Periodic laughter punctuated the live showing of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address at the Institute of Politics John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum Tuesday night.
The IOP fellows kicked off the night by making predictions for the State of the Union before attendees watched Trump’s address on the forum’s big screen. By the end of the night, the fellows had correctly predicted most of Trump’s major points, especially those pertaining to immigration and the economy.
Gary D. Cohn drew on his experience as Trump’s former top economic advisor while outlining his expectations.
“He will come out and talk about the strength of the U.S. economy, he will talk about the jobs that have been created, he’ll talk about GDP growth, he’ll talk about wage growth,” Cohn said.
Trump did praise the state of the economy, touting his administration’s role in GDP growth.
“The U.S. economy is growing almost twice as fast today as when I took office, and we are considered far and away the hottest economy anywhere in the world,” Trump said.
Unexpected cheers broke out — both in the United States House of Representative chamber and at the IOP — when Trump highlighted advances for women in the workforce.
“No one has benefited more from our thriving economy than women, who have filled 58 percent of the newly created jobs last year,” Trump said, before acknowledging the record-high number of women in Congress.
Trump also alluded to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s ongoing investigation, prompting criticism from Congressional Democrats who condemned him for obstruction after the event.
"An economic miracle is taking place in the United States — and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics or ridiculous partisan investigations," Trump said.
During the IOP Fellows panel, former Tallahassee Mayor and 2018 Democratic Floridian gubernatorial candidate Andrew D. Gillum said he is concerned about Trump’s rhetoric surrounding undocumented immigrants and he predicted Trump would stereotype them during his speech.
“I fear that tonight will probably be a little bit of demagoging of immigrants,” Gillum said. “I think he will talk a lot about an invasion of the United States on the southern border despite the fact that illegal crossing at the border is at a 20-year low.”
Border security was indeed a central focus of Trump’s speech, and he pushed his proposal for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.
“Now is the time for Congress to show the world that America is committed to ending illegal immigration and putting the ruthless coyotes, cartels, drug dealers, and human traffickers out of business," Trump said. “Walls work and walls save lives!”
Noticeably absent from Trump’s State of the Union address was the 35-day government shutdown, the longest in U.S. history, caused by conflict over the proposed border wall. Former Rep. Barbara J. Comstock (R-VA) mentioned the shutdown during the IOP Fellows conversation. She said she thought it would be a significant talking point and an opportunity for bipartisan cooperation.
“I’ve always thought government shutdowns were a bad idea,” Comstock said. “They’re costly, they’re not conservative.”
The shutdown forced some Harvard professors to pause their research as they waited to renew grants from agencies that had closed. Some postdoctoral fellows also saw the status of their stipend payments remain in limbo as they depended on funding from the National Science Foundation, which had closed temporarily.
Though Trump did not address Comstock’s concerns about the shutdown, Comstock did correctly predict the mention of two bipartisan policies: modernizing infrastructure and lowering prescription drug prices.
"Both parties should be able to unite for a great rebuilding of America's crumbling infrastructure," Trump said.
— Staff writer Jania J. Tumey can be reached at email@example.com.
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