Donald Trump was at his most presidential tonight. Sticking to the teleprompter, with whom he has had a contentious relationship in the past, Trump mostly re-delivered his stump speech, but in a more calm, measured manner, and wrapped up in talk of the the country’s upcoming 250th anniversary in 2026.
He opened his speech with strong condemnations of the murder of an Indian man in Kansas, and the threats against Jewish communities around the country.
“Recent threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its very ugly forms,” began the president who has attacked Muslims, media, and judges who ruled against him via Twitter.
Bill Maher: New Trump Slogan Should Be "Make America Atlantic City Again"
He talked of unity and reaching across the aisle on such projects as the repeal and replacement of Obamacare. But five times when he spoke about the need for unity, Trump pointed his finger at the Democratic side of the room, as though it was on them to fix it – like when he said: “The time for small thinking is over. The time for trivial fights is behind us.”
“We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts, the bravery to express the hopes that still our souls and the confidence to turn those hopes and dreams to action…From now on America will be empowered by our aspirations, not burdened by our fears,” said Trump, who, until his improbable race from real estate developer-turned reality TV stars to President of the United States, had been best known in political circles as the leader of the birther movement, a racist effort to undermine the legitimacy of our country’s first African American president.
An emotional crescendo occurred when Trump turned toward First Lady Melania Trump’s seat in the hall to address one of her guests, Carryn Owens. She’s the widow of a US Navy Special operator, William “Ryan” Owens, who was killed in an anti-terror raid in Yemen in the first major military engagement of the new administration. Ryan’s father has condemned the decision to order that raid and said he would not talk to Trump; Trump tonight insisted Secretary of Defense James Mattis said much valuable information was gathered in that raid.
“Ryan is looking down right now and I think he’s very happy, because I think he just broke a record,” Trump beamed, of having set up what is likely the longest standing O in presidential speech-making history.
But another moment of high drama came when Trump announced he had ordered the Department of Homeland Security to open a new office called Voice – Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement. A gasp was heard coming from the general direction of the Dems in the hall.
“We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media and silenced by special interests,” Trump said, securing winnings for all those who had bet Trump could not get through the speech without plastering the press at least once.
Pro-Trump talking heads on TV news outlets were very happy with the speech, with its shocking lack of any reference to crowd size, electoral college win, or “fake news.” The bar had been set so low, accomplishing that was considered a major re-set, after the chaos that has plagued his first 40 days in office.
And, speaking of Russia, Trump signaled in his speech “America is willing to find new friends and forge new partnerships where shared interests align.”
He talked about Harley Davidson having been put on display in the front lawn of the White House while he met with company honchos, “and they wanted me to ride one and I said, ‘No thank you.'”
He called on “all Democrats and Republicans in Congress to work with us to save Americans from this imploding Obamacare disaster.”
Team Trump had promised he would lay out an “optimistic vision for the country that crossed the traditional lines of party, race and socioeconomic status” in the address before the joint session of Congress. The speech, traditionally delivered by a new POTUS, serves as the functional equivalent of the State Of The Union address.
His optimistic-vision speech was written with the same team that worked with Trump on his inaugural address. In a preview of his performance to Breitbart News, Trump had said, optimistically, that he intends to strike an “up tone” though “I inherited a mess.”
House Democratic leaders had urged members to be on their best behavior during the address, hoping to avoid a moment like what happened during President Obama’s 2009 address to the joint session on Congress, when South Carolina’s GOP Rep. Joe Wilson shouted “You lie!” as Obama said Obamacare would not provide insurance for undocumented immigrants.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.