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Editorial: Trump does Trump: What you see and hear depends on where you stand

Trump boasts of economic gains on eve of impeachment verdict (copy)

President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday night as Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker Nancy Pelosi look on.

On the eve of his impeachment acquittal, President Donald Trump smartly stuck to his State of the Union script as he took credit for a long list of accomplishments and told Americans where he wanted to take the nation.

"Our agenda is relentlessly pro-worker, pro- family, pro-growth, and, most importantly, pro-American," the president said Tuesday night. He talked up a “blue-collar boom” against a backdrop of macroeconomic superlatives that may not mesh with the realities of all working families. In fact, Mr. Trump inherited a steadily growing economy that has improved slightly under his tenure.

Mr. Trump called for more school choice, lowering prescription drug prices, eliminating surprise medical bills and ending late-term abortions. He took credit for the economy, reduced regulations, energy independence, trade deals, record-low unemployment, the appointment of 187 federal judges and the deaths of two adversaries, ex-ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

Rightly, Mr. Trump vowed to continue working toward ending "American wars in the Middle East" and working for “fair and reciprocal” trade policies.

Predictably, he catered to his GOP base, promising he would never "let socialism destroy American health care," vowing to protect the Second Amendment and praising military and law enforcement agencies, all the while hammering the previous administration over immigration and growing government entitlements.

The word impeachment was not in the 78-minute speech, themed "the Great American Comeback."

Although Mr. Trump stuck to his script, the speech was indeed a partisan pitch, which began with supporters chanting "Four more years!" and was punctuated by female Democrats dressed in suffragette white chanting "H.R. 3!" in support of a bill by the late Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Ga., for lowering drug prices.

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The president touted the nation’s oil-and-gas drilling boom, a rush to riches that could threaten the economic and environmental health of coastal South Carolina. His support for school choice was encouraging, especially as Democrats increasingly oppose those alternatives, but his proposal to send 1 million students to private schools with taxpayer-funded vouchers takes the choice strategy too far.

What's clear as Mr. Trump enters his fourth year in office is that he is neither the godsend his supporters project, nor the nefarious incompetent his detractors claim. And he is certain to continue to spark controversy. The speech was unlikely to change many minds or close gaping partisan divides before the Nov. 3 general election.

It was also clear he was trying to reach out to African American voters. Not only did he recite statistics about how they have benefited economically, but his first shoutout went to South Carolina's Sen. Tim Scott for his work on opportunity zones.

It remains to be seen to what extent this outreach will peel away the most reliable voting bloc in the Democrats’ coalition. South Carolina's Rep. Jim Clyburn, third in Democratic leadership to Ms. Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, was seen shaking his head as the president declared the state of union “stronger than ever before."

"America's enemies are on the run. America's fortunes are on the rise. America's future is blazing bright. The years of economic decay are over," Mr. Trump said to roars of applause. But he also was booed when he said that if he hadn't reversed the previous administration’s policies, "the world would not now be witnessing this great economic success."

Mr. Trump added some reality TV drama to his speech by having first lady Melania Trump present right-wing radio commentator Rush Limbaugh, recently diagnosed with lung cancer, with a surprise Presidential Medal of Freedom. Later, he announced to the family of an Afghanistan veteran that "I am thrilled to inform you that your husband is back from deployment" as Army Sgt. 1st Class Townsend Williams made a surprise appearance.

Like President Bill Clinton in 1999, Mr. Trump faced a joint session of Congress against a backdrop of impeachment. Unlike Mr. Clinton, Mr. Trump faces an election in November, where voters will weigh in on his impeachment, acquittal and everything else about his first term in office.

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