Donald Trump State of the Union promises epic political spectacle with 'optimism' spin: How to watch, what to track

US President Donald Trump’s second State of the Union (SOTU) is likely to be as close as possible to a political rally burnished by the veneer of a historic setting despite White House spin that Trump will call for "optimism and unity". Even if Trump reads an inspiring SOTU off the teleprompter and stays on message, what comes after is the real deal, as both Republicans and Democrats have seen in the last two years of the Trump presidency. Scorching tweets before the break of dawn can burn down the entire SOTU edifice in a matter of seconds. This is the first Trump SOTU in divided government, a reality that has put Trump in multiple awkward situations since November 2018 which he dislikes intensely and rages against privately.

 Donald Trump State of the Union promises epic political spectacle with optimism spin: How to watch, what to track

File photo of US president Donald Trump. AP

Trump is scheduled speak before a joint session of the 116th Congress in the chamber of the House of Representatives to deliver the 2019 State of the Union address at 9 pm EST on 5 February — that’s 7:30 am IST on 6 February.

Where can you watch?
The White House is streaming the SOTU live on its website and YouTube channel, cable news networks are streaming on their social pages and on telly.

A visual symbol of Trump's diluted power
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who won plaudits from Democrats for her hardline negotiating tactics during the shutdown, will be seated behind the president — a visual reminder of Trump's political opposition and the coming tide of Democratic challengers in 2020.

A shutdown deadline is still ticking
With the new 15 February funding deadline looming, Trump is expected to use his address to outline his demands, which still include funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. He's teased the possibility of declaring a national emergency to secure wall funding if Congress doesn't act, though it appeared unlikely he would take that step Tuesday night. Advisers have also been reviewing options to secure some funding without making such a declaration.

How long will Trump talk?
It won’t be short. Trump's first ever State of the Union address, delivered January 2018, clocked in at 1 hour and 20 minutes. That’s 9 minutes short of Bill Clinton’s final State of the Union address in 2000. Clinton also claims the No. 2 spot with his 1995 address, which lasted 1 hour and 25 minutes.

What's on Trump's mind?
Golf, Tiger Woods and immigration, in that order, in the last 24 hours. His tweets usually write themselves into his speeches, so here's a sample of what's to come:

The post-shutdown SOTU
Remember how this SOTU came to be? It’s still an open question whether Trump caved to Democrats pressure on reopening the government last month because he wanted the SOTU so badly or whether the SOTU is happening because he retreated to avoid public anger. Either way, watch for Trump laying the groundwork to declare an emergency to build a border wall, stories of blood and gore, of illegal immigrants and generally using his bully pulpit to rally his base.

An emergency, really?
Many Senate Republicans are deeply opposed to Trump declaring a national emergency to build his border wall, with enough resistance that the president might ultimately be forced to veto a measure intended to block him.

An encore of Trump's Oval office address
On 8 January, two and a half weeks into the government shutdown, Trump made his first televised address from the Oval Office, seeking to sell the American public on his 2016 campaign promise of building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Expecting more of the same is a safe wager. Trump will likely repeat that Mexico will pay for the wall through a renegotiated NAFTA agreement.

Will Trump talk Syria?
Trump's top aides have also hinted he is likely to use the address to announce a major milestone in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria. Despite the objections of some advisers, Trump announced in December that he was withdrawing U.S. forces in Syria.

Trump’s SOTU guests
Trump's guest list, released by the White House Monday night, includes family members of a Reno, Nevada, couple who were “tragically murdered in their home in Nevada by an illegal immigrant in January 2019”. Felons who were released through a presidential pardon and the recent criminal-rehabilitation law Trump signed; a Homeland Security Department agent who works on human-trafficking cases; survivors of last year's synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh and children who spotlight the US First Lady’s pet causes will also feature in the 2019 SOTU.

Can Stacey Abrams break the curse?
Democratic star, Stacey Abrams, will deliver the party's response to Trump. Abrams narrowly lost her bid in November to become America's first black woman governor, and party leaders are aggressively recruiting her to run for Senate. She symbolizes the new, predominantly female face of the Democratic party - a precursor to the Democratic field in the 2020 primaries. The SOTU response is delivered by the party not occupying the White House but the high-profile assignment has been known to damage entire political careers on a single day.

Updated Date: Feb 06, 2019 04:35:15 IST