President Donald Trump will give his first State of the Union address Tuesday evening. The speech comes on the heels of new developments in the Russia investigation, including the resignation of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. Washington has also endured weeks of impasse that led to a brief government shutdown, as well as uncertainty about whether lawmakers can come to an agreement about DACA and a border wall.
The White House has indicated that Trump’s speech will strike an optimistic tone, in contrast to his inaugural address a year ago and a number of campaign-style speeches the president has given during his time in office.
Jennifer Mercieca, associate professor of communication at Texas A&M University and a historian of American political discourse, says a positive approach to the speech would be a good choice for the president.
“I think that part of the goal with this speech is to try to get the American public to think of his first year as a success,” Mercieca says, “and so that would require projecting a lot of optimism. [For] the past two years, three years, Trump has been pretty critical, pretty negative about the state of our economy, about our place in the world. And that doesn’t translate into high poll numbers for him.”
Mercieca says Trump’s tendency to call out adversaries would be out of place in a typical State of the Union speech, but he could choose to employ the kind of rhetoric an embattled Richard Nixon used in 1974, when investigations into Watergate were at their height.
“[Nixon] urged Congress to bring that investigation…to an end,”Mercieca. “He said ‘one year of Watergate is enough.’ He resigned six months later.”
Written by Shelly Brisbin.