WASHINGTON — Mayor Lori Lightfoot was in the House gallery for President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech, with his reality show flourishes on Tuesday not masking his “divisive, offensive” rhetoric, she told the Chicago Sun-Times.
After the speech — which featured the surprise return of a soldier on deployment and a Medal of Freedom given to ailing radio host Rush Limbaugh — Lightfoot said the address amounted to a “campaign speech” that was a “race to the bottom.”
Lightfoot said she was prepared to walk out as Trump scorched “radical politicians” who provide sanctuary for “criminal illegal aliens” if he mentioned Chicago; instead he slammed New York and California.
While Trump was met with a rousing welcome from Republicans, Speaker Nancy Pelosi tore up his speech when he was done.
The speech, Lightfoot said, “makes me more resolved to do everything I can to change the results in November.”
Lightfoot earlier in the day worked the precincts of the U.S. Capitol, where I caught up with her.
I was a little puzzled why she wanted to sit in the House of Representatives gallery and listen to Trump since all she wants is to get him out of the White House. Last I saw her, on Jan. 24, the former federal prosecutor visited the Senate gallery to observe some of Trump’s impeachment trial.
Trump delivered his address before a joint session of Congress a day before the Senate will vote to acquit him.
Lightfoot, invited to the State of the Union by Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill. — the two are close — wanted to attend. Lightfoot sees part of her job, she told me, as being an “ambassador” for the city. After following around her for awhile, it seems to me she relishes that role.
“Being here as a representative of the great city of Chicago gives me an opportunity to continue to be an ambassador for our city, to connect with federal representatives at every level,” Lightfoot told me.
Lightfoot is a serious serial networker.
I met her as she finished a Congressional Black Caucus event, where she met members of Congress, representatives of trade and social service organizations and the Urban League chief. Voting rights and the upcoming 2020 Census were among the items on the agenda.
We headed to the vast Emancipation Hall in the Capitol’s visitor center, where a “media row” for television outlets was set up for interviews with members and their State of the Union guests. She did two hits for Chicago outlets, thankfully, from my perspective, not making any news for the competition.
Media Row was a most excellent perch Tuesday.
When Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla., was spotted, Lightfoot went right up and introduced herself to the woman who was ex-President Bill Clinton’s Health and Human Services Secretary. “I’ve been a fan for a long time,” Lightfoot said.
They had a brief chat about affordable housing.
She met Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Ct., on the row and they chatted on how to address gun violence.
Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., walked by. He asked Lightfoot, “How’s your school system doing?
Lightfoot and Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., saw each other — they’ve met before — and the two publicly gay political figures — briefly caught up.
At the 2019 State of the Union, the female House Democrats decided to make a statement by all wearing “Suffragette white.” Now it’s a tradition.
Kelly was already in her white outfit. I asked Lightfoot — in a blue suit — if she brought along a white suit and she said yes.
Lightfoot said, “I bought ... I have a white suit, but it wasn’t appropriate for this event.”
I asked more about the mayor’s clothes, and it is not because Lightfoot is a woman. It is because she is a powerful figure in the public eye who Chicago is getting to know. Asking people where they buy their clothes tells you about them.
I asked her where she buys her suits since that’s what she wears almost all the time.
Lightfoot said, “Well, because of my stature,” referring to her height, “I don’t typically buy them off the rack. I have a tailor that I buy a lot of my clothing from.”
She said she gets her suits from Richard Bennett, the custom tailor at 175 N. Franklin St.
Lightfoot bought the white suit she wore to the State of the Union online from Macys.com.
It’s not that easy to find white suits in the winter.
• Lightfoot said she is weighing endorsing House hopeful Marie Newman, seeking to unseat Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill. Lightfoot already signaled her support for Newman, but that’s not the same as an official endorsement.
• Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., boycotted Trump’s speech. He said in a statement, “It would be painfully hypocritical of me to endure 90 minutes of unrelenting lies and all types of distortions and untruths, while at the same time watching his Republican apologists cheer. I cannot honor this man in any way.”