Coverage of President Trump’s first State Of The Union address – a speech that ran about 80 minutes – generally agrees that the President stuck to his script and delivered a traditional presidential speech without his trademark ad libs. Many analyses say that the President tried to reach out to Democrats with pleas for cooperation, but others note that Trump also recounted his divisive first year in office and offered sharp words on immigration that may make consensus challenging. Early editorial and pundit response is generally negative, with commentaries contrasting Trump’s conciliatory tone with his past aggressiveness, or suggesting that he offered little in the way of policy proposals.
The AP (1/31, Pace, Miller) reports that Trump, “addressing a deeply divided nation,” called on Congress “to ‘summon the unity’ to make good on long-standing promises to fix the nation’s crumbling infrastructure and fractured immigration systems, infusing his presidency with a sense of optimism, for at least one high-profile night.” But “despite his calls for bipartisanship, Trump spoke with tensions running high on Capitol Hill” over immigration, the Russia probe, and other matters. The AP writes, “At times, Trump’s address appeared to be aimed more at validating his first year in office than setting the course for his second.”
The New York Times (1/30, Davis, Shear, Subscription Publication, 15.39M) reports, “Trump hailed what he called the ‘extraordinary success’ of his administration’s first year, and sounded notes of unity and inclusion, steering clear of the nationalist rhetoric, political attacks and confrontational tone” that marked his campaign and first year in office. The Washington Post (1/30, Fahrenthold, 11.19M) writes that Trump used the speech “to send two conflicting messages at once – to celebrate the results of his combative and deeply partisan first year, and to call upon Democrats to join him to work together in his second.”
The Wall Street Journal (1/30, Nicholas, Radnofsky, Hughes, Subscription Publication, 6.45M) reports that Trump has told his aides that he was seeking an optimistic tone for the speech. McClatchy (1/30, Hill, 44K) also says that Trump “remained optimistic” throughout the address, “in which he urged lawmakers to set aside their differences and strive for the unity needed to improve the nation’s infrastructure and immigration systems and championed the American Dream.” The Los Angeles Times (1/30, Bierman, 5.51M) reports that the President “tried to shed the polarizing image and words that have stunted his popularity and thwarted his ability to pass bipartisan legislation, recasting himself on Tuesday as a unifying figure. … It was a striking difference in tone for a president who came into office decrying ‘American carnage’ at his inaugural, and who has since then spoken and tweeted in harsh terms about his perceived enemies.”