Trump makes appeal for unity after divisive first year
WASHINGTON – Agence France-Presse
President Donald Trump appealed Jan. 30 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.
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 a crutch in the air as he received a prolonged standing ovation.
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 cancelled a joint trip to Davos 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.
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.
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.”
“The United States is a compassionate nation” he said, “but as president of the United States, my highest loyalty, my greatest compassion, and my constant concern is for America’s children, America’s struggling workers, and America’s forgotten communities.”
“The stock market has smashed one record after another, gaining $8 trillion in value,” he said, even though that narrative suffered a setback Jan. 30 when stocks posted their biggest drop in eight months amid fears of a bubble.
“America has also finally turned the page on decades of unfair trade deals that sacrificed our prosperity and shipped away our companies, our jobs, and our wealth -- our nation has lost its wealth but we’re getting it back so fast.”
And there was a partisan-tinged focus on terror, which had been a central message of his campaign.
The CNN poll of people who watched the speech found 48 percent said they had a “very positive” impression of it. That compared to 57 percent after Barack Obama’s first State of the Union address, the network said. Trump’s number was the lowest since CNN first started conducting the poll in 1998, it added.