The SOTU of the POTUS
FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras (The Freeman) - February 12, 2019 - 12:00am

The State of the Union of the President of the United States (The SOTU of the POTUS) is the annual address of the US President to the joint session of the Senate and the Congress usually in January or February which is aired live all over the USA and now all over the world. This was not originally in their Constitution and could be made in a written report, but over the years it has become a tradition with the pomp and circumstances, reflective of the political and economic power of the USA.

The recent SOTU by President Trump was almost postponed as there was a partial shutdown of the US government due to the conflict between the now Democrat-controlled Lower House and the Republican president and Senate, over immigration and the funding of the border wall between Mexico and the USA. When House Speaker Pelosi threatened to not invite Trump to make the SOTU, which is a procedural requirement, Trump caved in and lifted the partial shutdown for three weeks. He was conscious of the historical significance and the enormous publicity importance nationally and internationally of the annual SOTU.

Our Philippine government, having copied a lot of the constitution and traditions of the US, has a similar State of the Nation Address, (SONA) which is also as pompous, and a fashion show for the women legislators and the wives of the senators and congressmen. In the corporate world, there is a similar “Report or Message from the Chairman or President” of the corporation which are mostly in written form in their annual reports. But with the advent and advances of information and communication technologies, some corporations have digital copies of these reports in video and audio for their shareholders. The reports and product announcements of Steve Jobs of Apple were also watched by millions in the US and around the world.

I watched most of Trump’s SOTU address, and it was a well-written speech that appealed to emotions and traditions especially to his core constituency, the far-right Republicans. It was initially conciliatory but combative in the later portion, as he was insistent on the border wall and immigration. He was also critical of the investigations into his Russian connection, his tax returns, and other business dealings, which he believes are divisive and unnecessary. There were less than 10 policy initiatives and barely touched on the trade war with China and the revival of the nuclear race with Russia. Trump’s SOTU did not mend the current ideological, economic, and racial divide in the US nor did it make him new friends. The contrasting tone of the speech and his personal power projection robbed the speech of its sincerity and inspiration.

Post-SOTU reactions and events still show political partisanship. The current drag on the US economy is tolerable as it is still booming, but international relations will be problematic with souring relations with Europe, the war in Syria and Afghanistan, the North Korean problem, the trade war and south China Sea issues with China, the Venezuela humanitarian crisis, and the revival of the cold war with Russia. Trump’s step back on globalization and diminished world trade will not be healthy to the world economy in the long run.

For the Philippines which did not merit a mention in Trump’s SOTU, the lower international trade will mean slower exports which will affect our economic growth. Tighter immigration rules will also slow down dollar remittances from the US. The inward foreign policy, “USA First,” of Trump does not also bode well for the Philippine-USA Mutual Defense Treaty which is up for negotiation and clarification.

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