Reaction to address highlights divides

Reaction to address highlights divides

Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech has failed miserably to bring about the unity he promised, with the United States looking more divided than ever after the landmark address.

One moment in particular summed up the polarisation of American politics, when Mr Trump railed against abortion in the most graphic terms.

Viewers noted the “incredible contrast” between the mostly male Republicans enthusiastically applauding as Mr Trump spoke of allowing a baby to be “ripped from the mother’s womb moments before birth”, while the sea of Democratic congresswoman dressed in white — in tribute to suffrage — sat rigidly in their seats.

New York Magazine’s The Cut declared the facial expressions of “disdain, distaste, and boredom” of the faces of Democratic congresswomen including Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Kamala Harris the best part of the night.

Republican Sean Duffy told Fox and Friends he found the disconnect “shocking”, and questioned how such a divided government could come together and find bipartisan solutions.

“Republicans were standing up applauding, and Democrats sat down for so much of the speech, which indicates, obviously, that they’re not supportive of what the President’s saying, whether you’re talking abortion, immigration or border security,” he said.

“Those were disheartening moments where you want your Congress to come together, but you saw how divided it was.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wore an expression of amused distaste as she flicked through a copy of the speech while the President spoke, visibly rolling her eyes when the President attacked “ridiculous partisan investigations”.

She became one of the night’s biggest stars after her “literal clapback” when Mr Trump called for bipartisanship. “We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good,” he said.

The “Queen of condescending claps” stood up and extended her arms to him as she applauded, with Twitter users crediting her with “inventing the ‘f**k you’ clap”.

Democratic New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand shared a gif of herself sighing deeply, along with a request for donations to her 2020 presidential campaign.

Mr Trump’s spoke at length about the importance of the US coming together and finding common ground, while also making incendiary remarks about abortion, immigration and his border wall.

Speaking of the impasse over funding for his $US5.7 billion ($A8 billion) wall, he said Republicans and Democrats needed to unite to confront “an urgent national crisis” with just 10 days left to pass a bill.

“Now is the time for the Congress to show the world that America is committed to ending illegal immigration and putting the ruthless coyotes, cartels, drug dealers, and human traffickers out of business,” he said. “Not one more American life should be lost because our nation failed to control its very dangerous border.

“Simply put, walls work and walls save lives. So let’s work together, compromise, and reach a deal that will truly make America safe.”

He attacked the left-wing Democrats who have called for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be abolished, pledging to “never abolish our heroes from ICE”.

The Washington Post called it a “dissonant” speech that interspersed uplifting calls for compromise with “chilling depictions of murder and ruin.”

Late night TV host Stephen Colbert dismissed the speech as “like watching paint lie.”

The President did manage to unify the room at one moment, however, when he hailed the record number of women in Congress. It elicited a loud cheer from Democrat women, who hugged and pointed to each other.

A CNN Poll found 59 per cent of viewers had a “very positive” reaction to the States of the Union address, but viewers were roughly 17 points more likely than the general public to identify as Republicans, and were largely fans of the President. Sixty-one per cent of speech-watchers said they approved of Mr Trump’s performance, compared with 40 per cent in latest poll of all American adults.

The New York Times said hostility of the entire spectacle reflected the true state of the union: “fractured, fractious, painfully dysfunctional.”

The President referred to decades of “political stalemate” and “politics of revenge”, saying it was time for Americans to make a choice. “We must choose between greatness or gridlock, results or resistance — vision or vengeance. Incredible progress or pointless destruction,” he said. “Tonight, I ask you to choose greatness.”

He was already antagonising his critics before the speech, attacking Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer on Twitter and calling him a “nasty son of a b***h” in a preview session with network anchors.

Mr Trump’s address began with an acknowledgment that millions of Americans wanted to see “one nation” as opposed to “two parties”.

“We meet tonight at a moment of unlimited potential as we begin a new Congress. I stand here ready to work with you to achieve historic breakthroughs for all Americans,” he said.

“Millions of our fellow citizens are watching us now gathered in this great chamber, hoping that we will govern, not as two parties, but as one nation.”

Infrastructure, healthcare, immigration and an “America first” foreign policy were among his core talking points, adding: “There is a new opportunity in American politics — if only we have the courage, together, to seize it.”

The President announced a second summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, which will take place on February 27 and 28 in Vietnam. “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 with potentially millions of people killed,” he said.

He said America was to embark on a “bold new adventure” towards a “new standard of living for the 21st century”, claiming the US economy was “the envy of the world”, and that its “military is the most powerful on earth”.

“We can make our communities safer, our families stronger, our culture richer, our faith deeper and our middle class bigger and more prosperous than ever before,” Mr Trump said.

“America is again winning each and every day. Members of Congress — the state of our union is strong.” The audience stood up and clapped at this, with many chanting “USA!”

“That sounds so good,” he said, when the cheering died down.

Mr Trump’s words rang hollow for many viewers, but the Times said it was still “impossible not to cling to a hope that he might yet rise to the office and do something for his fellow Americans.”

This sentiment was echoed by Democrat Stacey Abrams in her rebuttal, when she said that despite her criticisms of the President, she still wanted him to succeed.

“I’m disappointed by the President’s approach to our problems,” she said. “I still don’t want him to fail. But we need him to tell the truth, and to respect his duties and the extraordinary diversity that defines America.”

She also rebuked Mr Trump for abandoning working Americans, sowing discord and for his border wall shutdown “stunt”, which she said “defied every tenant of fairness and abandoned not just our people, but our values.”

Ms Abrams, who narrowly lost her bid to become Georgia’s first black female governor in the midterms, criticised the President’s record on healthcare, education and the middle class.

But as the first black woman to deliver a State of the Union response, she was most stinging on race. “We fought Jim Crow with the civil rights act and the voting rights act. Yet we continue to confront racism from our past and in our present, which is why we must hold everyone from the highest offices to our own families accountable for racist words and deeds and call racism what it is, wrong

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