President Trump’s first official State of the Union address was a smashing success from every possible angle. The polls show that Americans overwhelmingly approved of it — CBS News pegged that number at 75%, including 43% of Democrats. Meanwhile, Democrats glared around the room, munched on their dentures, and generally looked pissed off.
The story wasn’t entirely roses for conservatives — Trump touted paid family leave, a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill, an immigration plan that would give amnesty to some 1.8 million illegal immigrants, and an Obamacare “fix” that didn’t actually end Obamacare. But overall, Trump’s speech hit two notes in grand fashion: first, that America is a wonderful place, thriving and filled with opportunity; second, that American liberty is a dream for billions around the world, and a dream worth pursuing. Democrats sat and grimaced through all of that.
It wasn’t a good look.
So, here were the top 8 moments of Trump’s first State of the Union.
1. Touting The Economy. Trump spent the first 20 minutes of his speech touting economic growth. That’s precisely what he should have done: the polls show that Americans are direly misinformed about the economic numbers, and in particular, the effect of the tax cuts. Trump rightly touted low unemployment, creation of new jobs, rising wages, and a drop in black and Hispanic unemployment. Watching the Congressional Black Caucus sit through those numbers was certainly an odd spectacle. Trump also made special mention of two facts that the media have been ignoring: middle class tax savings, and the impact on earnings for families because of corporate tax cuts.
2. Touting The American Dream. During the campaign, Trump said he wanted to be a cheerleader for America. He did that last night, and it worked beautifully. After years of President Obama chiding Americans by suggesting they weren’t living up to the better angels of their natures, Trump did none of that. Instead, he stated, “to every citizen watching at home tonight — no matter where you have been, or where you come from, this is your time. If you work hard, if you believe in yourself, if you believe in America, then you can dream anything, you can be anything, and together, we can achieve anything.” That’s a message of empowerment, and it’s exactly right.
3. Cleverly Boxing In Democrats On The Flag. Trump has known for months that he has the upper hand on kneeling for the American flag and the national anthem. He slid the knife in last night by repeatedly stating that Americans should stand for both. Democrats sat. No party that sits through this line — “Preston's reverence for those who have served our Nation reminds us why we salute our flag, why we put our hands on our hearts for the pledge of allegiance, and why we proudly stand for the national anthem” — is acting out of political courage or intelligence.
4. Tribute To Victims Of Illegal Immigration. Democrats have dominated the politics of storytelling since the end of the Reagan era. That ended last night. Trump used the Reagan device of pointing out individuals in the audience to great effect. The most obvious example: he pointed out the parents of two teenage girls murdered by members of MS-13. When he talked about the evils of MS-13 and the dangers of illegal immigration and Democrats hissed, he put them in a tight spot.
“Tonight, everyone in this chamber is praying for you. Everyone in America is grieving for you. And 320 million hearts are breaking for you,” Trump said. Democrats’ ambivalence was rather obvious.
5. Trump’s “American Dreamers” Line. The line that went over best with Republicans — and that resonated most with Americans — may have been Trump’s suggestion that while he had sympathy for illegal immigrants, he also had sympathy for Americans. “My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans — to protect their safety, their families, their communities, and their right to the American Dream. Because Americans are dreamers too.” Contrast that line with Joe Kennedy III’s suggestion that he would work to tear down any wall Trump built.
6. The Adoption Story. This week, Democrats voted against protecting children in the womb at 20 weeks. Trump didn’t mention abortion. But he made a stellar case against it by telling the deeply moving story of the Holets family, who adopted the baby of a heroin-addicted mom. There shouldn’t have been a dry eye in the house. If there was, that’s only because leftist politics trumps both good sense and decency.
7. Otto Warmbier. Lest we forget, the North Korean regime tortured and murdered an American citizen. Trump didn’t forget. And his reminder that there are evil people and evil states in the world was both timely and necessary, given that Democrats have been idiotically likening Trump himself to Kim Jung Un. “Tonight, we pledge to honor Otto's memory with American resolve,” Trump said. Democrats may disagree.
8. The North Korean Refugee. Perhaps the most touching story of the night came courtesy of South Korea. A North Korean refugee who traveled “thousands of miles on crutches across China and Southeast Asia to freedom,” and who brought those crutches to the State of the Union, should have reminded Americans why we fight, and why we are only great because we are good. It was a George W. Bush touch in a Reagan speech.
Trump’s speech may not have a lasting impact; few State of the Union addresses do. But it did help change perceptions about Trump. Now we can only hope that the Trump who showed up to the State of the Union sticks around for the next three years.