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- President Donald Trump on Tuesday will give his first State of the Union address.
- A source told the news website Axios to expect a different kind of Trump, with a polished speech much like the one he gave last week in Davos, Switzerland.
- Trump could use the lengthy address to smooth over partisan differences and focus on a future that largely requires bipartisan support.
- But Trump frequently veers off script and gets himself into hot water – the question before the State of the Union is which Trump will turn up.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday will give his first State of the Union address before Congress, and early reports indicate we may see a very different Trump.
“The partisan fights, like Obamacare and tax cuts, are behind. Now everything requires cooperation and agreement,” a source told Mike Allen of the news website Axios.
Axios further cited a “Trump source” as saying: “Time to appear as commander-in-chief and leader of the whole nation. So expect calls to patriotism and national security and national greatness.”
With a tax law enacted and healthcare seemingly off the table, lawmakers are likely to focus on issues with more bipartisan support like immigration reform and keeping the government open.
Additionally, with this year’s midterm elections threatening Republican control of the House and the Senate, Trump may look to play up GOP accomplishments and attempt to appear above the fray with cross-aisle finger-pointing.
For those reasons, the Trump who addresses the US on Tuesday may look more like the Trump who spoke last week at the World Economic Forum and less like the Trump who leads rallies to bash his opponents.
At the same time, some GOP analysts say that while Trump seems to have an interest in presenting an agreeable message, his old habits may kick in.
Can Trump stick to the script?
“He has little message discipline,” Ari Fleischer, who served as press secretary for President George W. Bush, told the Associated Press.
“Virtually every time he moves the ball far down the field, he seems to derail himself with a tweet days later instead of building on the momentum.”
Trump is known to react strongly to negative stories about himself, and he could easily become engaged in a conversation that has little to do with achieving his material political goals, as was the case in his months-long admonishment of the NFL for the behavior of players during the national anthem.
But unlike his tweets that dominate mini news cycles across the cable-news networks, the State of the Union format demands more content, as the speeches often last about an hour. Also, the speech is uninterrupted by questions and answers, giving Trump a chance to control the message closely, as he did in Davos, Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum.
“It’s one of the few events presidents conduct in which 30 to 40 million or more Americans are watching,” Fleischer said.
“There is hardly another moment of presidential exposure as big as this one, and it’s one when the president and his staff have all the control. They are not reacting to events. They are controlling them, and they need to deliver.”
In Davos, Trump took on the role of cheerleader for the US, declaring the country “open for business” and deriding “small thinking.”
With the State of the Union, Trump has the opportunity to tout his successes and smooth over rough patches, potentially addressing or defending some of his tendencies that are frequently seen as racist or hurtful – but will he?