Who’s clapping now?
On the brink of his Senate acquittal, U.S. President Donald Trump will be unleashing “relentless optimism” during his third State of the Union address, 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’ll be a different experience for Democrats, nearly all of whom voted for Trump’s impeachment in the House. Where Trump will point to GOP unity ahead of the 2020 elections, Democrats and their difficult nomination will be on display 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.
What to watch during Trump’s speech at 9 p.m. EST Tuesday:
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.
Watch them for any spark of civility. 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.