In just over four weeks in office, President Trump has set records — something he says he loves, no matter if they are positive or negative.
First, some of the negative: Record crowds greeted not his inauguration, but protests the next day. He has a record low approval rating for a new president at this time in office. Faced with Democratic opposition, the Senate has yet to approve all of his cabinet picks.
The positive: “There are those that say I’ve done more than anybody in the first 100 days,” he declared in an interview on Tuesday on “Fox & Friends,” while acknowledging that his “messaging isn’t good.”
Despite his propensity for hyperbole, Trump’s speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday will be a chance for him to improve on that message and to outline, perhaps in more concrete detail, just how he’ll follow through on the claim to being the doer-to-end-all-doers in the White House. This isn’t a State of the Union address, but a tradition among new occupants of the Oval Office to address lawmakers, with the benefit of drawing roadblock coverage across broadcast and cable networks.
Already, the White House seems to have teased the speech with reports that Trump is open to immigration reform — including a pathway to legal status — despite the rhetoric of his campaign. As happened with his Supreme Court announcement and some of his executive orders, there will be a level of suspense in whether Trump will talk about immigration reform to the lawmakers. That will say a lot on how serious he is about making such a move.
The number that Trump undoubtedly will watch is the viewership, and he’s got a figure to compare it with: President Barack Obama’s first address to a joint session of Congress drew 52.4 million viewers on Feb. 24, 2009.
Follow along for the latest updates from the speech, and watch below:
10:17 p.m. ET: Defying Expectations. The reviews for this speech will be good — in part because it was perhaps the most unifying speech that Trump has given, in part because it was so different from the tone we are used to seeing from him, even as president. There were points when it seemed like a dark, fearful tone would consume the speech, but he finished with Obama-esque lines and a less xenophobic pitch for America first.
The speech may have given Trump a reset after a tumultuous start, but that could quickly dissipate in another sensational turn of the news cycle. If the first month of his presidency is any measure, that is more likely than not. As he gave the broad outlines of some of his policy priorities, Trump may have softened the rhetoric, but the fault lines on issues like immigration, healthcare, and diversity don’t just fall away in the moment. This was still a speech heavy in a theme of “law and order” and the message that there is much to fear outside our borders.
Moreover, the measure of whether his call for ending “trivial fights” is heeded will start with his own Twitter account.
10:09 p.m. ET: ‘Small Thinking.’ Trump is finishing up his speech with a lofty call for unity. “The time for small thinking is over. The time for trivial fights is behind us. We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts.” It is a similar call to what President Barack Obama said in his inaugural address, when he talked of getting away from “childish things.”
10:03 p.m. ET: Ryan Owens. The longest applause goes to Carryn Owens, the widow of U.S. Navy Special Operator Ryan Owens, killed in a Jan. 29 raid in Yemen, and Trump even notes that the standing ovation may have set a record. Owens’ father, William Owens, has called for an investigation of what went wrong with the raid, which was approved by Trump. Trump says that the country “will never forget him.”
9:57 p.m. ET: Cuts? Trump asks for a massive increase in defense spending — one of the largest increases in American history — but there is no mention of cuts elsewhere.
9:52 p.m. ET: The Speech. This is very much a State-of-the-Union, laundry list of ideas and proposals, peppered with the emotional stories of “real” people sitting in the president’s gallery of guests. In other words, it is in line with the tone and structure of other presidential addresses, but it is different because it is Trump at his most disciplined and scripted.
9:47 p.m. ET: Childcare. Trump’s call for making childcare “accessible and affordable” draws applause from some Democrats. This is an idea that was advanced by Ivanka Trump at the Republican National Convention. But Trump also talks about working with both parties to “promote clean air and clear water.” That statement isn’t lost on many who note that Trump on Tuesday began to rollback Obama-era rules on clean water.
9:41 p.m. ET: Healthcare. Trump gets a big applause from Republicans in his call to repeal and replace Obamacare — which he says is an imploding disaster. He is calling on Congress to replace it with reforms that “expand choice, increase access, lower costs, and at the same time, provide better healthcare.” That shouldn’t be much trouble, will it? Actually, one aspect of his “principles,” to provide tax credits in place of subsidies, is already meeting resistance from conservative lawmakers and groups.
9:36 p.m. ET: Immigration Reform. “I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible, as long as we focus on the following goals: to improve jobs and wages for Americans, to strengthen our nation’s security, and to restore respect for our laws.” This is a call for immigration reform that, he says, has eluded lawmakers “for decades.” He talks of moving away from a “current system of lower-skilled immigration, and instead adopting a merit-based system.” There is no mention of a legalization of undocumented immigrants currently in the country.
9:32 p.m. ET: Taxes and Tariffs. Trump talks of lowering the corporate tax rate, but also says he wanted to make it “much harder for companies to leave.” Exactly what that means is unclear, but he talks extensively about protective tariffs and even quotes Abraham Lincoln to defend the idea of a “protective policy.”
9:28 p.m. ET: New Travel Order. It’s expected that this week Trump will unveil a new executive order on immigration and refugees, to follow the tough approach he took to terrorism in his speech. “We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America — we cannot allow our nation to become a sanctuary for extremists,” he said, adding that his administration is working on “improved vetting procedures and we will shortly take new steps to keep our nation safe — and to keep out those who would do us harm.”
9:20 p.m. ET: ‘A Great, Great Wall.’ Trump talks of the “lawless chaos” coming from illegal immigration, and once again reiterates that “we will soon begin constriction of a great wall along our southern border.” No mention yet of his willingness to accept comprehensive immigration reform, and also no mention of how the wall will be paid for.
9:17 p.m. ET: New Jobs. Trump names Ford, Fiat-Chrysler, GM, Sprint, Softbank, Lockheed, Intel and Wal-Mart announcement of “tens of thousands of new jobs.” Some of these announcements have been long-in-the-works (i.e. before Trump was elected) but these have been seized upon by the president to try to show that he’s turning things around. They have made for good photo ops, even if it is at times a bit dubious for him to claim the credit.
9:07 p.m. ET: Trump Takes the Lectern: Think back just over a year ago, as President Barack Obama delivered his final State of the Union address. The thought that it would be Donald Trump standing in the same spot was just a surreal thought that few would have predicted.
9 p.m. ET: What Hollywood Is Watching For. We’ve already seen a number of celebrities speak out on issues like immigration, healthcare and race, but the industry side of Hollywood is waiting to see what Trump’s administration will do on key issues like trade and tax reform, as well as federal funding for the arts and public television. Reports that the White House is pondering massive cuts to discretionary programs have triggered anxiety that Trump will propose a budget that eliminates funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as well as the National Endowment for the Arts. Trump probably won’t be identifying those programs in particular, but his speech could set the tone for how his administration is approaching the budget process.
8:57 p.m. ET: Unity? There is a lot of speculation that Trump’s speech will be more uplifting and unifying than his darker inaugural address and its reference to “American carnage.” “From now on, America will be empowered by our aspirations, not burdened by our fears,” Trump will say, according an excerpt of the speech. That is a far different tone that his Jan. 20 address, and of much of his rhetoric during the campaign.