A ‘mo­ment’ like this

Trump warns of im­mi­gra­tion peril, touts econ­omy in 1st State of the Union ad­dress

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By JULIE PACE and ZEKE MILLER

WASHINGTON — Ad­dress­ing a deeply di­vided na­tion, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump sum­moned the coun­try to a “new Amer­i­can mo­ment” of unity in his first State of the Union, chal­leng­ing Congress to make good on long-stand­ing prom­ises to fix a frac­tured im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem and warn­ing darkly of evil forces seek­ing to un­der­mine Amer­ica’s way of life.

Trump’s ad­dress Tues­day night blended self-con­grat­u­la­tion and calls for op­ti­mism amid a grow­ing econ­omy with omi­nous warn­ings about deadly gangs, the scourge of drugs and vi­o­lent im­mi­grants liv­ing in the United States il­le­gally.

He cast the de­bate about im­mi­gra­tion — an is­sue that has long an­i­mated his most ar­dent sup­port­ers — as a bat­tle be­tween he­roes and vil­lains, lean­ing heav­ily on the per­sonal sto­ries of White House guests in the crowd.

He praised a law en­force­ment agent who ar­rested more than 100 gang mem­bers, and he rec­og­nized the fam­i­lies of two al­leged gang vic­tims.

He also spoke fore­bod­ingly of cat­a­strophic dan­gers from abroad, warn­ing that North Korea would “very soon” threaten the United States with nu­clear-tipped mis­siles.

“The United States is a com­pas­sion­ate na­tion. We are proud that we do more than any other coun­try to help the needy, the strug­gling and the un­der­priv­i­leged all over the world,” Trump said. “But as pres­i­dent of the United States, my high­est loy­alty, my great­est com­pas­sion and my con­stant con­cern is for Amer­ica’s chil­dren, Amer­ica’s strug­gling work­ers and Amer­ica’s for­got­ten com­mu­ni­ties.”

At times, Trump’s ad­dress ap­peared to be aimed more at val­i­dat­ing his first year in of­fice than set­ting the course for his sec­ond. He de­voted sig­nif­i­cant time to tout­ing the tax over­haul he signed at the end of last year, promis­ing the plan will “pro­vide tremen­dous re­lief for the mid­dle class and small busi­nesses.” He also high­lighted the de­ci­sion made early in his first year to with­draw the U.S. from a sweep­ing Asia-Pa­cific trade pact, declar­ing: “The era of eco­nomic sur­ren­der is to­tally over.”

He spoke about po­ten­tial agenda items for 2018 in broad terms, in­clud­ing a call for $1.5 tril­lion in new in­fra­struc­ture spend­ing and part­ner­ships with states and the pri­vate sec­tor. He touched only briefly on is­sues such as health care that have been at the cen­ter of the Repub­li­can Party’s pol­icy agenda for years.

Tack­ling the sen­si­tive im­mi­gra­tion de­bate that has roiled Washington, Trump re­dou­bled his re­cent pledge to of­fer a path to cit­i­zen­ship for 1.8 mil­lion young im­mi­grants — but only as part of a pack­age that also would re­quire in­creased fund­ing for bor­der se­cu­rity, in­clud­ing a wall along the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der, end­ing the na­tion’s visa lot­tery method and re­vamp­ing the cur­rent le­gal im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem. Some Repub­li­cans are wary of the hard­line el­e­ments of Trump’s plan and it’s un­clear whether his blue­print could pass Congress.

“Amer­i­cans are dream­ers too,” Trump said, in an ap­par­ent ef­fort to re­claim the term used to de­scribe the young im­mi­grants in the U.S. il­le­gally.

A for­mer New York Demo­crat, the pres­i­dent also played to the cul­ture wars that have long il­lu­mi­nated Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, al­lud­ing to his pub­lic spat with pro­fes­sional ath­letes who led protests against racial in­jus­tice by kneel­ing dur­ing the na­tional an­them, declar­ing that pay­ing trib­ute to the flag is a “civic duty.”

In a post-speech re­but­tal, Mas­sachusetts Demo­crat Rep. Joe Kennedy, the grand­son of Robert F. Kennedy, was seek­ing to un­der­cut Trump’s op­ti­mistic tone and re­mind vot­ers of the per­sonal in­sults and at­tacks of­ten lev­eled by the pres­i­dent.

“Bul­lies may land a punch,” Kennedy said. “They might leave a mark. But they have never, not once, in the his­tory of our United States, man­aged to match the strength and spirit of a peo­ple united in de­fense of their fu­ture.”

The arc of Trump’s 80-minute speech fea­tured the per­sonal sto­ries of men and women who joined first lady Me­la­nia Trump in the au­di­ence. The guests in­cluded a New Mex­ico po­lice­man and his wife who adopted a baby from par­ents who suf­fered from opi­oid ad­dic­tion, and Ji Seong-ho, a de­fec­tor from North Korea and out­spo­ken critic of the Kim Jong Un govern­ment.

On in­ter­na­tional af­fairs, Trump warned of the dan­gers from “rogue regimes,” such as Iran and North Korea, ter­ror­ist groups, such as the Is­lamic State, and “ri­vals” in­clud­ing China and Rus­sia “that chal­lenge our in­ter­ests, our econ­omy and our val­ues.” Call­ing on Congress to lift bud­getary caps and boost spend­ing on the mil­i­tary, Trump said that “un­matched power is the surest means of our de­fense.”

Trump’s big­gest for­eign pol­icy an­nounce­ment of the night con­cerned the Guan­tanamo Bay de­ten­tion cen­ter, which for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama tried but failed to close. Rev­ers­ing Obama’s pol­icy, Trump said he signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der Tues­day di­rect­ing the Pen­tagon to keep the prison open while re-ex­am­in­ing the mil­i­tary’s pol­icy on de­ten­tion.

Trump said he also was ask­ing Congress to en­sure the U.S. had needed pow­ers to de­tain Is­lamic State mem­bers and other “ter­ror­ists wher­ever we chase them down,” though it was un­clear whether he was re­fer­ring to a new war pow­ers au­tho­riza­tion or some other mech­a­nism. Trump also said he wanted Congress to pass a law en­sur­ing U.S. for­eign aid goes only “to Amer­ica’s friends” — a ref­er­ence to his frus­tra­tion at U.S. aid re­cip­i­ents that voted at the U.N. to re­buke his de­ci­sion to rec­og­nize Jerusalem as Is­rael’s cap­i­tal.


Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ges­tures as he fin­ishes his first State of the Union ad­dress in the House cham­ber of the U.S. Capi­tol to a joint ses­sion of Congress on Tues­day as Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan ap­plaud.

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