State Of The Union: A Tale of Two Speeches

Trump speaks to Congress.
President Donald Trump (Center) speaks to Congress in his first State Of The Union address. Behind him, Vice President Mike Pence (Left) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (Right).

Did you catch it? Did you watch or listen as President Donald Trump gave two speeches before Congress?

The first part of the speech was the positives. Essentially, “This is what we have done!” It was a roll call of the GOP’s accomplishments during Trump’s first year – including tax reform, getting rid of the individual mandate, and others. He referenced the hurricane-ravaged parts of the U.S. and Puerto Rico and mentioned both professional and civilian efforts to help affected citizens.

In this part of the speech, he was speaking to all Americans. “This is what I did for you,” he told us. “This is what I got accomplished.”

It was also a nod to his early talk of working with Democrats and negotiating. He mentioned several things Democrats want – paid family leave, more infrastructure spending, etc. – and it was meant to show the American public that Trump does have a heart and care about them.

Then, things changed a bit. If you were watching ABC, you saw the list of topics in the speech as Trump went through them. The first part of Trump’s speech ended on the topic of child care. The second part began with immigration.

It was clear what had happened. That was the part of the speech that Stephen Miller took over in writing.

The more hawkish side of the speech focused on the issues that got Trump elected, and how he intended to keep those promises. He received some “Boos” from the crowd, but he wasn’t speaking to Congress at that point. He was speaking to the base that elected him.


That much narrower audience came at a price. The wide audience is not necessarily into Trump’s promises on immigration reform (as they perceive it). They don’t necessarily want to hear more talk of war and the military. They want to see how Trump will heal America. And that is ultimately something that Trump didn’t quite address in the speech.

The formula is not new, but Trump’s delivery – or, rather, the way the speech was written combined with Trump’s presentation – made it seem more awkward than usual. It was clear he was going for a “This is what I did, now here is what I will do” vibe, but the tones were so different that it was hard not to notice.

However, it wasn’t a bad speech. It was, dare I say it, good. It was… presidential. It was the type of speech a president would give. It was the type of talk I wouldn’t mind hearing more of from Trump.

This is the guy who should be president. Not the man who is going to go on Twitter tomorrow morning and post about how the ratings for his State Of The Union speech make it the most-watched State Of The Union speech ever. And, yeah, you know that’s coming.


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