Tonight’s speech before Congress was meant to be the turning point for President Trump. He was there to show off a new tone and give his approval ratings a much-needed shot in the arm. However, the moment Melania Trump walked in, wearing all black, we all knew that tonight was not going to be a good night. She was clearly paying her respects to the death of the truth and was in mourning for the future of American democracy.
The speech began on the right note. He acknowledged black history month and the celebration of civil rights. He called out bomb threats to Jewish centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries. He condemned the tragic murder of an Indian man in Kansas by a man who shouted get out of our country as he pulled the trigger. He condemned hate and called for peace and unity. It was a moment we had all been waiting for.
Unfortunately, he completely stepped all over that message by announcing a new Justice Department agency called V.O.I.C.E. (Victims of Immigrant Crime Engagement) in which the president intends to keep track of and publicly list all crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. This agency will do nothing but sow division and hate for immigrants. It paints people of color as villains, the enemy and the root of all our problems. This will do nothing to calm our divisions and it drew a very loud gasp of shock from the audience. It literally left many in the room with their jaws on the floor. It was utter hypocrisy for the unifying message with which he began his speech.
Throughout the speech, Trump tried his best to pat himself on the back and paint a rosy picture of unprecedented accomplishments. He described his victory in the election as a rebellion, an earthquake, a movement all across this country, far and wide, forgetting that he lost the popular vote by almost 3 million votes. He went on to repeat debunked claims that he had saved American jobs and convinced many American companies to keep thousands of jobs here in America and increase spending and investment by billions. We already know that Ford, Chrysler, Sprint and many others had announced job expansion in the months and years preceding the election. He’s simply taking credit for Obama’s work.
His speech was also full of complete hypocrisy. He again called for a policy of America first. He claimed America’s new pipelines would be built with American steel and by American workers, which is ironic considering his own hotels are built and staffed by foreign workers and are often made with Chinese steel. He praised himself for his immigration ban, stating that the majority of terrorist acts were committed by people who came here from other countries, yet he forgot to mention that NONE of them came from the countries he banned. Instead, they came from countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt that he has business ties with, that he ignored in his ban. Clearly his business interests come before our security.
As for healthcare, Trump painted Obamacare as a complete failure. He talked of rising premiums and said that forcing Americans to buy insurance they didn’t want was never the right solution. Yet he forgets to mention WHY Obamacare is failing. It’s failing because Republicans refused to reimburse insurers as they promised, forcing many to drop out of exchanges. It’s a problem they could very easily fix. They did everything they could to make the bill fail for political reasons. It was never about the average American, it was always about their rich donors. They sold out the working class for the donor class and for political points. Now Trump and Republicans are suggesting tax credits and health savings accounts, which is simply code for tax breaks for the wealthy. The average worker who is struggling to put food on the table and keep the lights on does not have money to stash into health savings accounts. You know who would LOVE those tax-free havens?? Millionaires and Billionaires. He also called for competition across state lines as if that would magically save us. Hello, all that equates to is a race to the bottom. Basically, whichever company can give the least amount of coverage for the least amount of money wins. NO ONE is better off.
Other lies that Trump told included the lie that he inherited a mess. Trump inherited a growing and stable economy. Can it do better, yes, but is it a mess? Absolutely not. He quoted the number of people not in the labor force as evidence, but what everyone forgets is that baby boomers are retiring in droves. Every year MILLIONS are retiring, while record numbers of young people are going to college and not immediately entering the workforce. I repeat, we do not have record numbers of people in their prime working years out of the workforce.
Trump also championed school choice and claimed that it was a proven ladder out of poverty. Unfortunately, the statistics prove otherwise. As we’ve seen in Michigan, school choice is simply a plan to take money from public schools and transfer them to mostly white, wealthy private schools. It sounds nice, but it’s a dangerous and deceptive plan that again hurts the working class.
On the topic of immigration, Trump championed Canada and Australia’s Merit Based immigration systems, forgetting our own merit based system. We do not just take anyone and everyone. If you’re trying to legally enter this country, you must be sponsored by a company and prove your value to the country. And for those who say Trump’s going after those who enter illegally, remember that Obama deported more people than any other US President and he focused on criminals and people who had just crossed the border. He enforced our immigration laws and used our merit based system.
On foreign trade, Trump was light on specifics, but the one issue he brought up was Harley Davidson. He claimed that we don’t tax goods coming into our country but that other countries tax our exports. He even claimed that Harley Davidson couldn’t export their motorcycles because other countries add a 100% tax. What Trump isn’t telling you is that the tax they’re adding is a Value-Added Tax, and that they add it to everything. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Volvo, Mercedes, Ford or Harley, they all have a VAT tax added. It’s how they pay for everything. Their income taxes may be like ours, but their VAT tax pays for their government healthcare, free college, paid family leave, public transit and all the other benefits they enjoy. It sounds good and is easy to pass over an ill-informed audience, but it is NOT true.
While Trump’s speech was full of lies, hypocrisy and deceit, the most infuriating moment came when Trump used the widow of US Navy Special Operator Ryan, who died in his failed Yemeni raid, as a political prop. He spoke kind words and called her husband a hero, which he is, but failed to take responsibility for his death. It was Trump’s ill planned raid that caused his death. Ryan did not have to die, nor did the dozens of innocent Yemeni civilians. Their blood is all on Trump’s hands. He wanted to “play war” like a child and failed to realize what was at stake, innocent lives.
The fact that Trump would parade this grieving woman out for the world to see and try to wrap himself in her grief was stomach turning. He knows this raid is a major liability for him and he used this poor woman for his gain. The saddest part is that the media are stepping all over themselves to show this clip over and over and paint Trump as a changed man. They are doing NOTHING to call out the facts of how this man died. It’s shameful.
Will this speech change things for Trump? I’m sure he will get a bump in the polls. It was a new approach and tone. The press, after months of bad headlines and negative press, are desperate to give Trump some positive headlines. They will largely ignore all the lies and hypocrisy that filled the speech. They will gloss over his message of intolerance for immigrants and Muslims. They will gloss over his neglect of mentioning how he pays for any of his proposals. They will aid Trump in his obvious pat on the back speech. The real question though is this, when will the real Trump show his ugly head again?
Trump claimed that the time for trivial fights is over, and yes, that may be true. He is the President, and all fights about the election should end. However, fights over healthcare, public education, the environment, trade, immigration, military intervention and taxes are not trivial and we will fight him tooth and nail. He may have given a decent speech, for him, but it doesn’t change our resolve. We are democrats and we will always believe that fighting for what’s right is worth it.