Donald Trump has used his first State of the Union speech to embarrass the “depraved” North Korean regime, paying tribute to a defector who dramatically escaped the repressive hermit kingdom.
In a fiercely nationalistic speech that mixed tough talk on immigration and foreign policy with calls for unity and a positive tone on the economy, the US President promised to create new era of prosperity for all Americans.
Hinting at a new arms race, he also vowed to rebuild the military to protect the US from “horrible dangers”, which, alongside rogue regimes and terrorist groups, included “rivals” China and Russia who “
defence,” Mr Trump said.
Trump antagonises North Korea
After months of tit-for-tat with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Mr Trump upped the ante by inviting the parents of Otto Warmbier, the American student who died after being imprisoned by North Korea, and a defector who escaped the regime’s clutches, as official guests.
The President told how as a starving child, Ji Seong-ho lost his legs after passing out on train tracks, was later tortured by the North Korean regime, before travelling “
As Mr Ji rose to his feet, he raised his crutch into the air triumphantly.
The guests invited by the White House formed the key device of the 90-minute speech, with the President using their tales of bravery and tragedy to highlight his policy achievements and goals.
Responding to the speech, Democrats scoffed at Mr Trump’s calls for unity, with the party’s Senate Leader Chuck Schumer arguing he had “stoked the fires of division” while House Leader Nancy Pelosi accused the President of “a self-congratulatory speech” that lacked vision.
After a long and divisive year, many Americans were yearning for the President to present a unifying vision for the country. Unfortunately, his #SOTU address stoked the fires of division instead of bringing us closer together. #AYearOfTrump
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) January 31, 2018
Tax cuts and the economy
He sounded a positive tone on the economy, noting the buoyant the US stock market and spruiking one of his biggest legislative wins, the Republicans’ recently passed tax package, which slashed the corporate level to 21 per cent and personal rates across the board.
The Democrats, who mostly opposed the tax plan, have argued the package have labelled it a tax giveaway for the super rich.
But Mr Trump claimed the American economy was already responding to the package, noting new investment from companies such as
He eschewed talk of climate change or global warming, instead noting his administration had “
And while the President praised the bravery of those who scrambled to protect civilians caught up in last year’s Las Vegas shooting, in which 58 were killed, he made no mention of gun reform.
When he turned to immigration, Mr Trump recalled the aggressive sentiments that have become of a feature of his presidency, claiming “
As Democrats groaned, Mr Trump introduced the parents of two children who were murdered by alleged members of the MS-13 gang.
“Mand Nisa’s high school,” he said.
In recent weeks, the President has been dealing with a congressional stalemate over immigration as Democrats argue for new laws to protect undocumented immigrants and Republicans call for tougher immigrations measures, including funding for the border wall.
Amid the deadlock, Mr Trump sought to curtail the mood of partisanship that has besieged America and which critics say has been greatly exacerbated by his own words and actions.
There were also moments clearly designed to appeal to Mr Trump’s base of rural Americans and evangelical Christians.
Mr Trump, who pointedly noted the “motto is ‘in God we trust'”, vowed to address the opioid crisis that has ravaged America and that was a key plank of his election campaign.
He also took a shot at civil rights movement Black Lives Matter, and protesting NFL players, noting Americans should “proudly stand for the national anthem”.
First Lady Melania Trump, who has stayed out of the limelight while the White House denies allegations the President had once an affair with a porn actress, broke with tradition by arriving at Capitol Hill separately to her husband. It was her first public appearance since claims of the affair resurfaced.
At least 11 Democrats also boycotted the President’s speech, an unusually high number at this time in the political cycle.
Trump’s American heroes – guests of the White House
Guard petty officer Ashlee Leppert “
Firefighter David Dahlberg “
In a bid to highlight the plight of the so-called ‘DREAMERS’, Democrats invited a group of undocumented immigrants who are facing deportation if Congress does not reach a deal to guarantee their futures in America.
Fred and Cindy Warmbier, parents of Otto Warmbier, the American student who died after he was imprisoned while on a trip to North Korea, and North Korean defector Ji Seong-ho, who escaped the regime on crutches.