Trump tries to turn from divisive to deal-maker

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U.S. President Donald Trump showed a different side in his first address to Congress. This Trump was part deal-maker, part salesman, asking for unity and trying to repackage his populist message in more palatable terms.

He was less combative, less thin-skinned and more inclusive.

And where five weeks ago at his inauguration, he slammed Washington's politicians as out-of-touch elitists who prospered at the expense of the public, his message on Tuesday night was different: I need you, Republicans and Democrats alike.

Always a showman, the TV reality star-turned-politician laid out plenty of promises: A massive infrastructure and public works program; tax cuts for the middle class; immigration reform; a healthcare overhaul; an education bill.

All of it will require congressional action, likely by different coalitions of conservatives, moderates and Democrats.

“This is our vision. This is our mission,” Trump said. “But we can only get there together.”

Trump, a Republican who has taunted Democrats over his 2016 election victory and publicly fumed as they held up his Cabinet nominees, did not criticize them this time. Repeatedly, he asked for their help, arguing the country’s problems demanded bipartisan solutions.

After weeks of attacks on the media, political rivals and the judges who ruled against his executive order to ban travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, Trump finally eased off, although his proposals were short on specifics.

“It was a softer tone and he gave a speech and not a tweet and that's more suitable when you're president of the United States," said Democratic Representative Peter Welch. "The challenges are going to be the details on his policies.”

“He was presidential tonight in a way he has not been before this," said Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak.

The address appeared to show some recognition by the White House that Trump’s bombastic go-it-alone style has its limits. After a parade of executive orders, Trump now must turn his attention to the big-ticket items on his agenda requiring legislative action.

“He’s done all he can unilaterally,” said Bradley Blakeman, a former aide to President George W. Bush. “Now he needs to pass bills.”

Blakeman said Trump needs Democrats to build a majority that would allow conservative Republicans to oppose some of his more centrist proposals, such as hefty infrastructure spending and talks on immigration reform.

“The president is as transactional a person as we’ve ever seen,” Blakeman said. “He understands that you might not like this deal, but I need you for three other deals.”

2017.03.01 / 10:36
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