Just over a year into his first term, President Donald Trump appears to have gotten the hang of reading from a teleprompter—for the most part.
During his first official State of the Union address Tuesday, Trump remained fairly close to the text of his prepared remarks, and his deviations from the script fell into several broad categories typical of his rhetorical style: hyperbolic praise, hyperbolic criticism, and stylistic flourishes. We’ve noted Trump’s impromptu changes in bold.
For the first half of his remarks, Trump added the odd embellishment with regard to already extreme scenarios; he praised the Cajun Navy’s work during “the aftermath of a totally devastating hurricane” and referred to the California wildfires as “devastating.”
Praising House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), who a gunman wounded at a congressional baseball practice in June 2017, Trump added, “I think they like you, Steve.”
The President praised Preston Sharp, a young guest who led a campaign to place flags and flowers at U.S. military graves.
“I met Preston a little while ago, and he is something very special. That I can tell you. Great future,” Trump said. “Thank you very much for all you’ve done, Preston. Thank you very much.”
Trump said he was “very proud of” a dip in unemployment claims that he said represents a 45-year low, but emphasized his displeasure with the “very” broken tax filing system.
He referred to a number of entities as “beautiful,” an adjective that was not included in his prepared remarks, but which Trump lavished on “a small, beautiful business in Ohio,” “beautiful clean coal” and “great, beautiful auto workers.”
Trump also patted himself on the back about the potential effects of the Republican tax bill: “It’s a good feeling,” he said.
In addition to the scripted note that companies and jobs were “coming back” to the United States, Trump added that they were “roaring back.”
“They want to be where the action is. They want to be in the United States of America, that’s where they want to be,” Trump said in an unscripted moment.
Describing the building where Army Staff Sergeant Justin Peck saved his injured comrade, Trump made things a bit more dramatic than his prepared remarks dictated.
“Near Raqqa last November, Justin and his comrade, Chief Petty Officer Kenton Stacy, were on a mission to clear buildings that ISIS had rigged with explosives so that civilians could return to the city hopefully soon and hopefully safely,” Trump said. “Clearing the second floor of a vital hospital, Kenton Stacy was severely wounded by an explosion. Immediately, Justin bounded into the booby-trapped and unbelievably dangerous and unsafe building and found Kenton in bad shape.”
He veered from a description of immigration legislation to lavish praise on ICE and Border Patrol agents: “These are great people. These are great, great people that work so hard in the midst of such danger.”
And he misidentified one of his invited guests, Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Celestino Martinez, who the written address referred to as “CJ.”
“He goes by DJ,” Trump said. “And CJ. He said call me either one.”
In a section on the opioid crisis, Trump veered off script when he said, “Never before has it been like it is now. It is terrible. We have to do something about it.”
While announcing that he would keep Guantánamo Bay open, Trump gave a shout-out to Defense Secretary James Mattis, and noted to applause, “who is doing a great job, thank you.”
According to his prepared remarks, Trump was scripted to lament the current impossibility of nuclear disarmament.
“Perhaps someday in the future there will be a magical moment when the countries of the world will get together to eliminate their nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, we are not there yet,” he said, but emphatically added during his remarks, “Sadly.”