1 Mar 2017

Trump vows 'new chapter of American greatness'

4:13 pm on 1 March 2017

President Donald Trump has promised a "renewal of the American spirit", in his first speech to Congress.

Donald Trump speaks to Congress.

Donald Trump has delivered his first major speech to Congress since becoming US president on 20 January. Photo: AFP

In his first major speech as US president, he said a "new surge of optimism is placing impossible dreams firmly within our grasp", opening a "new chapter of American greatness".

Mr Trump condemned recent vandalism of Jewish cemeteries and a suspected hate crime in Kansas that left an Indian man dead.

His primetime address seeks to boost his low approval ratings, after a bumpy start to his presidency.

Mr Trump said recent alleged hate crimes "remind us that while we may be a nation divided in policy we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its very ugly forms".

In the speech, he also touted his decisions to withdraw the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and order work to start on a wall along the US-Mexico border.

"By finally enforcing our immigration laws, we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions of dollars and make our communities safer for everyone," he told lawmakers.

"We want all Americans to succeed, but that can't happen in an environment of lawless chaos."

Mr Trump railed against "radical Islamic terrorism".

He drew some of the largest applause when he pledged "a plan to demolish and destroy" the so-called Islamic State, vowing to "extinguish this vile enemy from our planet".

The president's political honeymoon has been soured by acrimonious spats with the media and the intelligence community, a high-profile court defeat to his controversial travel ban and the firing of a top aide.

National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was forced to quit after it emerged he had discussed US sanctions with a Russian diplomat and misled the White House about the conversations.

Some 44 percent of Americans think Mr Trump is doing a good job, according to the RealClearPolitics poll average, a historic low for modern presidents after a month in office.

But in a Fox News interview broadcast earlier on Tuesday, Mr Trump gave himself an overall "A plus" for effort, but added that "in terms of messaging, I would give myself a C or a C plus".

Among US First Lady Melania Trump's guests on Tuesday night were three California residents whose relatives were killed by people who were in the US illegally.

At least a dozen Democrats have brought as their guests young undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children.

Meanwhile, US television personality Rosie O'Donnell - who has long feuded with Mr Trump - hosted a rally against him outside the White House.

Former Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear is due to deliver the Democratic rebuttal to the president's address.

He is expected to say Republicans plan to "rip affordable health insurance" away from those who most need it.

- BBC

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