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'Reject The Politics Of Revenge': Takeaways From President Trump's State Of The Union46:47
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President Donald Trump delivered the State of the Union address, with Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, at the Capitol in Washington, DC on February 5, 2019. (Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP, Pool)
President Donald Trump delivered the State of the Union address, with Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, at the Capitol in Washington, DC on February 5, 2019. (Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

With Meghna Chakrabarti

The State of the Union. President Trump’s telling, his push and the Democrats’ reply.

"We must choose greatness or gridlock," President Trump said before the joint session of Congress Tuesday night. "Tonight, I ask you to choose greatness."

Guests

Shawna Thomas, Washington bureau chief for Vice News. (@Shawna)

Michael Crowley, White House and national security editor for Politico. (@michaelcrowley)

From The Reading List

NPR: "7 Takeaways From President Trump's State Of The Union Address" — 1. Trump did not acknowledge the new political reality in Washington

Each of the past three presidents had lost the House at some point during their presidency. And every one of them that came before Trump — Bill Clinton in 1995, George W. Bush in 2007 and Barack Obama in 2011 — nodded to that change.

Not Trump. Instead, he barreled ahead with pitching his agenda.

2. The speech was like whiplash

The president had some bipartisan overtures — talking about a recently enacted criminal justice law, paid family leave, lowering prescription drug costs and dangling, once again, infrastructure.

But the speech went from optimistic vagueries ("Our most thrilling achievements are still ahead") to misleading fears (calling a new caravan of Central American immigrants a "tremendous onslaught" and describing the Southern U.S. border as "very dangerous" and "lawless." NPR fact-checked the claims here.)

New York Times: "Trump Asks for Unity, but Presses Hard Line on Immigration" — "President Trump delivered a message of bipartisan unity on Tuesday night in his first address to Congress in the new era of divided government, but signaled that he would continue to wage war for the hard-line immigration policies that have polarized the capital and the nation.

"In a nationally televised speech that toggled between conciliation and confrontation, Mr. Trump presented himself as a leader who could work across party lines even as he pressed lawmakers to build a wall along the nation’s southwestern border that leaders of the newly empowered congressional Democrats have adamantly rejected.

"'We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution, and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good,' the president said. 'Together, we can break decades of political stalemate. We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future.' "

Washington Post: "5 takeaways from Trump’s State of the Union address" — "From the start, it was clear Trump wanted his speech to be remembered as a call for bipartisanship, a high-minded missive about common ground.

"'We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution — and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise, and the common good,' Trump said. 'Together, we can break decades of political stalemate. We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future. The decision is ours to make. We must choose between greatness or gridlock, results or resistance, vision or vengeance, incredible progress or pointless destruction.'

"This language completely glosses over the past three and a half years. Whatever you think of Trump’s politics, he has pursued a divisive political strategy very much focused on his base. Many of the 'divisions' and 'wounds' predated him, yes, but he has exacerbated them with an unyielding, uncompromising and controversial style that relies on fomenting culture wars and humiliating those who run afoul of him."

Stefano Kotsonis produced this hour for broadcast.

This program aired on February 6, 2019.

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