Democrats left President Trump's first State of the Union speech frustrated and unable to take him seriously, they said after the speech Tuesday.
Enraged by what they viewed as an insinuation that all undocumented immigrants are criminals and a not so subtle criticism of black NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem at games, Democratic lawmakers described Trump’s speech as “divisive” and “appalling.”
Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, held back laughter when asked what he thought of the president’s remarks, attempting to find “something constructive” to say.
“It sounded like it was written by Stephen Miller and then softened — so not encouraging,” said Schatz, referring to one of Trump’s senior advisers, a known immigration hardliner.
Schatz said he found it “encouraging” that “the Republican side of chamber did not jump up and applaud and give him a standing ovation” when Trump laid out the four pillars of the White House immigration proposal that would provide a relief for so-called "Dreamers" in exchange for border security.
“They seemed to be very restrained so I think they’re trying to navigate through this somewhat carefully and responsibly,” he added.
Democrats largely remained silent throughout Trump’s speech, clapping little and quietly mouthing their own rebuttals. Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., was spotted mouthing “lies” when Trump falsely stated a single immigrant could bring in “unlimited numbers of distant relatives."
“It was one of the most frustrating speeches I’ve listened to in my life and I’ve been doing this stuff a long time,” Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo. told the Washington Examiner.
Cleaver railed against Trump for the “subliminal jab” he made at black NFL players for their protests of police brutality, saying the president was trying to rile up his base.
“When you start talking about people standing for the flag, in everybody’s mind you are talking about those black players who are protesting,” Cleaver said.
Cleaver was one of the many members of the Congressional Black Caucus who wore Kente cloths made of silk and cotton in honor of African nations that Trump called “shithole countries.”
“Look, my ancestors come from Cameroon,” Cleaver said. “This is not a political matter with me, this is my somebodiness, this is human pain when the president of your own country attacks your ancestors.”
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said Trump’s comments about undocumented immigrants inaccurately clumped them in with the transnational MS-13 gang, “scapegoating a population of people.”
“This is an administration that has decided it profits politically from sowing hate and division in our country, and it’s not only unfortunate, it is irresponsible,” Harris said.
Only one Democrat appeared happy with the vast majority of Trump’s speech. Sen. Joe Manchin, who is up for re-election in 2018 in West Virginia, where Trump won by 42 points. Manchin didn’t voice a single criticism.
“It hit all the points I was looking at: Opiate addiction? I’ve got serious problems in West Virginia. Coal research, clean coal technology? Good. Infrastructure? Good,” Manchin said. “All the things he touched on are something that would help my state.”
But a lot of lawmakers scoffed at the idea that the $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan Trump proposed is even possible with an administration that sends conflicting messages constantly.
“That’s not real and nobody should pretend,” Cleaver said.
“He may get up and tweet tomorrow and have a completely different agenda than he had tonight,” said Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio. “So it’s hard to take him seriously.”
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., took particular issue with Trump's line calling all Americans "dreamers," as an attempt by Trump to "appeal to his rabid, right-wing base."
“At the end of the day, Donny Dangerous is who he is, an extremely divisive individual," Jeffries said.