It’s come to this: the nation is preparing for a State of the Union address in which the things to watch include whether the first lady will be visibly alienated from her husband following news that he paid hush money to cover up an affair with an adult film star, whether the president will mention the special counsel’s investigation into whether his campaign colluded with a foreign power to undermine the elections and into whether he himself obstructed justice, and how many times the president goes off teleprompter. “Sordid” comes to mind when describing the White House in 2018.
On substance, Donald Trump is expected to talk about the economy, which is to say he’s expected to claim credit for the economy he inherited from President Barack Obama and to claim that the Republican tax overhaul will do amazing things. He’ll also likely talk about infrastructure, though Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer warns of Trump's heavily privatized infrastructure plans that:
A plan based on private-sector gimmicks and giveaways would also result in tolls — Trump tolls — across the United States. Hedge funds and wealthy investors will want projects that generate a profit by charging middle-class Americans hundreds of dollars a year in tolls, taxes and fees. Our nation’s roads, bridges and tunnels would become tools for wealthy investors to profit off the middle class rather than the job-creating public assets they ought to be.
If there’s one thing the White House doesn’t have to worry about, it’s lowering expectations:
At the White House and among Republicans on Capitol Hill, there is a keen awareness that Mr. Trump benefits from extraordinarily low expectations of his ability to stay on message and deliver a coherent speech, given his tendency to ramble off script and insert divisive notes, insulting asides and mystifying non sequiturs that almost always overshadow the topic at hand.
Given that, officials believe, the president will be judged a success in many quarters as long as he reads faithfully from his script, resisting the urge to respond to perceived slights or settle scores and instead sticking to a positive message that can resonate with a wide swath of Americans.
Another thing Trump doesn’t have to worry about? Members of his party acting like everything he says is gold no matter what. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote that “ I will be proud to stand up and applaud.”
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