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Photo: Jim Bourg, Pool/Getty Images

President Trump’s State of the Union embodied the surprising and frequently baffling ways the president zips across partisan divides. There's not another American politician who in one night could call for creating paid family leave, keeping Gitmo open, making the nuclear arsenal stronger, making prescription drugs less expensive, cracking down on drug dealers, and helping convicted felons get “a second chance.” 

This is the paradox of Trump, which Washington still isn’t used to: Democrats on the whole will likely be so horrified by Trump’s rhetoric on immigration — particularly chain migration — that they'll be loathe to rush to his side on any of the other issues he laid out that they may like, such as infrastructure and prison reform. And Speaker Paul Ryan won’t be his ally on every issue, either; as much of the chamber cheered paid family leave, he sat quietly.

Trump's undisputed genius for showmanship was on full display. The speech was packed with made-for-TV moments, including a North Korean defector who hoisted his crutches in the air and young boy who plants flags on veterans’ graves. Trump’s remarks about a police officer who adopted a baby girl from a woman addicted to heroin may have been the most deeply affecting moment in a State of the Union speech in recent memory. 

  • At the same time, Democrats will be irate that Trump brought out the parents of two girls murdered by MS-13 gang members; they will likely argue Trump engaged in grief porn to demonize children who flee to the United States seeking asylum. 

A few more moments that stood out:

  • Trump’s “Americans are dreamers, too” line — it’s one he uses privately, and an obvious dig at Democratic rhetoric on DACA recipients. 
  • He mentioned theft of American intellectual property, an issue that doesn’t usually get high billing in SOTUs. And though he didn’t mention China specifically, the reference was an entirely unsubtle hint at his imminent tariffs against the country’s products. 
  • The president’s comments on drug dealers were unusual, ominous, and straight from his gut: “We must get much tougher on drug dealers and pushers if we are going to succeed in stopping this scourge.” While a bipartisan coalition in Congress pushes for shorter sentences for some drug crimes, Trump’s instincts on this issue remain ultra-hawkish.
  • Speaking of Trump’s gut, the one executive order the White House pushed out during his speech was to keep Gitmo open. Remember, this is the president whose own defense secretary had to talk him out of torture. As Michelle Obama said, the presidency doesn’t change you. 
  • Trump also had trouble disguising his sneer about nuclear disarmament. “Perhaps someday in the future there will be a magical moment when the countries of the world will get together to eliminate their nuclear weapons,” he said, sardonically. “Unfortunately, we are not there yet.”

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - World

U.S. airstrike kills senior al-Qaeda leader in Syria, DOD says

A displacement camp near the village of Qah in Syria's northwestern Idlib province. Photo: Ahmad Al-Atrash/AFP via Getty Images

A U.S. airstrike in northwest Syria on Friday killed senior al-Qaeda leader Abdul Hamid al-Matar, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

Why it matters: Syria serves as a "safe haven" for the extremist group to plan external operations, according to U.S. Army Maj. John Rigsbee.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Giuliani associate Lev Parnas convicted of campaign finance crimes

Lev Parnas, a former associate of then-President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Florida businessman Lev Parnas was convicted Friday on charges of conspiracy to make foreign contributions to political campaigns, according to multiple outlets.

Why it matters: Prosecutors said Parnas, then an associate of former President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, funneled over $150,000 from a Russian businessman into U.S. campaigns as part of an effort to land licenses in the U.S.'s legal cannabis industry.

Supreme Court agrees to hear challenges to Texas abortion law

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear two cases challenging Texas' abortion law, which bans the procedure as soon as six weeks into pregnancy, but left the law in place in the meantime.

Why it matters: The court is moving extraordinarily fast on the Texas cases, compressing into just a few days a process that normally takes months. And that schedule means the court will take up Texas' ban a month before it hears another major abortion case — a challenge to Mississippi's own 2018 ban on abortions after 15 weeks.