}

Politics

The reality-show reveals in Trump’s speech

President Trump, master showman and reality TV expert, made it clear from the outset that Tuesday’s State of the Union address would be the 90-minute results episode version, with pacing he would control and surprises he would spring.

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In the House chamber where he had been impeached 48 days before, Trump apparently snubbed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as she offered him a handshake, then declared: “Three years ago, we launched the great American comeback. Tonight, I stand before you to share the incredible results.”

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What followed was a litany of accomplishments the president claimed, on the economy, record low unemployment, trade deals, immigration overhauls, oil and gas expansion, and foreign policy.

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These annual addresses always require political theater. And so there was Tony Rankin, a former military veteran and former drug addict, who found himself seated beside Ivanka Trump, White House adviser and presidential daughter. Trump called on Rankin to stand, as a person helped by an opportunity zone, where jobs and investment are intended to revitalize neglected areas.

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What kicked the political theater to a new SOTU level was Trump producing Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader of Venezuela.

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The United States and many other nations recognize Guaidó as the chaotic country’s president, but he has been unsuccessful in ousting Nicolás Maduro and was desperate to meet with Trump.

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Guaidó, who defied a travel ban to appear in Miami last weekend, got his moment of unequivocal American support, and Trump got to show the world exactly who made it happen.

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Trump had just begun to hand out prizes.

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The president then called on Congress to “give one million American children the same opportunity” that Philadelphia fourth-grader Janiyah Davis and her mother, Stephanie, had received.

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Trump never mentioned impeachment. But as he made his implicit case for reelection, and Republicans broke into a chant of “four more years,” Democrats’ dissent grew into a spontaneous protest. When he called for bipartisan legislation to lower drug prices, they jumped to their feet. Dressed in white for women’s suffrage, Democratic women shouted “H.R. 3” and thrust three fingers into the air. The House has passed such a bill; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to move it forward.

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And many were clearly flabbergasted when Trump interrupted the action to award controversial talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh a Presidential Medal of Freedom, right in the middle of the House gallery.

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Limbaugh appeared astonished at the outpouring of adulation from Republicans in the chamber, whose leadership he has often derided.

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What could possibly top an impromptu medal ceremony right on live TV? Bringing 1st Sgt. Townsend Williams back from Afghanistan on live TV.

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The president, who is expected to be acquitted of impeachment in the Senate on Wednesday, closed the evening’s show by declaring “our most thrilling stories are not yet told.”

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Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post

And Pelosi pulled out a showstopping move of her own: She slowly and deliberatively tore Trump’s speech in two.

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