For the 2020 State of the Union, President Trump promised an “extraordinarily low-key” address, which Americans just might need during a tumultuous week of impeachment proceedings, calamity in Iowa, and a poorly scheduled Democratic debate coming on Friday. The theme for the night was the “Great American Comeback,” a claim that President Trump supported by touting strong — if not always accurate — economic indicators in the House chamber, where he was impeached less than 50 days ago. Below are the highlights from his fourth report to the nation.
Trump shuns Pelosi
When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi extended her hand, President Trump ignored the invitation despite their time apart; the two have not spoken since October. It’s the second year in a row for a notable moment between the two: In 2019, Nancy Pelosi’s flippant clap became an enduring image of the Trump administration.
And hits the economy as his greatest achievement
The first 20 minutes of the president’s address referred almost exclusively to the country’s strong economic figures: “This is a blue-collar boom,” he told lawmakers, to strong applause. Whether or not that’s true, it’s by far the strongest message the incumbent has for his reelection bid, and he reiterated the point throughout his speech. Trump boasted of a return of American manufacturing: “Everybody wants to be where the action is, and the United States of America is, indeed, where the action is.” He cited lows in unemployment and the trade war with China as a boon — rather than a major dent in the economy. Of course, Trump’s speech reflecting strong jobs numbers isn’t quite as transformational as it sounds:
Democrats chant over drug pricing
In the context of “taking on the big pharmaceutical companies,” the president said that he has been “speaking to Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa and others in the Congress in order to get something on drug pricing done, and done properly.” When he promised lawmakers that he would sign “such a law without delay,” Democrats chanted “HR 3.” Also known as the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, the bill would give “Medicare the power to negotiate directly with the drug companies,” make those prices available to Americans with private insurance, and create a “$2,000 out-of-pocket limit on prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries.” Trump attempted to speak over the representatives, though they provided him with just the type of bill he claimed he wanted.
Republicans have their own chants
Remarkably, a Tuskegee Airman is in the crowd
Brigadier General Charles McGee, a member of the World War II–era black Air Force brigade known as the Tuskegee Airmen, was in the gallery — less than two months after celebrating his 100th birthday. On Sunday, McGee conducted the coin flip at Super Bowl LIV.
So is Rush Limbaugh, who received an impromptu honor
The radio personality, who announced this week that he has been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award during the address — the highest honor the White House can bestow on a civilian.
Though there are some notable absences in the crowd
Several Democrats boycotted the speech, or simply skipped it to prioritize more important events on a hectic February schedule. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stated on Tuesday that she would not attend so as not to “normalize Trump’s lawless conduct & subversion of the Constitution.” Ten other House Democrats joined her in the action, including Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, Al Green, and Tulsi Gabbard.
2020 candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren chose not to attend, though Sanders is one of four Democrats responding to Trump’s speech, along with Ayanna Pressley, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, and Texas representative Veronica Escobar.
Democratic women are wearing white
Like the 2019 State of the Union, Democratic representatives dressed in a bloc of suffragette white as a message of solidarity and to mark the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.
Representative Jerry Nadler has his own visual note for the president
The military brass isn’t too sure about Space Force
And Nancy Pelosi isn’t sure about any of this
After Trump concluded his remarks, it appears that Speaker Pelosi closed out the broadcast by ripping up his speech.