Mar 1, 2017 - Politics & Policy
The 12 things that mattered in Trump's speech
A rundown of what to note from Trump's first address to a joint session of Congress.
- Tone: The speech was, by some distance, his most "presidential" since running for the office. He was totally on message, controlled, uncaffeinated, un-Trumpian.
- Breaking the ice: Trump began his speech with riffs on Black History, civil rights, and a condemnation of anti-Semitic violence. He received standing ovations.
- Head fake on immigration: As we reported, there was no way Trump was going to have a conversion to Jeb Bush-style immigration reform. He spent much of the speech highlighting the crimes committed by immigrants in the country illegally, and he gave no concessions on immigration
- Declined to endorse the border adjustment tax: "We must create a level playing field for American companies and workers. Currently, when we ship products out of America, many other countries make us pay very high tariffs and taxes -- but when foreign companies ship their products into America, we charge them almost nothing."
- More detail on healthcare: Trump gave Speaker Paul Ryan a big win by listing some components of the House GOP plan — and, as we forecast, the big one was tax credits. See David Nather's analysis.
- Says his budget will increase funding for veterans. A well-received line: "Our veterans have delivered for this Nation –- and now we must deliver for them."
- Crucial language on infrastructure: "To launch our national rebuilding, I will be asking the Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in the infrastructure of the United States — financed through both public and private capital –- creating millions of new jobs." The key phrase — "that produces" — coupled with the mention of private capital — means the Bernie Sanders dream of $1 trillion in new government spending remains a fantasy.
- Sought to tie the African-American experience to nationalism: "We've financed and built one global project after another, but ignored the fates of our children in the inner cities of Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit -- and so many other places throughout our land."
- Promises: Listed pledges made and kept. He gave plenty of applause lines for (at least some) Democrats, including withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and his request that "new American pipelines be made with American steel."
- "Radical Islamic Terrorism": Trump is still using the phrase, despite the reported disapproval of his new national security advisor.
- NATO: Trump made a happy man of Defense Secretary Mattis and the rest of the foreign policy establishment, which has worried about his previous comments that NATO is "obsolete." Tonight, Trump said: "We strongly support NATO, an alliance forged through the bonds of two World Wars that dethroned fascism, and a Cold War that defeated communism. But our partners must meet their financial obligations."
- A emotional moment — and the longest applause of the night: "We are blessed to be joined tonight by Carryn Owens, the widow of a U.S. Navy Special Operator, Senior Chief William "Ryan" Owens. Ryan died as he lived: a warrior, and a hero –- battling against terrorism and securing our Nation."