Political Strategists Respond To Trump's State Of The Union Address

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President Trump delivers the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives, Jan. 30, 2018 in Washington. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
President Trump delivers the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives, Jan. 30, 2018 in Washington. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Political strategists Karine Jean-Pierre (@K_JeanPierre) and Paris Dennard (@PARISDENNARD) join Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson and Robin Young to discuss President Trump's State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Interview Highlights

On reactions to the State of the Union address

Paris Dennard: "It was both what I wanted and what I didn't want. It was what I wanted because I felt that the president did an excellent job at connecting people to his policies — showing the real-life implications, the real-life ramifications of some of the things that he's been championing against, when it came to the threat of North Korea or truly tragic problem that the country has with the opioid epidemic and the real face of that. And the people that they had in the president and the first lady's box — he did an excellent job of really connecting people to policy.

"What I didn't anticipate seeing, what I didn't like, was the the level of the Democrats' unwillingness to — or their resistance to the messages that were coming from the president. And there's some things that I thought were shocking. One, when you have members of the Congressional Black Caucus [CBC] and many Democrats refuse to stand or even applaud the fact that the president mentioned that African-American unemployment is at the lowest in history, and the same for Hispanic unemployed — they didn't clap for that. And when he talked about immigration and the 1.8 million [young so-called "Dreamer" immigrants], they didn't clap for that when he talked about it. When he talked about infrastructure spending, they didn't clap for that. That's the level of of where we are, the level of partisanship is that even on things we should come together on, they refuse.

Karine Jean-Pierre: "I think there's very, very, very, good reasons why the Congressional Black Caucus did not applaud to that — and not only that, but why Democrats didn't applaud to many of the things that Donald Trump said in his speech last night, an hour and 20 minutes of a speech that was really, I think, very much catered to his partisan — very partisan, very small and shrinking base. It was a lot of dog whistle, a lot of this weird carnage, but using family stories to talk about the things that he wanted to do and policies that he wanted to do. I mean the way he used immigration and Dreamers and DACA recipients in a way of like, 'We have to take care of immigration because of terrorism,' and the way he linked those two up, talking about MS-13. There was a lot of fear-mongering in there: ICE, Border Patrol. I thought it was incredibly troubling.

"Then there was the part of it, too, where there were untruths. He talks about coal, where coal is coming back. There's no way that there's going to be beautiful, great coal. Talking about African-American unemployment with the CBC question. It's like the problem there is that he's taking credit. Yes, we are excited that unemployment for African-Americans and Latinos [is] trending down but he cannot get credit for it. That happened years before."

On the president's demeanor

KJP: "This is the thing Robin — we've seen this president before where he stays on the teleprompter. I feel like the bar is so low for Donald Trump that just as long as he gets on the stage and doesn't trip over himself, then, 'Oh, wow, he's done a phenomenal job,' and we're talking about the president of the United States. Now we're waiting to see what happens with the next tweet, what he says when he's off the teleprompter."

On the possibility of another government shutdown in February

PD: "I think that the president and the entire administration want to do everything that they can to avoid another government shutdown. And what we have seen and what I have said is that this president is not an ideologue. He is going to make some Republicans upset and he's going to make some Democrats upset because he's not going to just do what he thinks the party wants him to do. He's going to do what he thinks is best for the American people. And I think that's what you have seen with these 1.8 million [immigrants] brought here that are now called Dreamers, and the deal that he has put forth to the Congress, mainly to the Senate Democrats, saying, 'Look, how can I can give you what you want on the Dreamers, but also you've got to give me what I think the country needs to have a broader conversation about border security and the curbing of and preventing of illegal immigration.' "

On the president and immigration

PD: "The issue that people forget is that the president is not against immigration. He's pro-immigration — he's against illegal immigration that has a specific focus on criminal illegal activities. And so what you have seen and the examples that he's put forth are those [immigrants] that come here and then commit heinous crimes, and he doesn't believe that we should have a system that is based purely off of a lottery. He thinks that we should have a merit based system, we should bring the best and the brightest here."

On Rep. Joe Kennedy III's Democratic response

KJP: "I think he did a phenomenal job. He's 37 years old. I think there was definitely that Obama-esque quality. You have that millennial feel, I think there was an attempt to reach out to that generation, as well. I think what he did is he laid out ... what this country is all about, which is a country of immigrants, and he talked about the real state of the union: the people who are feeling the anxiety. I think what he did was he laid out what Democrats were for and it's not picking one or the other. It's like the big tent idea, like we're for everyone — I think that message was very clear. Because I think at the end of the day Democrats cannot just be anti-Trump. We have to be for something."

This article was originally published on January 31, 2018.

This segment aired on January 31, 2018.



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