When it wasn’t wandering in search of a theme (spoiler: it didn’t find one), Donald Trump’s 2019 State of the Union address contained the usual collection of fear-mongering over immigration that can be found in any Trump rally speech. In fact, the hardhearted core of the speech, with its ominous threats of coyotes and caravans ready to pour across the border and its over-the-top claims about immigrant violence, was just one roll of blue tape short of being a Trump rally speech. There were also the seemingly endless economic claims, almost all of them straight-out lies. The economy is not growing twice as fast as when Trump took office. The economy is not “the hottest in the world.” And those billions in tariffs that Trump is so proud of come from the pockets of U.S. consumers, not Chinese companies.
But Trump did find some new things to say—all of them ridiculous.
#7: “Here, in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country. America was founded on liberty and independence—not government coercion, domination, and control.”
The funniest thing about this statement was that it was made to a room full of apparatchiks who dutifully leaped to their feet to applaud the autocrat who has created the most state-managed economy in decades. Trump has instituted tariffs that selectively promote and attack different industries, put his hand heavily on the scale to tilt energy demand away from what the market wants, and shuffled billions around the economy to prop up farms being destroyed by the very much not-invisible hand in the system. The man who just cost the economy $6 billion dollars and put millions of people at risk of fiscal disaster to satisfy his ego is concerned about coercion and domination. Now stand up and cheer!
#6: “The border city of El Paso, Texas, used to have extremely high rates of violent crime—one of the highest in the entire country, and considered one of our nation’s most dangerous cities. Now, immediately upon its building, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of the safest cities in our country.”
That’s a lie. El Paso was never one of the most dangerous cities in the US. In fact, it was the second-safest city of its size before any wall, barrier, fence, or steel slats were built. The already-low crime rate in El Paso continued falling further even before a fence was built in the area. In fact, the rate at which crime decreased in El Paso closely matches the rate that crime fell all over America—even in areas that were near the border but did not get a fence.
#5: “The savage gang MS-13 now operates in at least 20 different American states and they almost all come through our southern border.”
MS-13 originated in Los Angeles in the late 1970s and most of its members continue to be from, and in, the United States. It accounts for less than 1 percent of gang-related crime in the United States. There is absolutely no evidence that border security or immigration policy has anything to do with the numbers of MS-13 gang members. MS-13, the actual gang, has almost nothing to do with MS-13, the massive criminal organization that holds whole cities captive in Trump’s speeches.
#4: “We really have no choice. Perhaps we can negotiate a different agreement, adding China and others, or perhaps we can’t—in which case, we will outspend and out-innovate all others by far. ”
Though it was easy to miss since he immediately slipped in his promise that only he had stopped a war with North Korea (see #2), there was the jarring moment where Trump not only announced he was dropping out of a Cold War treaty to limit nuclear weapons, but promised that the United States would engage in an unlimited arms race, one where we would outspend all comers until we build more and scarier weapons. Because that has always worked so well.
#3: “Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments before birth.”
The way Trump framed a tragic procedure that is carried out only in the most medically devastating circumstances by people facing a heartbreaking decision wasn’t so much outrageous as it was vile. But the statement was made even weirder when Trump followed it up by moving straight into military spending in one of the most awkward transitions in a speech that was entirely elbows.
#2: “If I had not been elected president of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea.”
Trump let it be known that only his brilliant diplomacy has kept America out of a war that was definitely not going to happen. It can also be Trump’s opinion that he stopped the sun from exploding—because it’s equally true.
#1: “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. If there is going to be peace in legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just does not work that way.”
Checking and … yes, yes it does. Investigations happen, and yet legislation goes on. Just check with Devin Nunes and Mark Meadows. Every major piece of legislation in the Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Reagan administrations was passed during ongoing investigations. Whether it’s Iran-Contra, Whitewater, or “Lawyergate” (remember that one?), there is almost always some investigation underway. Trump’s statement sounds a lot like a threat to sit on bills or shut down the government unless Congress agrees to stop the investigations of Trump.
In response, House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff announced that his committee would be expanding its investigation beyond Russia to look at all foreign connections to Trump, his campaign, and his company.