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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Local experts examine Trump’s State of the Union address

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President Donald Trump gave his first State of the Union address in January last year. This year’s speech was given on Feb. 5 since it was postponed during the government shutdown. 

President Donald Trump declared the state of the union to be strong at his address to the nation on Wednesday.
The state of the union address had been postponed during the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, which ended on Jan. 25. During his address, Trump discussed issues facing the nation and urged for policy on topics including immigration, anti-Semitism, women’s access to late-term abortion.
The State of the Union is often used by the president to talk about issues facing the nation and suggest policy options. Teetering on the edge of policy conversation and instead leaning toward campaign rhetoric, Trump pushed for building the border wall and assured viewers socialism will not take over the U.S. government.
Before the address, associate professor of communication Jennifer Mercieca said she had expected Trump to use the speech as a way to reset the agenda.
“We’ve been talking about issues that the new Democratic majority in Congress wants to discuss for the past few months, and this is an opportunity to change that by telling the nation about his priorities for the upcoming year,” Mercieca said.
Trump said his agenda was not based on a party, but what was best for the people of America. However, Kirby Goidel, professor of political communication and director of Texas A&M’s Public Policy Research Institute, said Trump based much of his speech on Republican politics but toward the end of the address he did focus on working together.
“There was a lot of Republican red meat in the speech,” Goidel said. “Reading about it going into the speech I thought you’d hear a lot more of a unity message, a whole lot more about how we can work together.”
Mueller Investigation
Trump has openly stated his disdain for the Mueller investigation researching collusion with Russia in the 2016 election. However, Trump did not directly bring up the Mueller investigation. Instead, he said in order for there to be peace and legislation there cannot be war and investigation. The acting attorney general said the investigation would be wrapping up, according to New York Times congressional correspondent Nicholas Fandos.
“It may be as big as Watergate, but we don’t know yet,” Goidel said in regards to the significance of the investigation. “Part of the question of ‘big’ doesn’t just matter what the scandal is — it matters what the final impact is. So we don’t know yet.”
Trump also brought forward the topic of immigration at the southern border. Some audience members began to rumble after Trump brought back the subject of a caravan moving toward the border, which received national attention during the 2018 election. Trump followed the statement by saying people who legally immigrate to the U.S. are vital to the nation’s success.
“He’s trying to make the clear distinction [that] we should support legal immigration, though neither he nor anyone on his side has argued very much that we should expand legal immigration,” Goidel said. “The other thing is the caravan statements are just kind of baffling, especially when all the data that we have suggests that immigration on the border has gone down, that it’s not as much of a problem as it’s been in the past.”
Trump said his recent efforts to have allies in NATO to take on more spending were successful because he was able to secure a $100 billion increase in NATO defense spending. Trump also said NAFTA is one of the worst deals ever made.
“In a very odd way in terms of conducting foreign policy,” Goidel said. “He’s been really critical of our allies.”
Trump said the U.S. would withdraw from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (I.N.F.) treaty due to Russia’s violations.
“There’s already some question about cheating but now [Russia] can freely go back to nuclear weapons and the U.S. can as well in terms of intermediate nuclear forces,” Goidel said. “There was an effort to sort of limit the creation of nuclear arms and this creates an issue where both sides now have an incentive to go back and create those.”
Women in congress
Women of Congress on both sides of the aisle wore white — the color of the suffragette movement that led to women gaining the right to vote — to bring attention to women’s rights. Trump mentioned the recent effects women have had on the economy and the historic number of women in government.
“And exactly one century after Congress passed the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote, we also have more women serving in Congress than at any time before,” Trump said. “That’s great. Really great. And congratulations.”
Anti-Semitism afflicted the nation through targeted shootings in 2018. Data from the Anti-Defamation League shows that anti-Semitism is growing in the U.S., which Trump said must be addressed as a country. To emphasise his point, Trump invited Judah Samet, a Holocaust survivor who survived the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting on Oct. 2018. Samet turned 81-years-old Wednesday and the audience sang happy birthday.
Goidel said that although people are not calling Trump anti-Semitic, this gave him the opportunity to make a clear message about hate speech after his reaction to the Charlottesville protest where he said there are both good and bad people on either side of the issue.
“I think one of the criticisms of Trump has been that he hasn’t taken some of the hate speech seriously enough,” Goidel said. “I think he tried to use this as an example that he was very serious about anti-Semitism. It’s probably not going to convince people.”
Democratic Response
The democratic response was delivered by Stacey Abrams who lost the governor’s race in Georgia in 2018. She made history by being the first African-American woman to give the speech and was an unexpected choice by Democrats as she is not currently serving in office. After speaking about her work with Republicans in Georgia during her time as leader of the Democratic Party in the Georgia House of Representatives, she called for bipartisan action in reform for the country at the national level.
“We may come from different sides of the political aisle; but, our joint commitment to the ideals of this nation cannot be negotiable,” Abrams said.

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