A chance for Trump to reset the rhetoric
Jordan Ryan | Monday, January 29, 2018
This Tuesday, Jan. 30th, President Trump will deliver his first State of the Union before members of Congress. In the traditional letter from the Speaker of the House inviting the President to make the constitutionally required address, Speaker Paul Ryan suggested the broad framework for President Trump’s speech writing, “Today, we are in the midst of a historic effort to provide relief to hardworking taxpayers, grow our economy and rebuild our military for the 21st century. Looking ahead, the new year will bring an opportunity to take account of the progress we have made but also lay out the worked that still remains to be done on behalf of the American people.”
An opportunity for surprise is presented virtually anytime President Trump steps before a microphone. His off-the-cuff style and use of informal — and often colorful — language has created an environment where we expect the unexpected. In what will be a critically important speech leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, President Trump would be well served to keep his first State of the Union address within the broad outline suggested by Speaker Ryan.
In his first address to a joint session of Congress, President Trump emphasized his goal of a “renewal of the American spirit.” This well received speech focused on now common themes of the border wall, immigration and our need to replace a crumbling infrastructure.
Rather than remain focused on the primary themes, which seemed to resonate well with the American people, the first year of Mr. Trump’s presidency has been marked by distracting battles with other political leaders, the press and the National Football League. The President’s first State of the Union address presents an opportunity for him to reset the rhetoric that has thus far defined his presidency and set a more positive narrative rather than irritating already open wounds.
In many respects, the President is entitled to take a victory lap and remind the American people of his first year’s accomplishments. His highlight reel will likely focus on the economy, which has been fueled by a $1.5 trillion tax cut and the elimination of what many argued were stifling regulations. The stock market is up nearly 33% since Mr. Trump’s inauguration, job growth has driven down our unemployment figures and millions of American workers from a broad spectrum of service and industrial sectors have enjoyed unanticipated bonuses to begin the new year.
Mr. Trump’s address on Tuesday will also likely include his vision for national security, including the state of international terrorism as well as immigration, specifically his recently released plan for a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants and his request for $25 billion for a border wall. He might also describe his plans for rebuilding our infrastructure and how the costs of that effort are to be shared by the federal government with state and local contributions. Finally, President Trump will also likely remind us of his views on the need for fair and balanced international trade.
President Trump would be wise to stick to these major themes where there is at least some hope of bipartisan support. Poll numbers are beginning to improve largely from evolving public sentiment on the new tax law. In the shadow of the recent government shutdown, Mr. Trump would be well served to avoid in his address those issues which continue to divide us, including the repeal of Obamacare.
It is time for Mr. Trump to broaden his appeal beyond his existing base of supporters. The loss of existing majorities in either house of Congress could cripple his planned legislative agenda and further divide an already fractured nation. Mr. Trump should seize upon the opportunity presented by his first State of the Union address and offer to the American people his proposal for bringing us together.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.