Golez: I think it was a good speech. Very reassuring that America, our treaty ally, is on our side as we face geopolitical challenges. Today and the coming years is not a good time to bet against America and switch sides.
Paul Singer | USA TODAY
President Trump's first address to Congress may be remembered more for what he did not do that what he did — he did not relitigate the election results, he did not assail the media (much), and he did not call anybody names.
Instead, he painted a broadly optimistic, heroic picture of America, and he promised that when the nation celebrates its 250th anniversary in 2026, "we will look back on tonight as when this new chapter of American Greatness began."
Here are a few key takeaways from the speech that may or may not meet that standard of history.
A War Widow Wins The Night
The death of Navy SEAL William "Ryan" Owens remains a point of political contention. Trump says — and repeated Tuesday night — that Owens died in a January raid in Yemen that secured a trove of intelligence that will help in the fight against ISIS. Democratic critics say the raid was a rush job that delivered little. Owens' father has said he did not want to meet the new president who ordered his son into battle.
But Tuesday, all that mattered was that Owens' widow, Carryn, was in the House chamber. Trump pointed her out and said "Ryan's legacy is etched into eternity." A cascade of applause and cheers erupted and lasted, the longest sustained ovation of the night. Trump himself took note: "I think he just broke a record."
Bring Us Your Tired, Your Hungry, Your Well-Educated
Trump for the first time sketched out a new approach to immigration — beyond building the wall and removing people here illegally — suggesting that the nation adopt a "merit-based" immigration system.
"It is a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially." Trump said. "Yet, in America, we do not enforce this rule, straining the very public resources that our poorest citizens rely upon." Congress should consider "switching away from this current system of lower-skilled immigration," he said.
Trump said he believes real immigration reform is possible, but such a dramatic shift in immigration priorities will be certain to meet staunch Democratic resistance.
Things Are Gonna Get Good
Trump promised a massive renewal of American jobs, infrastructure, the military ... he even said "cures to illnesses that have always plagued us are not too much to hope."
The president wants a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan to rebuild the nations roads and create millions of jobs. "Millions lifted from welfare to work is not too much to expect," Trump said, and "streets where mothers are safe from fear — schools where children learn in peace ... are not too much to ask."
Trump was criticized for delivering an inaugural address that was heavy on dark tones of "American carnage," and while this speech had a little of this, there was a lot more "shining city on a hill."
"A new chapter of American Greatness is now beginning," the president said. "A new national pride is sweeping across our nation. And a new surge of optimism is placing impossible dreams firmly within our grasp."
It's Obama's Fault Things Are Not Already Good
Trump has begin in the past few weeks setting the groundwork for blaming the past administration for anything that does not go right. On Tuesday, he painted a picture of his new presidency trying to rebuild a nation crippled by the mistakes of his predecessor.
"We have the worst financial recovery in 65 years," Trump said. "In the last eight years, the past administration has put on more new debt than nearly all other presidents combined ...
"Our trade deficit in goods with the world last year was nearly $800 billion. And overseas, we have inherited a series of tragic foreign policy disasters."
Note the statistics Trump cited: 43 million people on food stamps and "ninety-four million Americans are out of the labor force."
Of course, former president Barack Obama spent eight years blaming President George W. Bush for the lousy economy he inherited, so Trump is not plowing new ground here. But Democrats will note that the unemployment rate Trump is inheriting is about half what Obama inherited.
Trump's Bayonet Diplomacy
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Possibly the most dramatic change from Obama to Trump is the vision of America's place in the world. Obama was hailed as a hero worldwide and given a Nobel Prize basically for just taking office. Trump described Tuesday a greatly reduced role in American global leadership. Even his commitment to global alliances was referenced in military, not diplomatic terms. "To those allies who wonder what kind of friend America will be, look no further than the heroes who wear our uniform," the president said.
Trump's focus is clearly inward.
"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," he said.
"America respects the right of all nations to chart their own path. My job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America."
Democrats largely sat on their hands, but there were no protesters, no one shouting at the new president. A couple of House Democrats held thumbs-down for ideas like repealing Obamacare, and many Democratic women wore white in an homage to both the women's suffrage movement and to Hillary Clinton's homage to the women's suffrage movement. Loud laughter emerged from the Democratic side when Trump said he has already begun "draining the swamp."
But otherwise, everybody behaved themselves.