State of the Union addresses are pretty predictable. Lawmakers from the president’s party whoop and cheer throughout the hour-plus speech, while those from the other party mostly sit on their hands and frown.
But President Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday was different. He drew repeated standing ovations from female Democrats, some of whom had dressed in “suffragette white” to show support for women’s rights and — let’s be honest — disdain for Trump, who they claim is a misogynist.
Trump, as always, knew just how to play the room.
“No one has benefited more from a thriving economy than women, who have filled 58 percent of the newly created jobs last year,” Trump said. As a camera cut to a throng of women dressed in white, many at first did not know what to do. Some looked to others but they all stayed seated, some not even clapping. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was turned fully around in her seat talking to another female lawmaker.
Then one women stood and applauded, drawing others onto their feet. The camera cut to other parts of the chambers, showing men and women applauding and pointing to the white-clad lawmakers, who pantomimed the “raise the roof” move. Even Ocasio-Cortez and Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi rose to their feet and smiled broadly.
With his own big smile, Trump pointed to them and said, “You weren’t supposed to do that!”
Then the president kept on rolling, saying: “All Americans can be proud that we have more women in the workforce than ever before.” This drew another standing ovation, with the cameras focusing on the women in white.
And Trump was just getting started. “Don’t sit yet. You’re going to like this,” Trump said with a smile.
“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,” he said. This brought yet another standing ovation, with some women high-fiving each other and much back-slapping, as Pelosi actually urged the women to stand.
The cameras cut quickly to show Ivanka Trump and Lara Trump applauding and smiling. Meanwhile, the entire Republican side of the aisle was also standing and applauding, too, and a chant of “USA! USA!” broke out in the hallowed hall.
As the hubbub settled, Trump said, “That’s great. Really great. And congratulations. That’s great.”
And Trump was smart to praise the female lawmakers. There are now 127 women in Congress, a record number, and some sit on powerful committees that have oversight on the executive branch.
Afterward, some Democratic women said they appreciated the shout out — but not exactly for the intended reason. “We did like the fact that he gave women an opportunity to just take the floor away from him,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, the New York Post reported.
New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland was tickled by the irony of Trump recognizing them, crediting a rebuke of his policies with sweeping many of the Democratic women into office. “It’s his . . . rhetoric that got so many women elected, so of course we’re happy.” She added: “They can thank the president for that.”