CBS HAILS Trump’s ‘Incredible’ SOTU as ‘Morning in America’ with ‘Compelling Stories’

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What was going on CBS Tuesday night during the State of the Union? Do we need to file a slew of missing persons’ reports? Or was there a real-life Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Those answers seemed plausible considering CBS’s overwhelmingly positive reaction to President Trump’s speech. 

In their post-speech reactions, CBS journalists praised the “master showman” President’s “incredible remarks” that, while “restrained,” showcased “a strong record on the economy” and “emotionally compelling stories” about “great Americans.” Even more surprisingly, the praise was juxtaposed with condemnation for Democrats.

 

 

CBS Evening News anchor Norah O’Donnell led off by noting that Trump “promised relentless optimism” and delivered “a speech unlike any other I have witnessed from [him] where the reality TV President took on the State of the Union, a master showman at his best.” 

Face the Nation moderator Margaret Brennan agreed, telling O’Donnell that Trump was “[v]ery much the showman.”

O’Donnell added that “[t]here were many moments....where Republicans leapt to their feet” while “Democrats sat stone faced” and Pelosi was left “pursing her lips, almost looking ill at some of the remarks made as the President touted his accomplishments and those of his administration, including a strong record on the economy.”

After a break, O’Donnell went even further, calling the President’s words “[i]ncredible remarks.” 

And near the end of their coverage, O’Donnell credited him for offering “specific proposals...that might be appealing to independent voters” alongside “emotionally compelling stories” about “great Americans.”

At various points in their discussion, 60 Minutes correspondent John Dickerson stated that, while it wasn’t bipartisan in the same way Ronald Reagan’s 1984 address was, “this was his Morning in America speech.” and that Trump was “quite restrained.”

 

 

Dickerson delivered also one all-encompassing statement after another, contrasting the President’s positive economic message with the gripes from Trump’s opposition (click “expand”):

But what's at the center is an incumbent president with a very good economy who gave a very restrained speech and used every tool of the job in there. If Democrats want to make an argument to the country, if all the country hears is bickering and unhappiness, it helps an incumbent President with a strong economy and, by the way, doesn't help anybody looking for solutions that Democrats might have. This is a challenge for Democrats to be able to respond to the arguments the President made with their own strengths. Tearing up papers is not one of their strengths. 

(....)

And that's the baiting he was setting up this the entire speech was to bait the Democrats into this kind of reaction...But instead of rebutting him on those things that they say privately, this is what Americans really care about, they basically fell into his — into the trap he was clearly laying by, as you said Norah, talking about issues that Americans care about — education, health care, bringing the troops home. Those are right down the middle. Democrats may disagree with how he’s doing it, but the topics he was focused on? Down the middle.

At another point, congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes seemed to indirectly call out Democrats for having behaved (at minimum) the same way that Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC) infamously did in 2009 (click “expand”):

So, she's making it very clear that she did it, that she meant to do it, that he was trying to send a message and really things got off to a bad start. Of course, State of the Unions are always political. You’re always going to say having cheering from one side or the other. It would be naive to say that they weren’t political. But in this case it felt a lot more like a campaign rally than a speech to the nation. You had Republicans right off the top chanting, “four more years.” Democrats got angry very early when the President seemed to suggest he had rescued the economy from the depths of the Obama years. They started shouting out their disagreement to that and several other notions that the President put forward. At one point he said that some people were trying to dismantle health care. They shouted, “You are.” 

At another point, he claimed that he was going to force prescription drug companies to lower costs. Democrats openly started laughing. This, as Republicans seemed to try to cheer loud enough to make up for the lack of cheering on the Democratic side. So, really, it turned into something of a circus...You know, really a striking turn of events when you think just a decade ago, one member of Congress shouting, “you lie,” at a speech by President Obama in that same chamber generated days of controversy and here you had it happen multiple times in one speech, culminating, of course, with the speaker ripping up that speech. 

And even White House correspondent Ben Tracy joined in, declaring that “instead of dwelling on impeachment,” Trump “was not at all chastened” but “emboldened” to focus on topics like the economy. 

So all in all, it was quite the night for Trump on CBS and a far cry from last week.

To see the relevant CBS transcript from February 4, click “expand.”

CBS State of the Union
February 4, 2020
10:25 p.m. Eastern

NORAH O’DONNELL: The President promised —

JOHN DICKERSON: Oh!

O’DONNELL: — relentless optimism in his remarks tonight and upstaged by, in the final moments by the Speaker of the House who just ripped up his speech. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: It appears she just tore up some papers, and that may be the speech that he handed her when he walked out, and they did not shake hands at the beginning. It was an exclamation point. 

O’DONNELL: The — the President was inaugurated with a speech about American carnage. Tonight, three years later, before the nation, he spoke about the great American comeback. This was a speech unlike any other I have witnessed from President Donald Trump where the reality TV President took on the State of the Union, a master showman at his best, including a reunion from an American soldier who had just returned, surprising his wife and two young children. Granting a scholarship for a young African-American girl who wanted to go to a different school. There were many moments like this where Republicans leapt to their feet shouting, “four more years,” “U.S.A.,” and Democrats sat stone faced. Many times, the Speaker of the House directly behind the President of the United States pursing her lips, almost looking ill at some of the remarks made as the President touted his accomplishments and those of his administration, including a strong record on the economy. [INTRODUCES PANEL]

DICKERSON: Well, you know, this was his — this was his Morning in America speech. That was a phrase that came from Ronald Reagan in 1984. He said, “It's morning in America.” When Reagan did it, when he gave his State of the Union in 1984, in his election year, his second paragraph was about the bipartisan achievements. He said America was in a fix, but it was no one's fault, no party, no generation. This speech, in other words he embraced the bipartisan kind of spirit usually in this speech. That spirit did not exist in this. Not only did the President not shake the Speaker's hands. She did not say the traditional words, “It is my high privilege and distinct honor to introduce the president.” We saw there that it was an absolutely split evening. The division in America was out there for all to see and now, as Margaret was saying earlier, this is — this is the campaign kickoff speech, but the President pulled out every stop, and even created some new stops to pull out. 

BRENNAN: Very much the showman with giveaways, in some ways, with some of those there to participate. The President's message came back to some of the greatest hits of his last campaign, including that emphasis at the end, the hard turn on immigration. 

(....)

10:31 p.m. Eastern

O’DONNELL: Welcome. Incredible remarks by the President of the United States talking about a great American comeback. It ended with people on their feet applauding, and the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, taking the President's speech and ripping it in half, as if to say it was something she did not approve of. Something I've never, ever seen during a State of the Union.

(....)

10:43 p.m. Eastern

O’DONNELL: And the Democratic response from the governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, speaking from a school where both of her daughters attend there and talking about the Democratic achievements leaving the, you could call it, the unofficial response, really, to Nancy Pelosi, who took the President's State of the Union and ripped it up on live television. 

DICKERSON: The President throughout his speech, which was, as you pointed out, quite restrained, and particularly restrained for this improvisational president, there were — there was bait in there for Democrats and some of them in the audience took it, and the speaker at the very last moment, took the bait, ripped it up — so the governor there was trying to do what a lot of Democrats are saying, run on what we're running on. Run on what we care about and what the people care about. You saw the President's numbers go up during impeachment. The idea for a lot of Democrats is Washington Democrats are too obsessed with the President. They need to get back to what the people care about. That’s what the governor was trying to do. We'll see if the ripping up of the speech becomes the moment the people remember when it comes to the Democratic response. 

(....)

10:46 p.m. Eastern

O’DONNELL: The — the President did not extend his hand to the speaker of the house in the beginning and throughout that speech, she seemed extremely agitated and angry with his remarks. 

NANCY CORDES: Norah, I think that you're starting to get a pretty good sense of why one of them, either the Speaker or the President, seems to walk out of the few meetings that they actually do have with one another. There are a lot of bad feelings at this point and as she was leaving the chamber, reporters caught up to her and asked her why she ripped up the speech. Here's what she had to say, Norah: “Because it was the courteous thing to do considering the alternative.” So, she's making it very clear that she did it, that she meant to do it, that he was trying to send a message and really things got off to a bad start. Of course, State of the Unions are always political. You’re always going to say having cheering from one side or the other. It would be naive to say that they weren’t political. But in this case it felt a lot more like a campaign rally than a speech to the nation. You had Republicans right off the top chanting, “four more years.” Democrats got angry very early when the president seemed to suggest he had rescued the economy from the depths of the Obama years. They started shouting out their disagreement to that and several other notions that the President put forward. At one point he said that some people were trying to dismantle health care. They shouted, “You are.” At another point, he claimed that he was going to force prescription drug companies to lower costs. Democrats openly started laughing. This, as Republicans seemed to try to cheer loud enough to make up for the lack of cheering on the Democratic side. So, really, it turned into something of a circus and at one point, one member of Congress, Tim Ryan of Ohio, actually tweeted that he was walking out of the State of the Union because he had had enough. He said, “It's like watching professional wrestling. It's all fake.” You know, really a striking turn of events when you think just a decade ago, one member of Congress shouting, “you lie,” at a speech by President Obama in that same chamber generated days of controversy and here you had it happen multiple times in one speech, culminating, of course, with the speaker ripping up that speech. 

[LACK OF COMPROMISE]

(....)

10:51 p.m. Eastern

DICKERSON: And we are now in, since 1913, what is probably the most partisan — when they started giving them in person again — the Presidents did — the most partisan state of the union. What's at the center is an incumbent president with a very good economy who gave a very restrained speech and used every tool of the job in there. If Democrats want to make an argument to the country, if all the country hears is bickering and unhappiness, it helps an incumbent President with a strong economy and, by the way, doesn't help anybody looking for solutions that Democrats might have. This is a challenge for Democrats to be able to respond to the arguments the President made with their own strengths. Tearing up papers is not one of their strengths. 

(....)

10:52 p.m. Eastern

BEN TRACY: The President seemed to take the tack, instead of dwelling on impeachment, walking into the very chamber where he was impeached 48 days ago and basically weaponizing it. I mean, he sat up there — he stood up there and he was not at all chastened. He was emboldened and I think he wanted to show everyone in that room that I'm going to be fine after this is done. You're going to have your vote tomorrow, but we all know how that’s going to go and I am ready to run. And Norah, picking up on something you said earlier about the economy and the stock market, that is a message we have heard the president use on the campaign trail consistently. It's one thing he always brings up. He says, “How are your 401(k)s doing? I bet you're happy.” The president has even said, “You may not like me. You may not like everything I say, but you sure like your 401(k)s, and you like it better than socialism.” And that is this contrast he is trying to draw.

(....)

10:53 p.m. Eastern

O’DONNELL: And the President in each of these remarks he made tonight, and specific proposals, he was highlighting something that might be appealing to independent voters, to Democratic voters, each of the characters who sat — and people who sat in the First Lady's box. They were emotionally compelling stories, great Americans, great Americans who serve our military, for years, who have done great things in terms of medicine and then — and that was deliberate on the part of the President and what we just have now, and the reason I set that up is we have now a tweet from the White House that says, “Speaker Pelosi just ripped up: One of our last surviving Tuskegee Airmen. The survival of a child born at 21 weeks. The mourning families of Rocky Jones and Kayla Mueller. A service member's reunion with his family. That's her legacy.” The conservatives will make the case that each time the Democrats didn't stand to applaud some of these people that they are opposed to that. That's how the pol — the game of politics is employed. 

DICKERSON: And that's the baiting he was setting up this the entire speech was to bait the Democrats into this kind of reaction instead of perhaps, the Democrats saying, if you want to have a full and frank discussion about health care, you're not trying to — you’re trying to protect pre-existing conditions. On education, they can —they can make a case. But instead of rebutting him on those things that they say privately, this is what Americans really care about, they basically fell into his — into the trap he was clearly laying by, as you said Norah, talking about issues that Americans care about — education, health care, bringing the troops home. Those are right down the middle. Democrats may disagree with how he’s doing it, but the topics he was focused on? Down the middle. 

O’DONNELL: This all started in the White House in October when Speaker Pelosi who’s repeatedly says she praise for the president every night took him on, took him on. She got up at a meeting — we have a picture from that night — and pointed at the president and said, “all roads lead to Putin.”

BRENNAN: Yes.

O’DONNELL: And then the White House released this photo. This has been the moment since they have not spoken and the impeachment of the President and this sets up the most powerful woman in Washington and one of the most powerful woman in the world, against the commander in chief and the most powerful man in the world. That's the clash we witnessed tonight. 

NB Daily Economy Stock Market Unemployment Wages & Prices State of the Union Health Care Ben Tracy Margaret Brennan Norah O'Donnell Nancy Cordes John Dickerson Donald Trump Nancy Pelosi
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