Trump to deliver State of the Union Tuesday


President Donald Trump delivering the 2018 State of the Union Address from the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

Emily Berch

After being delayed by a week, the State of the Union is set to take place 8 p.m. Tuesday, and President Donald Trump will be able to tout his administration’s accomplishments in its first two years as well as his vision for the future.

Border security

With the address being delivered on the heels of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, it’s likely Trump will talk about the issue at the core of the shutdown conflict: his plan for a southern border wall.

Throughout his standoff with congressional Democrats, Trump has alluded to his power to declare a national emergency to direct funds to a wall but has yet to actually do it.

Political science Department Chair Mack Shelley said he thinks this pattern will continue in Tuesday’s address.

“I would think he’s probably going to not announce an emergency, but say the kind of obvious thing, that if the committee can’t come to an agreement that includes a wall, he will not take the declaration of an emergency of the table,” Shelley said. “So that’s not the same thing as saying, ‘hey, I’m going to do it,’ but it’s close to that, and it’s a little safer that way. It gives a little tiny bit of wiggle room just on the off chance something comes up.”

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J.,has invited Victorina Morales, an undocumented woman who previously worked at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminister, New Jersey, to be her guest Tuesday, according to NBC. Although it isn’t uncommon for members of Congress to bring guests, Shelley said this particular one might “get under his [Trump’s] skin.”

The economy

Trump has touted job numbers as a point of economic prosperity since the first Bureau of Labor Statistics’ jobs report of 2019 was released Friday.

According to the report, “Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 304,000 in January, compared with an average monthly gain of 223,000 in 2018.”

The report also details a slight uptick in unemployment numbers in January but credits the increase to the partial government shutdown, opening an opportunity for Trump to point to political gridlock as the reason for a stain on his economic record.

Shelley said Trump is also likely to talk about trade, an issue affecting many Iowa farmers.

“Folks here in Iowa aren’t overly happy because of what’s happened with grain exports markets particularly to China,” Shelley said. “So my guess is he’ll take at least one good shot at China.”

International relations

Political tension in Venezuela has been a foreign policy focal point in recent weeks, and Shelley said he thinks Trump will discuss it in his speech because “he’s obviously trying very hard to get rid of the current government there.”

“Trump is in favor of democracy and freedom, free enterprise, that sort of thing, and Maduro’s getting in the way,” Shelley said. “That sort of thing is just too tempting to miss the opportunity — kind of like in the old days when presidents would complain about communism or whatever else.”

Shelley also predicted Trump will talk about the Middle East but said repeating his claims of defeating the Islamic State group would be “too far.”

Trump tweeted Friday “We will soon have destroyed 100% of the Caliphate, but will be watching them closely.”

Shelley said he doesn’t believe Trump will go as far to claim total defeat again but will frame his record as a success.

“You claim what you can,” Shelley said. “He wouldn’t have to say we defeated them. It could be ‘they’re on their way to final defeat,’ ‘continued efforts,’ ‘under my leadership we’ll see this through to conclusion,’ which is kind of a meaningless phrase but that’s how they [politicians] tend to talk.”

In light of Russia and the U.S. both recently withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, Shelley said he also believes Trump will take the opportunity to take a firm stance against Russian President Vladimir Putin in an attempt to prove he isn’t “Putin’s friend or lapdog.”

“The Usual” 

Along with addressing policy issues, there are several standard talking points, such as the idea of “fake news,” in Trump rallies and speeches that Shelley said he expects to make appearances in the address.

Most recently, the controversy surrounding newly elected Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s 1984 medical school yearbook photo presents as an opportunity for Trump to steer discussions about racial tension back towards Democrats.

“This is just a delicious opportunity to throw the race issue back in the face of Democrats and say, ‘look, you need to fix the problem in your own house as well,’” Shelley said. “It’s just such an easy opportunity.”

Trump is also expected to make general appeals to his conservative base on issues such as abortion, religious rights and health care.

Shelley said Trump also has a tendency to be insulting, and he would be surprised if he didn’t “come up with a few zingers.”

“He’s just very difficult to train, I guess is the polite way to say this,” Shelley said. “He seems to do kind of okay reading from a teleprompter, but I would imagine he would go off script, not read verbatim what’s on the teleprompter if he has kind of a juicy opportunity.”