State of the United States: The Statesman

NEW DELHI (THE STATESMAN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – After the kerfuffle over the shutdown with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday mirrored the bitterly polarised political climate of the United States of America.

While he tried to be bipartisan, he has cast his agenda amidst the relentless tension over immigration and the longest government shutdown in US history.

More accurately, the state of the US is ever so dismal.

Trump’s remarks came as the White House and Democrats in Congress remain gridlocked over funding for the government, which is due to expire again on Feb 15.

Specifically, the President has sought the funding for the wall along the Mexican frontier.

A lack of a resolution would lead to the fourth shutdown of Trump’s presidency.

The President opened his address by extending an overture to Democrats – “Millions of our fellow citizens are watching us now, gathered in this great chamber, hoping that we will govern not as two parties but as one nation,” he said.

“The agenda I will lay out this evening is not a Republican agenda or a Democrat agenda. It is the agenda of the American people.”

Not that he has not tempered his rhetoric earlier.

In his previous two speeches before a joint session of Congress he did try to tone down the characteristic bombast that has defined his presidency.

But such seemingly fervent appeals to both sides of the aisle have been largely superficial, with little or no effort to follow through on bipartisan negotiations.

Even as he spoke, he remained firm that Congress must approve funding for a wall, a proposal that has been binned by the Democrats.

Making his case for a border wall, the President made unsubstantiated claims linking immigrants to violence and crime.

“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.”

That said, he is yet to convince the world that immigrants are primarily seeking entry to the US to commit violent crimes.

Trump has used such tactics to justify the need for a border wall, reaffirming that in the event of lack of funding, a government funding bill would be unlikely to get his signature.

In foreign policy, the President defended his controversial decision to withdraw US troops from Syria and accelerate an end to the war in Afghanistan.

“Our brave troops have now been fighting in the Middle East for almost 19 years,” Trump said, while noting the US had spent more than US$7 trillion in the region.

President Trump’s approach has put him at odds with US military and intelligence leaders, as well as Republicans in Congress.

For all that, the State of the Union address was riveted to the ever so prickly immigration issue to which the closure of America is linked.

The Statesman is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media entities.

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