Political leaders react to State of the Union

Published 3:00 am Thursday, February 7, 2019

Face to face with emboldened Democrats, President Donald Trump called on Washington to cast aside “revenge, resistance and retribution” and end “ridiculous partisan investigations” in a State of the Union address delivered at a vulnerable moment for his presidency.

Trump appealed Tuesday night for bipartisanship but refused to yield on the hard-line immigration policies that have infuriated Democrats and forced the recent government shutdown. He renewed his call for a border wall and cast illegal immigration as a threat to Americans’ safety and economic security.

Donna Horn, president of the Pike County Republican Party said she and other local Republicans she has heard from were pleased with the speech and his stance on the wall, even if he didn’t speak as much about it as he was expected to.

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“I think he only touched briefly on building the wall; I think people expected to hear more about that,” Horn said. “I’ve talked with some people, and most of them have the feeling that he was very gracious, but Democrats didn’t seem to feel that way. Most of the hope is that he will go ahead and do what he needs to do.”

Dr. Steven Taylor, dean of the department of political science at Troy University, said Trump mostly avoided talking about the two most contentious topics that he was expected to touch on.

“The president in broad brush strokes tried to highlight the positive economic news, which is the most potent story in his favor at the moment, and talked a lot about the border, which is a continuation of the conflict over the last couple of months about border wall funding,” Taylor said. “There wasn’t really much drama. The only drama that could have been talked about was the Russia investigation or a national emergency declaration to build the wall, which he didn’t talk directly about either much.”

Trump is staring down a two-year stretch that will determine whether he is re-elected or leaves office in defeat. His speech sought to shore up Republican support that had eroded slightly during the recent government shutdown and previewed a fresh defense against Democrats as they ready a round of investigations into every aspect of his administration.

“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation,” he declared. Lawmakers in the cavernous House chamber sat largely silent.

Trump made no mention of an emergency declaration in his remarks. He did offer a lengthy defense of his call for a border wall, declaring: “I will build it.” But he delivered no ultimatums about what it would take for him to sign legislation to keep the government open.

“I am asking you to defend our very dangerous southern border out of love and devotion to our fellow citizens and to our country,” he said, painting a dark and foreboding picture of the risks posed to Americans by illegal immigration.

The president ticked through a litany of issues with crossover appeal, including boosting infrastructure, lowering prescription drug costs and combating childhood cancer. But he also appealed to his political base, both with his harsh rhetoric on immigration and a call for Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the “late-term abortion of children.”

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, who represents Alabama’s Second District, praised the address.

“In his second State of the Union address, President Trump highlighted the economic success hardworking Americans are experiencing thanks to the implementation of pro-growth policies, including the historic tax reform overhaul. I was also pleased to hear more about his plan to work with Congress to reinvigorate our badly aging infrastructure, strengthen our military, bolster our national security efforts, improve care for veterans, and defend the unborn.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, also shared his support of the Trump’s address.

“President Trump outlined a policy agenda that both parties can work together to achieve.  During his first two years in office, the President has delivered on many promises to the American people, including signing historic tax reform into law, creating one of the strongest economies I have seen in my lifetime, and focusing on vital infrastructure projects.

“… It is imperative that we work to put our political disagreements aside in order to secure our borders with a comprehensive solution.  As Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find common ground on this critical issue. As President Trump highlighted, we must strive to reach common sense solutions to pressing policy issues in the days ahead.  I plan to continue working to promote safe and legal immigration, protect American workers, rebuild our infrastructure, lower the cost of healthcare and prescription drugs, and prioritize our national security.    As he said tonight, victory is not winning for our party, victory is winning for our country.”

Taylor said he does not feel like anything addressed in the speech will have a noticeable effect in the day-to-day lives of people in this area or the nation at large.

Horn said she does expect the government to shut down again on Feb. 15 after hearing Trump’s address.

“We’ll have to wait and see in the next couple of weeks,” Horn said. “I think he offered some concessions; we’ll see if the Democrats offer anything at all and remember that they work for the people and get something done.”