President Donald Trump Feb. 4 delivered his third State of the Union Address to Congress just a day before the closing of a dramatic impeachment trial that will likely fail to remove him from office.
The speech — and reactions to it — highlighted the continuing stark partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans both in Washington and here in Ohio.
While Republicans both locally and nationally applauded Trump's remarks, Democrats denounced the president in the strongest possible terms.
"I’ve had to sit back and scowl at Obama’s SOTU," Hamilton County Republican Party Chair Alex Triantafilou tweeted. "And now I get to smile brightly at @realDonaldTrump’s. I prefer the latter. Big time. #4moreyears"
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky had similar praise.
"For three years, Republicans in Congress have partnered with the President to keep America strong and safe and create record-setting prosperity for working families across the country," he said in a statement. "The results have been a truly all-American comeback. The state of our union is strong."
Democrats, however, said Trump mislead the American people with his remarks.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tore up a copy of Trump's speech after his remarks. Just prior to the speech, Trump seemed to refuse to shake Pelosi's hand.
"The manifesto of mistruths presented in page after page of the address tonight should be a call to action for everyone who expects truth from the President and policies worthy of his office and the American people," Pelosi wrote in a statement after the address.
At least 10 Democratic members of Congress, including Ohio's U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, walked out of the speech before it was over. Others didn't show up at all.
Earlier that night, Ryan tweeted another criticism of the president's remarks.
“The President spent the first half of his #SOTU speech talking about how great the economy is for American workers, but if that’s true, why are so many Ohioans working 2 or 3 jobs and struggling to make ends meet?" he wrote.
A study released in 2018 by public policy think tank Policy Matters Ohio showed that six of the state's 10 most common jobs don't pay living wages, and more recent studies on wages show they haven't risen much for low-income workers in Ohio. Nationally, wages have finally picked up some, but not as quickly as other economic indicators, and not as much among minority groups.
While the president also touted steps he has taken to remove undocumented immigrants and oppose abortion, Trump's remarks centered around the American economy, including its low unemployment rate, a well-performing stock market and a new trade agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
Trump also blasted the "failed economic policies of the previous administration," though the Great Recession was inherited by Democratic President Barack Obama and the nation's recovery from it actually picked up steam on Obama's watch.
Among Trump's guests at the SOTU: a U.S. Army veteran named Tony Rankins who experienced post-traumatic stress disorder, homelessness, addiction and incarceration before landing a construction job in Cincinnati last year with a company called R Investments. That company trained Rankins in carpentry and other trades and helped him get back on his feet, Trump said.
Trump used Rankins' story and his current job working on a project in an Opportunity Zone created by 2017 GOP tax reforms to claim that "we are building the world’s most prosperous and inclusive society, one where every citizen can join in America’s unparalleled success, and where every community can take part in America’s extraordinary rise."
But local Democrats pushed back on Trump taking credit for helping those facing the barriers Rankins faced.
"I appreciate @realDonaldTrump acknowledge the work we've done in Cincinnati to help those with criminal records and recovering from substance abuse have a chance at meaningful employment," Cincinnati City Council member Chris Seelbach tweeted. "I hope he knows it's Cincinnati Democrats who led that change."
Cincinnati City Council, which is made up of Democrats, has passed funding for addiction treatment services and measures to ease the burden of criminal convictions for job seekers, though Rankins, a former resident of Nashville, did not directly benefit from those programs himself.
Back in Congress, Democrats also took issue with statements Trump made about healthcare, leading to another moment showing deep partisan divides between the president and the opposing party.
At one point in his address, Trump promised that "we will always protect patients with pre-existing conditions."
The Trump administration continues to work to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, a sweeping piece of healthcare legislation put in place by Obama. Detractors say it is too complex and doesn't work. But among the provisions in the law Democrats have worked hardest to defend is its requirement that insurance companies cover those with pre-existing conditions.
Democrats in the U.S. House last year passed legislation that they say would continue to guarantee that protection — HR3. That bill would also address dramatically increasing prescription drug costs, another issue Trump vowed to address in his speech. But the Senate, where there is a Republican majority, has not taken up the legislation.
House Democrats interrupted Trump with chants of "HR3" during the president's remarks on healthcare.
One pressing issue that did not come up in Trump's speech — his impeachment trial in the Senate on charges that he withheld U.S. aid to Ukraine as he sought an investigation from that country into his political rival Joe Biden, which is expected to come to a close this week.
Unsurprisingly, Ohio elected officials are also divided on that.
It would take two-thirds of the Senate to vote to remove Trump from office — a threshold that doesn't seem likely, given that Republicans have a 51-member advantage in the 100 member body.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican, has acknowledged that Trump did what he is accused of and that it was "inappropriate and wrong." However, Portman has said he does not believe the president's actions rise to the level of impeachable offenses and that the impeachment process was unduly partisan. Thus, he says, he will vote to acquit.
"Back home, I have seen that the impeachment process has indeed further divided an already polarized country," Portman said yesterday on the floor of the Senate. "A conviction in the Senate — removing Donald Trump from office and taking his name off the ballot — would dangerously deepen that growing rift."
Ohio's other senator, Democrat Sherrod Brown, is of a starkly different opinion. He is voting to remove the president from office.
"Over the course of this trial we heard overwhelming evidence that President Trump did things Richard Nixon never did — he extorted a bribe from a foreign leader, to put his own presidential campaign above the American people he swore an oath to serve," Brown wrote in a statement today. "If we acquit this President, it sets a clear, dangerous precedent — that you can abuse your office, and Congress will look the other way.”