Another great American political spectacle, the presidential State of the Union speech, is over — leaving behind many political questions.
President Donald Trump is a highly polarizing figure. Did his State of the Union speech help revive his political fortunes?
Pignanelli: "State of Union speeches evaporate quickly. … I predict that much of what we heard tonight will be forgotten by the end of next week.” — Bianna Golodryga, CBS News
Pundits often describe the State of the Union as the cotton candy of American politics — sweet, airy and unmemorable.
Yet there were some distinctive differences last week.
Commentators often deride presidential administrations who invite guests to bolster a theme of the presentation. However, I believe these introductions provide a unique opportunity for millions of Americans to learn about heroes living in our country, that we otherwise would not know. So I am grateful to Trump’s advisers who exposed me to the brave men and women highlighted in the speech — especially the war veterans and survivors of the Holocaust. Fortunately, their courage will not be forgotten.
In the spirit of togetherness and healing, I hoped the president would have mentioned DACA dreamers, the LGBT community and others victimized because of violence, racial discrimination and personal characteristics — an opportunity missed.
The president solidified his base by drawing several lines but offered opportunities for compromise (trade, infrastructure, etc.). His political shelf life will not be determined by the speech but many other factors (economy, investigations, government shut down, etc.)
The bottom line is the authors of our admired Constitution once again demonstrated their prescient greatness by inadvertently creating an event to block memories of a boring Super Bowl.
Webb: When the real story of Donald Trump is written, at least from a Republican perspective, the headline may be: “Lost Opportunity.” The speech illustrated what could have been.
I thought the speech was, in many ways, terrific. Trump outdid himself with lofty rhetoric and touching symbols. He outlined his significant accomplishments (the economy booms), presented a vision for the future, called for cooperation on issues of common interest and provided a clear differentiation with the increasingly left-leaning Democrats on abortion, socialism and border security.
If Trump would stick to the issues, vision and demeanor displayed in the speech, he would still be plenty controversial, but he could be a very successful president.
He would need to maintain focus and discipline which, so far, he has been incapable of doing. He would need to avoid inconsequential squabbles, not allow himself to be drawn into petty fights and end his mercurial behavior, incessant tweeting and name-calling.
I like most of Trump’s policies. The economy is booming; his tough trade stance seems to be working; China and Russia are much more respectful of America; and Trump might just reduce the threat of all-out war on the Korean peninsula. I like his boldness on many issues and that he is not a slave to conventional wisdom.
If Trump acts more presidential, like he did in the speech, the Democrats and news media would still trash him at every opportunity, but the American people would see through it. Trump’s approval ratings and chances for re-election would jump significantly.
Utah’s Republican members were generally pleased with Trump’s speech, while Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams was more reserved. How should members of Utah’s delegation navigate their delicate relationship with Trump?
Pignanelli: Polls indicate Trump is a mixed bag in Utah with support hovering around 50 percent. But his dedicated supporters and ardent detractors are spread across the political and economic spectrums. Politicians who embrace, or distance, themselves too much risk alienating large demographic groups.
The result is an incredible tight rope walk with acrobatic maneuvers many office holders must perform. However, they do have a safety net, exclusive to our state. Articulating responses to difficult questions regarding the president with "I concur with the concerns of Sen. Romney" is a guaranteed safe harbor.
Webb: Trump-haters in Utah want our delegation to brawl with Trump at every opportunity. That would be foolish. Even though they have reservations about Trump, our delegation must work with him to achieve legislative goals and have any chance of fending off leftist policies that are far worse than Trump’s policies. They have to separate Trump’s impulsive character and temperament from his policies — most of which make sense.
Remember this sobering reality: If Trump loses, the Pelosi/Sanders/Ocasio-Cortez leftist complex wins.
How does the state of Utah compare with the state of the union?7 comments on this story
Pignanelli: The Legislature is embroiled in a heated debate over Medicaid expansion, with external forces bombarding the air waves. But officials on either side remain cordial to each other. There is nervousness of an impending recession, yet Utah’s diversified economy will absorb the bump. Momentum is evident to resolve clean air and growth issues. The “Utah Way” prevails.
Webb: Just be glad you live in Utah, the land of common sense and problem-solving. Unfortunately, Utah is not immune from national maladies. What happens in Washington doesn’t stay in Washington.