What to Watch for in Trump’s State of the Union Speech

in news •  last year

By Joshua Jamerson
Jan 30, 2018 7:05 am ET
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President Donald Trump is poised to renew his call on lawmakers to work with him to overhaul the U.S. immigration system in his first official State of the Union address tonight. The other two big items to watch for: He is expected to pitch an infrastructure package and tout a strong economy in his first year as president.

We know the broad themes Mr. Trump wants to hit, but how does a State of the Union resonate in 2018, when the president attracts the world’s attention with a tweet? The speed of the current news cycle means it’s unlikely this speech will reverberate for long. But if it is still a historical marker of what a president had hoped to accomplish and a way to judge the success of a president, here’s how Mr. Trump would fare:

A look back to a speech Mr. Trump’s gave last year before a joint session of Congress (not a State of the Union but a similar event) shows that he did act on much of what he wanted to, though to mixed results. The president last year said he “directed the Department of Defense to develop a plan to demolish and destroy ISIS.” The fall of Islamic State has continued in stride in Mr. Trump’s first year. He asked the Senate to approve his nominee to the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, who is now Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch—another success for Mr. Trump. And the president wanted to cut the corporate tax rate; he did.

There are examples of pledges yet unfulfilled. Mr. Trump said his administration had “cleared the way for the construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines,” which he said would create “tens of thousands of jobs.” Not yet. The president also said his administration would “soon begin the construction of a great, great wall along our southern border,” something that has yet to occur.

And as with any president, there are gray areas. The health law, also known as Obamacare, is still the law of the land but has been crippled. Stocks are soaring but wage growth is more tepid. Mr. Trump, as promised, did withdraw the U.S. from what he called the “job-killing” Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multinational trade pact. Yet, last week, he said at the World Economic Forum he was willing to consider rejoining it. Many average Americans will receive thousands of dollars in a tax cut, as promised, but the wealthy and corporations are poised to get the lion’s share of savings from the tax legislation Mr. Trump signed.

While the president focuses on his accomplishments, the incompletes and the pledges not-yet-fulfilled are sure to be addressed by Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D., Mass.), a young third-term congressman with a famous last name who the Democrats have tapped to deliver the party’s official, televised response to the president’s speech. Here’s what else is going on today:


As President Trump prepares to deliver his State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday night, WSJ’s Jerry Seib tells us what to watch out for. On the top of the list: what the president says on immigration, trade and North Korea.

The latest column from Jerry Seib: The president relishes stirring up controversy, and, in fact, believes stirring the pot advances his reputation as an outside agitator and improves his position by keeping adversaries off balance, Jerry writes. But Mr. Trump usually keeps controversy at arm’s length, using his Twitter feed or offhand comments to attack and posture. By contrast, when he finally comes face-to-face with both friends and foes, his actual positions are often less contentious and rigid than his public posturing suggests. His Twitter bark is worse than his personal bite. Read Jerry’s full column, here.

From Washington:

Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe left his post on Monday after his bosses urged him to step aside, Aruna Viswanatha and Del Quentin Wilber. Mr. McCabe has faced a steady string of attacks over an alleged conflict of interest stemming from his wife’s previous run for Virginia state Senate as a Democrat before he became deputy director. The FBI has said Mr. McCabe played no role in his wife’s campaign. Though Mr. Trump had called for Mr. McCabe’s ouster, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president wasn’t part of the “decision-making process” on Mr. McCabe’s departure.

A congressional panel voted to make public a classified Republican-authored memo that alleges surveillance abuses against an associate of Mr. Trump dating back to the 2016 campaign. The matter now goes to Mr. Trump, who has five days to decide whether to object to the release of the material. If he does, the full House of Representatives can override his decision.

The Trump administration is resuming refugee admissions from 11 countries deemed national-security risks, while adding additional screening measures for them. Senior administration officials say the new vetting would include more independent interviews of refugee applicants and their families, but gave no other details, reports Laura Meckler.

Janet Yellen ends 14 years at the Federal Reserve this week, the last four as its first chairwoman, having guided the U.S. economy to its tightest labor market in nearly two decades by resisting calls to raise interest rates more aggressively. Nick Timiraos reports on her tenure.

The Republican Governors Association has decided to give back $100,000 in donations and cut other financial ties with Steve Wynn, in the wake of a Wall Street Journal report of decades-long sexual harassment allegations against the casino mogul.

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, on Monday said he wouldn’t seek re-election in 2018, making him the latest in a parade of senior House Republicans and committee leaders heading to the exits, Janet Hook reports. Janet had just last week written an in-depth look the uphill battle the New Jersey congressman faced in a re-election bid.

The increase in U.S. military action in Afghanistan over the past year has been accompanied by a higher number of casualties, with 141 American service members killed or wounded in the 12-month period through November, Jessica Donati writes. So far, the increased pressure has yet to halt the deteriorating state of security in the country.

The Pentagon is reviewing policies that allow deployed troops to use activity-measuring devices and fitness apps that rely on GPS tracking, after publication of a digital map online accidentally exposed information that could reveal where American troops are deployed or even precisely where they exercise overseas.

Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley led the 14 other members of the Security Council on a trip to Washington that included lunch with President Trump and a stop at a military hangar to see what the U.S. says is evidence that Iran is arming Houthi rebels in Yemen. They also visited an exhibit on Syria at the Holocaust museum.

From across the WSJ:

North Korea abruptly canceled plans to hold a joint musical performance with South Korea this week, Seoul officials said, putting a damper on the two Koreas’ attempts to build a detente before next week’s Winter Olympics.

Soaring stock prices and improving job prospects have set Americans off on a spending splurge that is cutting into how much they sock away for retirement and rainy days.

The Census Bureau has scrapped a plan to overhaul how it asks about race and Hispanic ethnicity in the 2020 Census, after the Trump administration delayed making a decision on the matter in time for the rollout.

Federal prosecutors announced charges against eight traders for deceptive trading practices in the futures markets, with all but one person charged with illegal spoofing, Gabriel T. Rubin writes.

President Trump’s pick to run NASA, GOP Rep. James Bridenstine, faces what increasingly seem insurmountable obstacles to confirmation because of opposition by Senate Democrats and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

The leader of a minor political party that supports Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi filed Monday to run for the presidency, a move that poses a token challenge to the incumbent in an election campaign opponents are calling a sham, Jared Malsin reports from Cairo.

As he runs for another term, Russian President Vladimir Putin claims credit for uptick after the country’s dismal oil-based recession, James Marson writes from Tver, Russia. The U.S. Treasury Department released an unclassified list of Russian senior political figures and oligarchs, provoking ire in Moscow even as its consequences were unclear.

Doctors are at odds over whether some patients with breast cancer should have chemotherapy—one treatment among the arsenal long seen as crucial to fighting the disease, along with surgery and radiation. Many oncologists are shunning chemo as risky and ineffective at combating some early-stage breast tumors.

JPMorgan Chase gave the clearest signal yet about a succession plan for CEO James Dimon.

Despite being one of the past year’s most successful movies, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” has fallen short of Wall Street’s expectations. That’s raising concern for the Walt Disney Co., which six years ago spent $4 billion to buy the franchise.

The maker of Keurig coffee machines is buying Dr Pepper Snapple Group, a $19 billion bet on soda.

The A-hed: Increasingly, emojis are bones of contention in lawsuits ranging from business disputes to harassment to defamation.


TRUMP ADMINISTRATION: President Donald Trump delivers the State of the Union address to a Joint Session of Congress at 9:10 p.m. The inaugural U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue begins at 8:30 a.m. at the State Department, co-hosted by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

CONGRESS: The Senate convenes at 10 a.m., and will resume consideration of the nomination of David Ryan Stras to be United States Circuit Judge for the Eighth Circuit. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt testifies to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee at 10 a.m. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testifies to the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on the Financial Stability Oversight Council at 10 a.m.

FED: The Federal Open Market Committee’s two-day meeting begins, with interest rates decision to come Wednesday.


It’s “impossible to know who to believe” in seeking an explanation for the resignation of Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, writes David A. Graham of The Atlantic. “Most of all, it is impossible to fully trust anything the executive branch says about personnel moves, thanks to the way the firing of James Comey was handled.”

The New Yorker’s Vinson Cunningham writes of a recently released 2005 picture of then-Sen. Barack Obama at a Congressional Black Caucus meeting with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. He concludes that “if that picture spreads in 2007 or 2008, a whole different history ensues.”

Allan Lichtman, writing for Time magazine, says that “Democrats are making the mistake of counting on anti-Trumpism to carry the party to victory in the 2018 midterm elections and the presidential contest of 2020. The party desperately needs to develop a positive, uplifting message that doesn’t hinge on Trump-bashing and does capture grassroots attention. ”

“While Sean Hannity and Breitbart News carry water for Trump, and many liberal publications dodge introspection in favor of anti-Trump primal screams, right-of-center magazines have been debating and reassessing the soul of their political philosophy,” writes T.A. Frank in the Washington Post. “Conservative magazines are working to bring a plausible intellectual order to this new reality — and figure out what comes next.”

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