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State of the Union: 2 Republican experts weigh in

The U.S. Capitol Building where President Donald Trump will deliver his first State of the Union address Tuesday night. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)

President Donald Trump is set to give his first State of the Union address Tuesday evening. After a year of highs and lows with the president’s rhetoric, many are watching to see what Trump will ultimately say.

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Two Republicans who worked in the Ronald Reagan administration tell Michael Medved there are some points that Trump should make and tips he could take from Reagan.

National security

Richard Allen was a foreign policy coordinator under President Richard Nixon, and a policy advisor for Reagan between 1981-82. He says that Trump needs to state his national security policies as straightforward as possible.

“He should restate his national security strategy in very understandable terms, and in terms that indicate that he has, by now, developed a long-term national security strategy to defend the interests of the United States and our principled allies,” Allen told Medved. “He needs to do that in the simplest, most straightforward language possible. No ellipsis, no cutting corners. Say it all. Say it straight out.”

“One of the things that this administration has lacked is a long-term strategy,” he said. “Now we see the elements of a long-term strategy coming together.”

Allen said spelling out the main adversary would benefit Trump.

“Although we are deeply engaged in trying to eliminate ISIS and anything that looks like ISIS in Asia and wherever it may rear its dirty head, even in Africa … that all needs to be stated … and he needs to ask for the money and the full support of Congress to achieve those objectives.”

Reagan’s secret

Peter Robinson, a speechwriter for Ronald Reagan, was asked to help out on the Trump campaign before the 2016 election. He briefly contributed despite Trump being his 17th choice for the Republican candidate (out of 17 candidates). He opted out of the campaign when asked to sign an extremely restrictive non-disclosure agreement.

But Robinson knows what makes a president’s speech moving and able to reach people. He saw it with Reagan.

“Ronald Reagan was the secret,” Robinson said. “The State of the Union address in any administration, including the Reagan administration, the great tendency is for it to represent nothing more than a quilt. Just a bunch of policy proposals stitched together in any kind of pattern, and there was some of that in the Reagan administration.”

The difficulty comes when trying to develop a theme for that “quilt.” Reagan did it by opening and closing his speeches thematically, in a moving way. And importantly, none of it sounded cheesy.

“Every president has done it since, but it was Ronald Reagan who began what is now the tradition of identifying one or two people in the gallery, up above listening,” Robinson said. “Calling out American heroes, having them stand up, having them tell their story. With Reagan, you get this community, and this man, by his very person, represents a community of shared American values who also understands the importance of an overarching theme and who can tell a story of individual American heroes without sounding corny, without sounding canned.”

The State of the Union address is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. PST (9 p.m. ET).

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