Updated on: Wednesday, February 05, 2020, 10:08 AM IST

Who's clapping now? Nancy Pelosi tears up State of the Union speech

Trump is speaking from a position of strength, with nearly complete control of the Republican Party.
Nancy Pelosi | Photo / AFP

Nancy Pelosi | Photo / AFP


On the brink of his Senate acquittal, President Donald Trump will be unleashing "relentless optimism" during his third State of the Union address on Tuesday, a speech designed to pivot from his impeachment to his drive for reelection.

Trump is speaking from a position of strength, with nearly complete control of the Republican Party. The theme of his speech: "The Great American Comeback." It's been a different experience for Democrats, nearly all of whom voted for Trump's impeachment in the House of Representatives.

Where Trump pointed to unity within the Republican Party ahead of the 2020 elections, Democrats and their difficult nomination were displayed after a long night of uncertainty in Iowa's kickoff caucuses.

The contrast with Trump's State of the Union address last year will be stark. Then, Democrats were triumphant just a few days after taking control of the House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi had forced Trump to reopen the government.

Her smirking clap, eye-to-eye with him, mocked the president of the United States in front of the world. Well, Pelosi's action towards Trump does not come off as a surprise as she went on to tear the State of the Union speech after Trump concluded speaking.


They haven't spoken since Pelosi stood up, pointed at Trump across a table at the White House and bluntly suggested he is controlled by the president of Russia. "All roads lead to Putin," she said, before stalking out. The extraordinary moment last October was captured in a now-famous photograph that Trump released and Pelosi slapped across the top of her Twitter page.

At other times, she's questioned his "manhood" and he's called her "crazy." Impeachment has only inflamed things. Pelosi last week said Trump will never have a true acquittal because the Senate did not hold a real trial with witnesses.

But, she's said with relish, "He'll be impeached forever." Trump, meanwhile, is poised to claim vindication in yet another "witch hunt" by Democrats who, he says, just wanted to overturn the 2016 election. Pelosi and many Democratic women are expected to wear suffragette white to the speech.

The White House said last week to look for "can-do optimism in the face of unjustified pessimism we are hearing from some in Congress." But officials would not guarantee that Trump will stick to his speech. The president will be in the same room as his accusers at a moment of impending victory. He has a strong and often-stated sense of grievance and is known for going off-script.

Look for roaring applause and cheers from Republicans, who have almost completely stuck with the retribution-loving president. Trump is sure to use the speech to try to remind the country of what he's accomplished. The White House would not say whether it is modelling Trump's speech on President Bill Clinton's in 1999, amid his own impeachment trial.

Clinton never mentioned the I-word. Trump is expected to lead with talk about what the White House calls a "blue-collar boom." There have been gains in blue-collar wages under Trump, though some of those gains have faded as Trump's trade war hurt manufacturing.

Will Trump even mention Ukraine? Republicans have started to come out and agree that the president had "inappropriately" tried to get political help from that country while he held up military aid.

The House impeached him for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress for his actions in response to the House investigation. The issue clearly puts Republicans in a bind. Several have said that House prosecutors proved their case, but even so, the wrongdoing didn't rise to the level of impeachment or removal from office.

Will he make any mention of the new coronavirus? "We've offered China help, but we can't have thousands of people coming in who may have this problem, the coronavirus," Trump said on Sunday. At the same time, the president has tried to avoid angering China by being too outspoken, according to confidants.

Trump is focused on reintroducing himself to Americans as a president who has made the country - and voters' lives specifically - better. So listen for any mention of foreign policy and national security issues.

Trump's Mideast peace plan is a good test. Trump said that his efforts to solve the long-running conflict between Israel and the Palestinians would gain support because it's a "win-win" for both sides.

In fact, Trump's plan favours Israel on key contentious issues and attaches nearly impossible conditions for granting the Palestinians their hoped-for state. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas dismissed the plan as "nonsense."

If Trump says nothing about the plan during the speech, that could signal that Trump knows it's in trouble. Listen for how harsh Trump is on Tehran in the wake of Iran's bombing that injured U.S. soldiers in Iraq. The attack was retribution for the U.S. killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. In the month since an uneasy quiet has settled over the region.

Will Trump suggest he'll eventually want to sit down and talk with the Iranians, signal the door is closed for talks, or poke Tehran? The White House said to expect Trump's tone to be "determined" and "forceful." Will Trump announce a troop withdrawal from Afghanistan? The Taliban want US and other coalition forces to leave.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says a deal is close, but it won't happen without a reduction in violence and a pathway for talks between the Taliban and other Afghans about a peaceful way forward for the nation.

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Published on: Wednesday, February 05, 2020, 10:04 AM IST