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Former Congressman Dr. Phil Gingrey provides public policy and government relations counsel to clients on a variety of issues. Here at Phil on the Hill, Phil draws upon his long career in public service to provide perspective and context on policy topics such as health care, the federal budget, annual appropriations, regulatory reform, and life sciences.

SOTU – Vision in Need of Detail

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Predictions abounded regarding President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address. Would he strike a hard tone or a conciliatory one? Would he lash out at opponents or would he try and turn a new page? In the end he did something that nobody expected — he made his speech about more than Donald Trump.

Whoever came up with President Trump‘s guest list deserves to ride in the front of Air Force One. It was a genius move to use a succession of accomplished and heroic guests to humanize the president and illustrate his message points and priorities.

The fact is, Trump’s manner can often be divisive, never mind the content of his speech. However, by leaning on those distinguished guests, the president was able to imbue his speech with the dignity and meaningfulness that we have come to expect from a State of the Union.

And for that, President Trump deserves significant credit.

I do wish, however, he had spent more time on health care.

Trump made a reference to controlling drug prices. He lauded past achievements dear to Republican hearts, like repealing the individual mandate.

He also only made tangential references to the opioid crisis, using the story of an Albuquerque police officer and the baby he and his wife adopted to show both the horror and the hope in the current situation. However, the fact remains that months into his declared opioid emergency, drug overdose remains the biggest killer of Americans under 50. He called for more law enforcement against opioid drug dealers. But we must also respond to this as the medical emergency it is. It is time for the administration to lay out a real plan for treatment, recovery and prevention.

Overall though, Trump’s first State of the Union was a success. He struck a presidential but still distinctive tone and used the occasion to inspire Americans by highlighting the best of us. Who knows how it will ultimately play out; but if Donald Trump can maintain the spirit of the message he delivered Tuesday night, his second year may even fare better than his first, and he might be able to bring some Democrats and Independents along with him.