WASHINGTON – Only days after the attacks of September 11, 2001, then-president George W. Bush addressed a joint session of Congress for the first time and uttered one of the most famous lines of his presidency: You’re either with us or against us.
It was a message to governments around the world harboring terrorists and their assets ahead of Bush’s defining crusade against violent religious extremists, and his pending invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Seventeen years later, President Donald Trump plans to use his own first State of the Union address to draw “clarity between our friends and adversaries,” a White House official said, previewing the speech.
Once again, an American president will seek to draw a distinction between foreign nations aligned with his administration and those that are not.
Trump does so facing many of the same policy challenges that faced Bush from organized terror, Iran and North Korea.
Trump delivers his speech on Tuesday night after showing members of the UN Security Council around a military base in Washington filled with Iranian missile parts, collected from their landing site in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh.
He is expected to address the threat Iran poses to the region and warn Congress that he very well might withdraw from an international agreement governing Tehran’s nuclear work unless Europe takes seriously US concerns.
The president is also likely to tout his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv, as one of the most significant achievements of his first year in office. The move was celebrated in Israel but has led the Palestinian Authority to dismiss the administration as an arbiter in negotiations toward peace.
While administration officials say the president has realigned the US with its traditional allies in the Middle East – Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia – and against its longstanding adversaries, his stance toward Europe remains a point of confusion. European powers warned on Monday that they stood ready for a hostile trade policy roll out from Trump in the coming weeks.
They are preparing to further dig in against threats to the Iran nuclear accord and continue to worry about Trump’s proclivity for strongmen and Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin.
Trump’s address is scheduled for 9:00 p.m. local time and will focus primarily on domestic affairs – including economic and investment policy – over foreign policy.