The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Once More Unto the Speech

Tonight’s State of the Union will serve more as a kind of checkup on the president himself.

Jacquelyn Martin / AP

What We’re Following Today

It’s Tuesday, February 5. President Donald Trump will deliver his second State of the Union address tonight at 9 p.m. ET.

What to Expect: Americans don’t need anyone to explain how the country is doing, argues David A. Graham. Instead, tonight’s speech will serve more as a kind of checkup on the president himself, an assessment of his own position after he’s had his first taste of divided government, in the aftermath of the 35-day government shutdown and with another one potentially on the horizon.

During the address, Trump will almost certainly tout the country’s recent economic gains, including the growing manufacturing-jobs numbers. But the president’s record in this area is complex: While manufacturing jobs have increased by 473,000 since his inauguration, they’re still 1.4 million below their pre-recession high, in 2006.

Looking Back: In his 2018 State of the Union address, Trump offered a four-part plan for immigration reform that included securing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children and building a wall along the southern border.

Other People to Watch:
Senator Kamala Harris of California will be giving pre-SOTU remarks on Facebook Live,
the Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams will deliver the party’s official response
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra will give the Spanish-language response,
and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont will offer his own response to the address for the third year in a row.

The Yuck Factor: A new strand of experimental psychology suggests that our propensity to feel physical disgust might be correlated with our political ideology. “In short, this research may help illuminate one factor—among many—that underlies why those on the left and the right can so vehemently disagree.”

Judge Rao: Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned Neomi Rao, Trump’s choice to replace Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh on the U.S. Court of Appeals, about her past writings, including some about victims of date rape.

Seeking Counsel: The California woman who has accused Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax of sexual assault has obtained the services of the same law firm that represented Christine Blasey Ford in her allegations against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Fairfax, who has denied the allegations, would replace Governor Ralph Northam if Northam resigns over a scandal involving a photo from his medical-school yearbook.


Lights are set up for television crews in Statuary Hall in the Capitol on Tuesday ahead of President Trump's delivery of the State of the Union. (Jacquelyn Martin / AP)

Ideas From The Atlantic

Trump’s Hollow Call for Unity (John Dickerson)
“Unity can’t simply be asserted, and it can’t be a veiled demand that the other guy cry uncle. It has to be shown through its component parts: reconciliation, empathy, not immediately questioning your opponent’s motives, and restraining your own impulses.” → Read on.

Martha McSally Should Not Be in the Senate (Garrett Epps)
“The Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act … failed in 2017 by one vote—John McCain’s. Now the very seat that McCain vacated has been handed unilaterally to a lawmaker who owes the seat not to the voters who rejected her but to a Republican governor and his party.” → Read on.

Policy Makers Need a New Path to Education Reform (Rahm Emanuel)
“For most of my career, I preached the old gospel of education reform. But now research and experience suggest that policy makers need to embrace a new path forward and leave the old gospel behind.” → Read on.

What Else We’re Reading

Top Nancy Pelosi Aide Privately Tells Insurance Executives Not to Worry About Democrats Pushing ‘Medicare for All’ (Ryan Grim, The Intercept)

Trump’s Early Trips to Mar-a-Lago Cost Nearly $14 Million (Benjamin Siegel, ABC News)

Former White House Staffer Cliff Sims on Trump’s Emotional Life and the Fine Points of Leaking (Olivia Nuzzi, New York)

Murkowski Bucks GOP as Trump Seizes Party (Burgess Everett, Politico)

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