Standing face to face with emboldened Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, President Donald Trump took to the stage Tuesday — and what he said left almost every American cheering.
According to CBS News, 76 percent of American voters said they approved of Trump’s State of the Union address, and 72 percent agreed with the president’s view on illegal immigration reform. CNN reported the same numbers, and included a startling fact: 60 percent of Americans had a “very positive” review of Trump’s remarks.
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Trump called on Washington to cast aside “revenge, resistance and retribution” and end “ridiculous partisan investigations” in a powerful address aimed to unite Americans.
American voters responded with an overwhelming, “Amen!”
To opposition leaders like Schumer — whose political star has been on the rise in a heavily divided Washington, D.C. — that’s bad news.
In front of the nation on Tuesday, Trump asked for bipartisanship. He renewed his call for a border wall and explained how illegal immigration is a growing threat to Americans’ safety and economic security.
The opposition was on vivid display as Democratic congresswomen in the audience sat together dressed in white robes and dresses. On social media, critics questioned the wisdom of the all-white outfits just days after Virginia Gov. Ralph Nordham, a Democrat, was accused of posing in blackface with a friend in a KKK robe.
Schumer and his party often refused to stand and clap at key moments of the address, including Trump’s declaration that minority unemployment was the lowest in American history.
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Americans still responded very positively to the call for unity at an important time for the president. Trump is staring down a two-year stretch that will determine whether he is re-elected or leaves office in defeat. His speech sought to shore up Republican support that had eroded slightly during the recent government shutdown and previewed a fresh defense against Democrats as they ready a round of investigations into every aspect of his administration.
“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation,” he declared.
Looming over the president’s address was a fast-approaching Feb. 15 deadline to fund the government and avoid another shutdown. Democrats have refused to negotiate on his demands for a border wall, and Republican leaders are increasingly unwilling to support the president’s plan to declare a national emergency if Congress won’t fund the wall.
Trump made no mention of an emergency declaration in his remarks. He did offer a lengthy defense of his call for a border wall, declaring: “I will build it” and called on Democrats for support.
“I am asking you to defend our very dangerous southern border out of love and devotion to our fellow citizens and to our country,” he said, explaining the risks posed to Americans by illegal immigration.
The 72-year-old Trump harkened back to moments of American greatness, celebrating the moon landing as astronaut Buzz Aldrin looked on from the audience and heralding the liberation of Europe from the Nazis. He led the House chamber in singing happy birthday to a Holocaust survivor sitting with first lady Melania Trump.
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“Together, we represent the most extraordinary nation in all of history. What will we do with this moment? How will we be remembered?” Trump said.
The president ticked through a litany of issues with crossover appeal, including boosting infrastructure, lowering prescription drug costs and combating childhood cancer. But he also appealed to his political base, both with his harsh rhetoric on illegal immigration and a call for Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the “late-term abortion of children.”
Trump also announced details of a second meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un , outlining a Feb. 27-28 summit in Vietnam.
The president said his outreach to North Korea had made the U.S. safer, and work was progressing towards denuclearization.
“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,” he said.
As he condemned political turmoil in Venezuela, Trump declared that “America will never be a socialist country” — a remark that may also have been targeted at high-profile Democrats who identify as socialists.
The president was surrounded by symbols of his emboldened political opposition. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was praised by Democrats for her hard-line negotiating during the shutdown, sat behind Trump as he spoke. In front of Trump sat Schumer. And several senators running for president were also in the audience, including Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey.
Trump’s address amounted to an opening argument for his re-election campaign. One bright spot for the president has been the economy, which has added jobs for 100 straight months.
“The only thing that can stop it,” he said, “are foolish wars, politics or ridiculous partisan investigations” — an apparent swipe at the special counsel investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, which Trump has repeatedly said has unfairly targeted his campaign.
The loudest cheer from Democrats was for themselves: they leapt to their feet when he noted there are “more women in the workforce than ever before.” A number of freshman Democratic Congresswomen cheered and pumped their fists in the air in a celebration over the November election victories that won them a seat in the House.
Trump’s guests for the speech included Alice Marie Johnson, whose life sentence for drug offenses was commuted by the president, and Joshua Trump, a sixth-grade student from Wilmington, Delaware, who has been bullied over his last name. They sat with Mrs. Trump during the address.
The Associated Press contributed to this article