conciliatory, although it bridged no compromise on his drive to reduce immigration — which he painted as responsible for a plethora of social ills.

He touched on a range of foreign policy issues — including, in an emotive moment, offering the spotlight to crippled North Korean amputee defector Ji Seong-ho, who waved his crutches in the air as he received a prolonged standing ovation.

Trump warned that Pyongyang’s “reckless” nuclear drive could “very soon” threaten the US homeland, while also eyeing the geopolitical challenge posed by adversaries China and Russia.

But Trump’s State of the Union, the third longest on record at one hour 20 minutes, was overwhelmingly focused on domestic concerns.

Among those looking on were dozens of cross-armed Democratic lawmakers, some decked in black to honor the victims of sexual harassment and still others wearing butterfly stickers in support of immigrants — two social issues that more than any others have roiled America in the age of Trump.

Also in the audience were members of Trump’s own family including the first lady, Melania, who recently canceled a joint trip to Davos, Switzerland and has not been seen with her husband in public since reports alleged he paid porn actress Stormy Daniels hush money over an affair, which the White House denies.

Breaking with tradition, the first couple arrived separately to the Capitol, because, according to the first lady’s spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham, she was accompanying guests.

Over the years the State of the Union address, a set piece of the American political calendar, has lost some of its impact and pizzazz.

But the primetime address, watched by as many as 40 million Americans, was still a once-in-a-year opportunity for Trump to speak to the nation and mend his sunken approval ratings, languishing around 40 percent.

A CNN poll released afterward suggested people who watched the address were underwhelmed by it.

Seeking to enliven his own base, Trump spoke at length on the need for immigration reform, drawing hisses from the opposition as he equated immigrants with criminality and economic tension and spoke of “chain migration.”

For decades, he lamented, “open borders” had allowed “drugs and gangs to pour into” the United States. He again called for the construction of a border wall that remains unfunded in Congress.

“They have allowed millions of low-wage workers to compete for jobs and wages against the poorest Americans. Most tragically, they have caused the loss of many innocent lives.”

Two couples whose daughters were murdered by MS-13, a Salvadoran gang, were among those joining the first lady to watch the address. — AFP


50 views