President Trump strode to the podium in the House Chamber on Tuesday night with his red tie askew, its tip lost beneath his jacket somewhere between his belt and his breast.
The address that followed was similarly devoid of tact.
For more than an hour, the president touted his accomplishments, recycled tired border security talking points and called for unity while deriding Democrats as obstructionists for not confirming his judicial nominees and refusing to cow to his policy demands. He even went so far as to label any potential Democratic investigations into his administration as un-American, prompting an exasperated gasp from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). “An economic miracle is taking place in the United States, and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics or ridiculous partisan investigations,” Trump said, “If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation.”
President Trump: "An economic miracle is taking place in the United States — and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics or ridiculous partisan investigations. If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation." #sotu pic.twitter.com/NZ7F10U9gR
— CSPAN (@cspan) February 6, 2019
As expected, Trump doubled down on his fear-mongering rhetoric regarding border security. He painted illegal immigration as an issue of class, claiming the elites are out of touch with the danger illegal immigrants pose to working-class Americans. “No issue better illustrates the divide between America’s working class and America’s political class than illegal immigration,” he claimed. “Wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders while living their lives behind walls and gates and guards.”
Trump warned of the danger of incoming migrant caravans, announcing that he ordered 3,750 troops to the border to “prepare for this tremendous onslaught.” He went on to say that Congress has a “moral duty to create an immigration system that protects the lives and jobs of our citizens.” To Trump, this means nothing less than funding a border wall. As a reminder, Illegal border apprehensions are at their lowest level since 1971.
— ABC News (@ABC) February 6, 2019
The White House had promoted the speech primarily as a call for unity, a theme Trump undermined Tuesday morning by sniping at Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Twitter. “I see Schumer is already criticizing my State of the Union speech, even though he hasn’t seen it,” the president wrote.
I see Schumer is already criticizing my State of the Union speech, even though he hasn’t seen it yet. He’s just upset that he didn’t win the Senate, after spending a fortune, like he thought he would. Too bad we weren’t given more credit for the Senate win by the media!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 5, 2019
“If he calls for unity tonight, we’ll have to say, ‘Let’s see what happens tomorrow and the day after and the day after,’ Schumer said Tuesday. “Because in the past he’s called for unity and he’s forgotten about it by the next morning.”
Not long after tweeting about Schumer, Trump attacked other Democratic leaders during a lunch with TV anchors meant to preview the State of the Union. According to the New York Times, the president called Schumer a “nasty son of a bitch”; described former Vice President Joe Biden as “dumb”; once again referred to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) as “Pocahontas”; and said that embattled Virginia Governor Ralph Northam “choked like a dog” during a disastrous press conference on Saturday in which he attempted to explain a racist yearbook photo depicting a man in blackface and another wearing a KKK hood. Trump also attacked the late John McCain during the lunch, gloating that his book “bombed.”
One of the president’s guests at the State of the Union was Joshua Trump, a sixth grader from Delaware who was invited because he “has been bullied in school due to his last name.”
The president’s penchant for petty insults isn’t the only reason his push for bipartisanship was destined to ring hollow. Trump has rarely shown willingness to work with Democrats in any meaningful way, and on several occasions has undermined efforts by Republicans to do so. In early 2018, Trump scuttled a deal that would have given him the full $25 billion in funding for a wall because it didn’t include enough restrictions on legal immigration. In December, he refused to accept a spending bill that included anything less than $5.7 billion in funding, leading to the longest government shutdown in American history.
Though late last month he signed a continuing resolution to temporarily re-open the government, Trump has continued to refuse to sign any border security package that does not include wall funding, and many fear he could attempt to subvert Congress by declaring the situation at the border a national emergency. In theory, this would allow him to redirect disaster relief funding toward the wall, although the move would almost certainly be struck down in court.
Trump teased the idea of making a big announcement during the State of the Union, although played coy when asked to elaborate. “I don’t want to say,” he told reporters. “You’ll hear the State of the Union. And then you’ll see what happens right after the State of the Union.”
The president may have been referring to a meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un that is scheduled to take place February 27th-28th. This will be the pair’s second summit in as many years. “If I had not been elected president of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea,” the president said to groans.
The State of the Union was originally scheduled to take place January 29th, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) forced Trump to delay the address until the government shutdown ended. Because Trump signed a continuing resolution to re-open the government the Friday before the 29th, they agreed to push the address back a week. Throughout the hour-plus speech Tuesday night, Pelosi sat over his left shoulder, her face cycling through expressions that appeared to range from exasperated eye-rolls, to head-shaking, to sobering attempts to grapple with the fact that the man spewing bullshit in front of her is the president of the United States.