President Donald Trump struck a conciliatory tone in his first speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, urging Democrats and Republicans to work together to implement his agenda. But the parties stand far apart on many of the issues Trump mentioned Tuesday, which could complicate his efforts going forward, even with Republicans controlling both chambers of Congress.
The partisan lines were clearly drawn on the House floor on Tuesday. Republicans stood often to applaud the president’s proposals, while Democrats largely remained seated during the hour-long speech. As reactions pour in from across the political spectrum, here are a few early takeaways from the speech.
A more positive tone
Trump’s inaugural address last month was unusually short — and unusually dark. He described a deeply troubled nation and presented a picture of “American carnage.”
On Tuesday, however, Trump attempted to deliver a more positive message. Before the speech, White House aides said it would have an “aspirational” tone. Trump lived up to that promise at certain points of the speech, in part by focusing on the nation’s upcoming 250th anniversary. For critics who called on Trump to change his rhetoric, the speech represented a step in that direction.
Condemning “hate and evil”
The president also spoke out against the recent shooting of an Indian man in Kansas and threats against Jewish communities across the country. “While we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms,” Trump said.
It was Trump’s most forceful statement yet condemning anti-semitism. Trump had been criticized in recent weeks for not saying more on the issue; his remarks on Tuesday — at the start of his speech — should quell some of that criticism.
Back to the campaign trail
Trump could not help dwelling on his victory in last year’s election, a subject he continues to return to in speeches as president. Trump said a chorus of his supporters “became an earthquake,” and he reprised his campaign slogan. Hours before the speech, Trump supporters received an email from the Trump-Pence campaign urging them to donate.
Trump also reiterated many of his broad campaign trail promises, without offering many new details on how he plans to carry them out. And though he urged Democrats to work with the GOP-controlled Congress, he offered few ideas that the minority party will endorse. His plans on immigration and health care, in particular, will face staunch opposition from House and Senate Democrats.
Trump showed a willingness to adjust his rhetoric on some issues. He expressed support for NATO, after criticizing the organization during the campaign. And he touched on infrastructure spending, something that will draw support from both sides of the aisle.
The president likely didn’t win too many new friends on the other side of the aisle with this speech — at least not on issues like national security and immigration. But the speech seemed to signal Trump is developing a sharper antenna for the political dynamic in Washington. How he will use that knowledge is something to watch in the coming weeks.