Tuesday night will mark the President Donald Trump's first official State of the Union address, and predictably, it's generating a lot of conversation and speculation. For instance, after such a tumultuous year one for the president, you might find yourself wondering: what is Trump's State of the Union theme going to be? Will he have a unified message, or will it be one of his more tream of consciousness-style performances?
The answer, from the sounds of things, might be bipartisanship. According to ABC News, a White House source claims the speech ― which will be delivered to a joint session of Congress, and nationally televised ― will focus on being "unifying" and "forward-looking."
If true, that would be a marked departure from the bulk of Trump's past rhetoric. Throughout the first year of his presidency, he's shown a willingness to engage in inflammatory and aggressively divisive rhetoric on a number of issues, most recently on immigration. Recent polling suggests that Trump is seen as divisive by a majority of Americans, as well, which could help explain why he'd want to take a different tone on Tuesday night. Whether that plan ends up coming to fruition, however, won't be clear until it happens.
While it's impossible to get inside the heads of Trumpand his advisers, it's possible that the media's reaction to last year's presidential address to a joint session of Congress is informing what kind of speech he should give this time around. That's because Trump's address last year gained him some unexpectedly positive press and headlines. Especially one particular moment, in which the widow of a Navy SEAL who'd recently been slain in a raid in Yemen that Trump authorized received a long standing ovation.
Despite some very problematic context surrounding the moment, such as when Trump deflected responsibility for the fatal raid literally hours before the speech, the ovation and the rather positive reception it drew was a strong indication of just how thirsty the media can be for moments that seem normal, or respectable, or "presidential." Turning in that kind of a performance on Tuesday, with some restraint and calm and a unifying message, could end up netting him many more of those kinds of headlines.
Of course, the political climate right now is somewhat different than it was back then. Last year, Trump had only been president for a little more than a month, so the chorus of conservative voices urging people to "give him a chance" might have rung a little more true than they do now, more than one year into his term. There have also been myriad controversies and scandals that have rocked the administration, in addition to the harshly divisive rhetoric Trump has used time and time again.
The speech will also come in the middle of a roiling legislative and negotiating battle over immigration between the Democratics, the Republicans, and the White House. Leaked details of a potential White House-backed immigration deal earlier this week were, suffice to say, anything but unifying. The deal would have traded security and a long-term path to citizenship for the Dreamers in exchange for funding for a border wall, as well as major restrictions on legal immigration.
In short, it attempting to unify the country is Trump's goal, he may find himself facing a tall order on Tuesday. Although, if the media and everybody watching at home were to grade him on a curve, starting from how starkly divisive his administration has been as a baseline, he could still end up seeming magnanimous by comparison, and could therefore walk away with some positive headlines. If you're curious how it will all turn out, you won't have to wait much longer. The State of the Union is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, Jan. 30 and 9:00 p.m. ET.