GOP, Dems hear different things from Trump

Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill heard two fundamentally different speeches from President Trump on Friday afternoon.

Democrats condemned the address as a dark vision of an America that doesn’t exist — an at-times combative diatribe that left the millions of voters who cast their ballot for Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton to start new podcast Centrist Democrats insist Sanders would need delegate majority to win President Trump is weak against Bernie Sanders in foreign affairs MORE standing on the sidelines.

“I was hoping for a little more uplifting vision,” a downcast Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSurveillance fight emerges as intelligence flashpoint Congress eyes killing controversial surveillance program This week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime MORE (D-Va.) said. Asked what she thought of the speech, Rep. Lois FrankelLois Jane FrankelBloomberg builds momentum on Capitol Hill with new endorsements Pelosi trashes Trump address: 'He shredded the truth, so I shredded his speech' Democratic congresswomen wear white to Trump's address in honor of suffrage movement MORE (D-Fla.) heaved a heavy sigh and said it didn’t line up with her views.  

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Republicans saw the speech as a clear signal that Trump intends to put the interests of the American people first — a return to a philosophy of American exceptionalism that many Republicans believe was lost under his predecessor.

“I thought it was a good strong message on what he wants to accomplish for the American people,” Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSchumer requesting .5 billion in emergency funding on coronavirus Republicans give Barr vote of confidence Trump creates new headaches for GOP with top intelligence pick MORE (R-S.D.) said. “Basically the message that he wants them at the center of their government. I think it touched all of the right themes.”

“I think it was appropriate that Trump was putting the interests of American citizens first in all of policies domestic and foreign,” Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonAsian caucus urges fellow lawmakers not to 'perpetuate racist stereotypes' amid coronavirus fears Overnight Defense: More closures possible at US bases in Europe as coronavirus spreads | Pompeo says Afghan 'reduction in violence is working' | Man accused of trying to blow up vehicle at Pentagon Top general: More closures at US bases in Europe possible as coronavirus spreads MORE (R-Ark.) said.

The speech had been closely watched as a barometer for whether Trump would pivot to a more unifying message that would help heal raw divisions in the wake of a painful and schismatic election.

But both Republicans and Democrats saw the speech as a continuation of Trump’s brawling, no-holds-barred campaign.

“Generally, I thought the theme was consistent with the campaign he ran,” said Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump on US coronavirus risks: 'We're very, very ready for this' Overnight Energy: Critics pile on Trump plan to roll back major environmental law | Pick for Interior No. 2 official confirmed | JPMorgan Chase to stop loans for fossil fuel drilling in the Arctic MacGregor confirmed as Interior deputy chief MORE (R-Fla.), Trump’s one-time opponent in the Republican presidential primary.

The address throughout broadly echoed Trump’s campaign rhetoric, most notably his July speech at the Republican National Convention when he accepted the nomination — a speech that at the time shocked many with its dark and violent imagery.

Trump on Friday described in vivid strokes a “different reality” lived by Americans outside of the Beltway: “Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system, flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.”

“This American carnage stops right here and stops right now,” he vowed.

Promising to transfer power from Washington, D.C., to “the American people,” Trump shifted in the second half of his speech to a message of patriotism and unity.

“At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other,” he said. “When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.”

But while Republicans said Trump effectively pivoted to a message of unity, the language fell flat for Democrats.

As Trump signed documents formally nominating his Cabinet choices immediately afterward, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) appeared tense, repeatedly checking her watch.

“Nothing about how he’s conducted himself since the election suggests he’s serious about bringing the two parties together, so that sounds like words that probably won’t be followed up by actions,” Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyOcasio-Cortez knocks Pence: 'Utterly irresponsible to put him in charge of US coronavirus response' Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response Schumer: Trump coronavirus response marked by 'towering and dangerous incompetence' MORE (D-Conn.) said.

“I thought there was a missed opportunity to speak to the millions of Americans who did not vote for him,” Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — California monitoring 8,400 people for coronavirus | Pence taps career official to coordinate response | Dems insist on guardrails for funding Schiff presses top intel official to declassify part of report on Khashoggi killing Top Trump advisers discuss GOP need to act on health care at retreat with senators MORE (D-Ore.) said. Breaking with past precedent, the speech at no point mentioned Clinton.

Across the Capitol, many House Democrats offered a similar verdict, accusing Trump of painting a bleak picture of America that sounded more like a campaign-style speech to his base than an attempt to unite a deeply divided nation.

“President Trump offered a dark, dystopian, and defiant inaugural speech that begins a new presidency without aspiration or reconciliation. It failed to unify or reach out to the entire nation, and insists on Trump's view of patriotism and triumphalism,” said Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward Connolly'Liberated' Pelosi bashes Trump — and woos Democratic base Trump's best week ever? Trump set to confront his impeachment foes MORE (D-Va.), who was among the more than 60 Democrats who boycotted Trump’s inauguration.

Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.) said Trump and Democrats will have to make more of an effort to bridge the gaping divide.

“The sign of a true leader, I think, is not to walk away from your convictions or your beliefs, but how do you make sure that you as best as possible try to heal divisions,” Huizenga said.

“I think he would be well served to do that and to reach out.”

Trump's inauguration sparked boycotts by more than 60 House Democrats and fierce protests in the capital streets. Many Democrats who did attend wore buttons on their lapels in support of the healthcare law Trump has pledged to repeal.

“That leadership goes both ways,” Huizenga said. “We all have a role in this.”

Jordain Carney, Scott Wong, Mike Lillis, Timothy Cama, Rebecca Kheel and Cristina Marcos contributed.