University of Missouri political communications professor Mitchell McKinney says the tone of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address last night was not uplifting. Early on in Trump’s speech, he mentioned some of the recent natural disasters the nation has faced, including hurricanes, flooding and wildfires. Special guests attending the event, like first responders and military members, had heart-wrenching stories about struggles they’ve endured.

MU Professor Mitchell McKinney – Photo Courtesy of University of Missouri

“It didn’t seem like he was conveying any expression of excitement. Even his sincerity sometimes seemed a bit strange. In terms of its content, which I found very striking, we were hearing throughout the day from his handlers and aids that he was going to try to strike a bipartisan tone and try to unify,” says McKinney. “There was very little of that in the speech.”

However, he says discussion about addressing the nation’s crippling infrastructure, the importance of helping former prisoners find jobs, and the need for paid family leave drew bipartisan applause.

Trump’s speech celebrated job creation over the past year and the passage of his tax cut plan. He said 2.4 million new jobs have been created since he was elected president, including 200,000 additional manufacturing positions.

Trump also mentioned that 3 million American workers have received tax cut bonuses since changes have been made to the federal tax policy. A search yielding information about any of Trump’s businesses giving tax cuts to its employees turned up no information.

The president is urging Congress to invest in workforce development, job training and the creation of additional vocational schools to spur the economy and further job creation.

Trump said one of his greatest priorities this year is to reduce the price of prescription drugs. He promises that pharmaceutical drug prices “will come down substantially”. Eastern Missouri Congressman Lacy Clay, a Democrat, says he wants to work with Trump to drop drug prices.

The president used broad strokes to touch upon immigration policy and infrastructure.

“Oftentimes presidents don’t wish to dictate to Congress the specific policies they should enact, but rather suggest in broad terms the direction of policy they should take up. We saw some of that in the second half,” says McKinney.

He says the president’s speech was geared toward shoring up support from his core supporters instead of fashioning a governing agenda for Congress.

Trump’s $1.7 trillion infrastructure plan reportedly includes 25% of the total funding being used in rural areas with less than 50,000 people. He’s proposing that
the federal government pays $200 billion of the plan – leaving state and local governments to compete for federal funding and possibly create toll roads.

The president says he wants Congress to fund the construction of extending the wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. He says he supports citizenship for 1.8 million immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children.

Critics say Trump shifting last night from discussion about the need to strengthen the nation’s immigration policies to talking about crime committed by a Hispanic gang suggests that immigrants are gang members.

“That did seem to be the connections that he was making somewhat not just implicitly but explicitly,” says McKinney.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, R-Florida, defends Trump by saying the gang – called MS-13 – is an evil, horrifying organization that’s killing and hurting people.

McKinney thinks Trump’s address should have mentioned the recent federal shutdown.

“Of course, this is not something that those in the chamber would be particularly proud of – the government shutdown. Certainly, for the American people, as we’ve just come off of that, to ensure us that our government can function,” says McKinney.

The controversy surrounding Russia meddling in America’s 2016 election cycle made McKinney hoping to hear the president speak about America’s relationship with Russia.

According to McKinney, Trump’s 80-minute speech might be one of the longest of its kind in history. He recalls former President Bill Clinton, D, having several long speeches. McKinney says Trump’s was right up there with the length of some of Clinton’s.