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State of disunion: A House divided by snubs and spite

Vicky Kapur (From the Executive Editor's Desk)
Filed on February 6, 2020 | Last updated on February 6, 2020 at 06.54 am
US President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington.- AFP

Trump used the day to lambast the Democratic dysfunction in Iowa.

It was primetime television at its sublime best. The fireworks began even before US President Donald Trump took the stage for his third State of the Union address in the chamber of the United States House of Representatives. The speech was heard by a joint session of the Congress, but the House was anything but joint. Split wide open on partisan lines, the acrid atmosphere in the hallowed corridors of the Congress reeked of hatred and hostility between the Democrats and the Republicans, personified by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and President Trump. The timing of the address was both symbolic and dramatic, sandwiched as it was between the results of the Iowa Democratic caucuses (delayed due to a 'technical glitch') and the finale of the impeachment saga, whose results were a foregone conclusion.

Trump used the day to lambast the Democratic dysfunction in Iowa, tweeting out gibes at his opponents for the failure of a 'badly designed app' that led to a delay in the results announcement of the Iowa caucus. "The Democrat Caucus is an unmitigated disaster. Nothing works, just like they ran the Country. The only person that can claim a very big victory in Iowa last night is 'Trump'," he tweeted on Tuesday morning. But the best was kept for on-camera action. There was no subtlety in the snubs as Messrs Trump and Pelosi unabashedly traded insults in the august house. Trump put his expertise and experience in reality TV to full use during the very theatrical 78-minute address by including a few surprise spectacles.

The best made-for-TV moments bookended the State of the Union address. Before taking the rostrum, President Trump declined to shake an outstretched hand of Speaker Pelosi, who then went on to announce him to the House minus the grandiloquent introductions reserved for such occasions. Then, at the end of Trump's speech, Pelosi stood up and, with a look of unmasked disgust on her face, tore up her copy of the President's speech that he'd handed over to her, as part of the protocol. "It was the courteous thing to do considering the alternatives," she told reporters later. The night that is usually reserved for rituals and courtesies between the two arms of the government (legislative and executive) instead exposed the stark divisions and hostilities in a divided House.


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