President Donald Trump has proven on several occasions he has the ability to be presidential. He showed the country that again in his first official State of the Union address Tuesday night. It’s a side of him we’d like to see a lot more.
Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee of that, given the president’s propensity for spouting off on Twitter and overreacting to every criticism. Trump is often his own worst enemy and has gotten in the way of further action in Congress — dampening the chances for Republicans to accomplish anything else ahead of the midterms.
Yet his speech offers us some hope.
We’ve always been willing to applaud the president when he does something we like, and the State of the Union was overall a solid speech. It was well-written, often emotional, and struck a much more positive tone than former speeches (think back to the “American carnage” reference in his inaugural address). And Trump highlighted the country’s economic gains and recent tax reform without taking all the credit himself.
Tommy Binion, director of congressional and executive branch relations at the Heritage Foundation, says the speech offered most Americans something they could agree with, whether related to immigration reform, national security or domestic policies. He also thinks that if Democrats don’t start making deals with Republicans, it could backfire on them.
“They are trying to generate a narrative that doesn’t match reality,” Binion says.
It was refreshing to hear Trump call for unity, and he’ll need bipartisan support for several key pieces of legislation, including immigration, criminal justice reform and a huge $1.5 trillion boost to infrastructure spending.
In the Senate, Republicans need Democratic support for these measures, as the GOP only holds 51 seats and 60 votes are required.
Whether Democrats are willing to compromise isn’t certain, but several impending deadlines will force debate. The first is the Feb. 8 deadline, at which time Congress will again need to extend funding for the government — or face another shutdown.
Then in early March, unless lawmakers agree on a deal, the 800,000 so-called Dreamers will lose their protected status when the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program put in place by President Obama ends.
Trump laid out his immigration plan, which extends an olive branch to Democrats by offering 1.8 million Dreamers (that includes those who hadn’t applied for DACA) a path to citizenship.
In exchange, the president is demanding more border protection, including the wall he touted throughout his presidential campaign. Trump got booed by Democrats for his call to end “chain migration,” which allows immigrants to bring in extended members of their families, beyond the nuclear family.
The president can’t seem to move away from scare tactics relating immigration to violent crime. Since most immigrants are law abiding and add to our economy, Trump should spend more time talking about that.
Americans are tired of looming shutdowns and the inability of government to reach a consensus. It would behoove members of both parties to find a compromise on immigration and secure the future for Dreamers.
Once immigration is addressed, the parties can work out a long-term funding solution.
But if these deals are going to happen, Trump has to be consistent. Both Republicans and Democrats are often left wondering what the president actually wants.
Creating unity is an important goal, and one our deeply divided country needs.
It’s now up to Trump to prove whether his calls for civility and bipartisanship are sincere.