State of the Union Draws Mixed Reactions


Now-President Donald Trump speaks to the crowd about then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails on Sep. 13, 2016 in Clive, Iowa.

Chris Anderson

President Donald Trump gave his first State of the Union address Tuesday night to mixed reactions among a polarized nation.

PolitiFact, a popular fact checking website, crashed for five minutes during the speech as Americans tried to access the site to determine the truthfulness of Trump’s statements.

While much of Trump’s speech focused on what he sees as an improving economy, PolitiFact rated his claims with mixed accuracy. The website also claims he “exaggerated victories on immigration and ISIS.”

Trump claimed the recent GOP tax bill was the “biggest tax cuts and reforms in American History.” Adjusted for inflation, PolitiFact found the tax bill is in fact the fourth-largest since 1940.

While many on both sides of the political spectrum are outraged by “fake news” and “alternative facts,” Iowa State political science professor Steffen Schmidt feels it is largely an overblown issue.

“The media is fascinated with ‘fact checking’ and they stress it in journalism school. That’s fine, but politicians always exaggerate or even outright lie,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt brought up the Monica Lewinsky scandal, where Bill Clinton famously lied about his relationship with Lewinsky, and suffered no tangible consequences. Schmidt also claims that most Americans have no idea what is true, false or exaggerated when listening to speeches or watching campaign ads.

“The average American is motivated by leaders they feel they like and trust regardless of the accuracy of every point they make,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt holds the view that rather than debating the logic and factual accuracy of politician’s remarks, the average American follows leaders they feel represent values or issues that are important to them.

In other words, the majority of voters who support Trump do so because they identify with the issues he champions.

“I say chill out and understand that most people are not interested [in fact checking],” Schmidt said.

The content of Trump’s address, largely served as a celebration of his accomplishments and of the issues he has advocated for during his time in office.

“Over the last year, we have made incredible progress and achieved extraordinary success,” Trump said during his address.

Trump praised a growing economy, low unemployment and growing small business confidence.

Trump also spent some time looking forward in his speech. He called for bipartisan measures to fix what he called America’s “crumbling infrastructure.”

Continuing a tradition of being tough on immigration, Trump called on Congress to close “deadly loopholes” that he claimed had allowed criminals to enter the country.

He promised to work with members of both parties of congress to defend Americans and “protect their safety, their families, their communities and their right to the American Dream”.

Trump then delivered the controversial line “Americans are dreamers too.” This references Dreamers, a name given to DACA recipients, as perhaps a nationalistic call to focus on the safety of American citizens before immigrants.

Senator Bernie Sanders gave a public response to Trump’s address, where he attempted to challenge many of Trump’s claims. Sanders spoke about a way to address immigration issues he saw as more favorable than Trump’s view.

“We need to seriously address the issue of immigration, but that does not mean dividing families and reducing legal immigration by 25 to 50 percent. It sure doesn’t mean forcing taxpayers to spend $25 billion on a wall that candidate Trump promised Mexico would pay for, and it definitely doesn’t mean a racist immigration policy that excludes people of color from around the world,” Sanders said.

Sanders also criticized Trump for his decision to rescind DACA in September, and called it an “unspeakable and moral stain on our nation” if plans continued to go forward to take away protected status from DACA immigrants.

Ben Whittington, sophomore in political science, felt Trump did well during the State of Union address.

Whittington felt Trump was largely justified in his celebration of the economy. He sees Trump as a source of confidence in the business world, with his business-friendly tax cuts, which he sees as in turn positively affecting the economy.  

“A lot of business leaders have a lot of trust in the Trump administration,” Whittington said.

Another point to make, Whittington felt the speech was well crafted and emotionally hard hitting. He praised Trump for his recognition of Americans, like families of MS-13 victims who Trump recognized during his speech.

“There were a lot of standing ovations, but the ones that were memorable were all the different people that he took time to care and to point those people out,” Whittington said.