President Donald Trump used Tuesday’s State of the Union to double down on his unfounded claim that undocumented immigrants are invading the United States but the speech failed to mention Russian meddling in U.S. elections or climate change, which many agree are among the top threats facing America’s democracy and life on the planet.
That Trump did not mention climate change or gun violence during Tuesday’s address seemed like an egregious oversight to those who view the one as an existential threat and the other as an epidemic government should be doing more to prevent.
Earlier in the week, leaders of intelligence agencies uniformly told Congress that Russia is actively engaging in efforts to unsettle Western democracy by interfering in American elections and the same officials reported that the Islamic State (ISIS) remains a viable terrorism threat, but the President has disputed those $81 billion worth of assessments.
Trump’s call for conciliation failed to mention his penchant for inflaming divisions, inviting obvious skepticism from Democrats who bitterly oppose his agenda and remain angry about his 35-day government shutdown.
“Many of us campaigned on the same core promises: to defend American jobs and demand fair trade for American workers; to rebuild and revitalize our nation’s infrastructure; to reduce the price of health care and prescription drugs; to create an immigration system that is safe, lawful, modern and secure; and to pursue a foreign policy that puts America’s interests first,” said Trump.
Trump welcomed several guests attending the speech, including Alice Johnson, the woman whose prison term he commuted after she served 20 years of a life sentence handed down for running an organized crime ring that pedalled tons of cocaine with Columbian drug dealers.
Appeals to bipartisanship interspersed with rhetoric advocating divisive policies and threats intended at dissuading Democrats from investigating his actions did little to sell opponents on his programs or personality.
Trump noted that 2019 marks 50 years since Apollo 11 astronauts planted the American flag on the moon, and he said, “This year, American astronauts will go back to space on American rockets.”
“In the 20th century, America saved freedom, transformed science, and redefined the middle class standard of living for the entire world to see,” said Trump, whose tax cuts benefit the rich far more than the middle class and poor. “Now, we must step boldly and bravely into the next chapter of this great American adventure, and we must create a new standard of living for the 21st century.”
“Unity is only truly possible when there is a reliable partner in the White House, whose word means something and is actually indicative of intent,” said Rep. Albio Sires. “Time and again, the President has proven he is an unfit and unwilling partner in governance by regularly breaking promises and failing to act in the best interest of the nation.”
Blaming immigrants for everything from overcrowded U.S. hospitals to working-class job losses, Trump renewed his demand that taxpayers pick up a tab which he once promised Mexico would pay, but he angered residents in the city he called one of the nations most dangerous until a border wall was built in 2008.
“It is sad to hear President Trump state falsehoods about El Paso, Texas in an attempt to justify the building of a 2,000-mile wall,” said El Paso County Sheriff Richard D. Wiles. “El Paso was a safe city long before any wall was built. President Trump continues to give a false narrative about a great city that truly represents what this great Nation is all about.”
“Trump has no idea what the real state of our union is,” said Alexandra Rojas, executive director of JusticeDemocrats. “His speech was just a mix of his racist, divide-and-conquer stump speeches and taking credit for things he had no hand in.”
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard was the latest victim of foreign actions obviously intended to undermine the Hawaii congresswoman’s presidential candidacy, as she welcomed Syrian Kurdish leader, Ilham Ahmed of the Syrian Democratic Council, as her guest to the State of the Union.
Ahmed arrived here to discuss the planned withdrawal of U.S. troops from northern Syria, announced by Trump on December 19, because it would leave America’s Kurdish allies exposed to attack from Turkey, which views the group as a terrorist organization.
“Ilham Ahmed has been a leader in the battle against ISIS in Syria, where the Kurds have proven to be the most effective ground force, and a strong advocate for peace in Syria,” said Gabbard. “We must bring our troops home from Syria, quickly and responsibly. President Trump’s announced hasty withdrawal from Syria could leave the Kurds vulnerable to slaughter by Turkey’s President Erdogan who has repeatedly threatened to attack them, and invade Syrian territory long-held by Syrian Kurds.
“I know that this will probably not shock you, but not everything President Trump said tonight was true or accurate,” said Senator Bernie Sanders, whose 2016 presidential campaign pushed Democrats to the left.
“Over the last year, for example, real inflation accounted for wages for the average American worker is up by all of 1.2 percent – just $9.11 a week. In fact, real wages for that same worker are lower today than they were in 1973,” said Sanders. “In America today, we have more wealth and income inequality than almost any major country on earth and it is more unfair than at any other time since the gilded age of the 1920s.”
Sanders said the economy is great for the three richest people in America who own more wealth than the 160 million people, who comprise the bottom half of the United States’ population, and those sentiments were echoed by New Jersey’s leading progressive political champion.
“The average American worker is earning less today than one did 46 years ago,” said Lisa McCormick. “I heard nothing to give hope to the millions of American workers with 2 or 3 jobs, who are still sinking in the Trump economy.”
“The American people have had enough of Trump’s talk, while children — from Flint, Michigan to Newark, New Jersey — drink poisoned water, tens of thousands die every year because they lack health insurance, and our world is heading toward a climate cliff because big oil companies refuse to sacrifice profits they get from polluting,” said McCormick.
“We should be helping working middle class American families, not giving budget busting tax breaks to the rich, increasing the deficit by trillions of dollars or cutting programs that people need such as Medicare and Medicaid,” said McCormick.
In a silent protest against the Republican administration’s policies, Democratic congresswomen wore white during Trump’s State of the Union address.
Rep. Lois Frankel, the chair of the House Democratic Women’s Working Group, said the color denotes “the economic security of women and their families” and the blue majority of House Democrats.
“At State of the Union tonight, Donald Trump will look out at the House Chamber and see a sea of Suffragette white sending the message loud and clear,” said Frankel.
“Tonight, the most divisive President in history spoke of unity, of bipartisanship, of American greatness, but ultimately, I am more likely to trust President Trump’s Twitter feed than Trump’s teleprompter,” said Senator Bob Menendez. “One speech isn’t enough to restore the nation’s trust in a President who lies whenever it suits him, who regularly betrays his own promises, and who literally shut down the people’s government over a useless border wall he promised Mexico would pay for.”
“President Trump doubled down on the extreme rhetoric and policies that have defined his administration,” said Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. “While the president claimed to be seeking unity, he failed to present the necessary proposals to bring our country together.”
“For more than a month President Trump shut down our government for an extreme and unnecessary border wall,” said Pallone. “Tonight, it is clear the president has not learned his lesson.”
The speech was also riddled with inaccuracies:
Trump exaggerated the length of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the numbers of illegal border crossings and Americans who no longer require aid from the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program.
Trump displayed a misunderstanding of both the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which will replace NAFTA, and the impact of tariffs on the federal treasury, U.S. businesses, American consumers and foreign countries.
Trump selectively used statistics to exaggerate what he claimed to be the “single largest decline in 46 years” in drug costs while pharmaceutical prices are actually still rising.
The U.S. became the world’s top natural gas producer in 2013, under the
administration of President Barack Obama, but Trump took credit for having “unleashed a revolution in American energy.”
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