President Trump used his State of the Union speech Tuesday night to declare that “the state of our union is strong.” Many in the news media didn’t think the same about the speech itself and harshly criticized the man who delivered it.
The anti-Trump media greeted the president’s speech with snark, sarcasm and outright opposition.
CNN commentator Van Jones blasted the presentation “as a psychotically incoherent speech with cookies and dog poop.”
MSNBC’s Chuck Todd attacked the speech before it ever happened, claiming it was “shaping up to be a night of absurdist theater.”
Perennial anti-Trumper and CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta tweeted: “The WH was engaging in pre-gaslighting in describing Trump's SOTU speech as unifying and bipartisan. This is Trump doubling down and trolling Dems. Trump will always be Trump.”
Acosta went on to describe another section of the speech as being “Echoes of Nixon.”
Lefty BuzzFeed’s staffers (at least the ones not axed recently in a big layoff) agreed with the theme of criticism. World Editor Miriam Elder drew a bizarre comparison, keying off the presence of WWII veterans in the speech and the audience.
“Heavy reliance on WWII as a unifying ideology, another thing Trump and Putin now have in common,” Elder wrote. BuzzFeed Capitol Hill reporter Paul McLeod mocked near the end of the speech: “It is almost over, folks.”
Daily Beast Editor in Chief Noah Shachtman predicted unhappily that the media would love the speech, tweeting: “the cable news slobberfest is going to be epic.”
The reaction wasn’t much different at The Washington Post. Senior Political Reporter Aaron Blake blasted the text. “This speech makes a lot more sense if you completely ignore what happened the last 3.5 years – and indeed almost all of the Obama years.”
Post Global Opinions Editor Karen Attiah called out Trump’s discussion of border security with the comment “Welcome to the racial fearmongering part of the #sotu.”
And Post national political reporter Robert Costa echoed the media mindset. “This speech started as Buzz Aldrin, ‘U-S-A! U-S-A!’ A few nods toward bipartisanship. Now, it has echoes of ‘American carnage.’ This is a president looking at divided gov't and saying ... I'm not changing.”
Even Post cartoonist Ann Telnaes delivered a caricature of the president shouting “COYOTES! GANGS! FEAR! FEAR! FEAR!” under the headline “The Fearmonger in Chief.”
There was an interesting reaction in the House chamber when Trump declared: “America will never be a socialist country.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who describes himself as a democratic socialist, sat stoically. The unsuccessful Democratic presidential hopeful, who may seek the party nomination again in 2020, honeymooned in the old Soviet Union.
NBC News political reporter Jonathan Allen tweeted an image of Sanders’ with the comment: “Bernie is not a fan of the president's take on socialism.”
Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel criticized the Democratic response. “OMG! Did Democrats just sit through the socialism question? Really? They are on public record for overthrowing capitalism as the American system? I hope someone is taking names and notes.”
There was one particularly funny and unusual moment.
POLITICO Magazine Editor-in-Chief Blake Hounshell noted what happened when Trump celebrated job creation for women.
“I did not expect Trump to have a bunch of newly elected new women members of Congress standing up and hooting for him, but this is a strange speech.” He added the question that will follow in coming days will be: “Wonder if he'll get the 'unity' framing he's after, despite the tough partisan edge on issues like immigration.”
That tweet was later deleted and Hounsell admitted to "poor wording on my part here"...
But the criticism began the second Trump arrived. As soon as he started speaking, the media obsessed about … a crooked tie. Bloomberg reporter Steven Dennis tweeted first, “Crooked tie” and followed it with, “My God, nobody's bothered to tell him?” Is this journalism or a game of Trivial Pursuit?
CNN Editor-at-Large Chris Cillizza mocked both Trump and a Supreme Court justice as the president arrived. “Kavanaugh to Trump: ‘I like beer,’” he said, referencing comments during the Senate confirmation hearings for Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
The Democratic response was delivered by losing Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who ABC dubbed a “rising star.” The media naturally preferred it.
CNN anchor Anderson Cooper said “I liked that one better” in describing the Abrams speech. His panel generally agreed.
MSNBC Anchor Chris Hayes declared as the Abrams speech had barely begun: “This is definitely best response I've ever seen.”
Much of the media was determined to dislike the president’s State of the Union speech even before Trump uttered a single word.
ABC’s “Good Morning America” co-host and former Bill Clinton staffer George Stephanopoulos set the stage as negatively as possible.
“The State of the Union just hours away. President Trump preparing to take center stage as his approval rating hits historic lows, facing a Democratic House for the first time and a nation still shaken by the shutdown,” he told viewers.
The New York Times set the stage by undercutting the speech. One preview story included the snarky headline: “Immigration: Making the case for a ‘crisis’ (again).” It ended by noting that after Trump’s last State of the Union speech, he “became no less polarizing in the subsequent 12 months.”
New York Times op-ed columnist David Leonhardt commented just before the speech: “My fellow Americans, the state is our union is ... different from what you’ll hear tonight.”
In some ways, this was a typical State of the Union speech. Both sides invited guests to troll one another or to push their narratives. First lady Melania Trump welcomed a 6th-grade student named Joshua Trump, who is not related to the president but who has been bullied because of his name. Republicans invited members of the Border Patrol or victims of illegal immigrant crime.
House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi included Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen as one of her guests.
Democrats invited transgender members of the military and Ana Maria Archila, one of the women who harassed then-Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., in an elevator during the Kavanaugh hearings. Democratic members of the House were even wearing white (After Labor Day!) to remember suffragette women.