THE PROGRESSIVE REVIEW - March 2, 2017
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*-- Trump addresses Congress: 'I am here tonight to deliver a message of unity' --*
WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump plowed through a long list of issues facing his presidency and raised in news media during his de facto State of the Union address Tuesday night.
First-year presidents don't give official State of the Union speeches because they have been in office for such a short time, but debut commanders in-chief do typically address a joint session of Congress at some point early in their administration. Trump spoke for a little more than an hour on Tuesday night.
"We are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms," Trump said after honoring the end of Black History Month. "I'm here tonight to deliver a message of unity and strength."
The president took on a number of issues in his speech in the House chamber, as House Speaker Paul Ryan and Vice President Mike Pence looked on behind him.
"What we are witnessing today is the renewal of the American spirit," Trump said.
The president has faced intense media and political scrutiny in the five weeks since his inauguration over a wide range of matters -- including Russia, immigration, national security, border security, environmental regulations and business.
On Jan. 27, Trump signed Executive Order 13769, an action to close off U.S. borders to all refugees worldwide and immigrants from seven largely-Muslim countries.
"We have defended the borders of other nations while leaving our own borders wide open," he said. "We want all Americans to succeed -- but that can't happen in an environment of lawless chaos. We must restore integrity and the rule of law at our borders."
The order has been blocked in federal court, though, while its legality is fully weighed. Trump's administration, though, has hinted that it might scrap the old order and produce a new draft that can better stand up to legal scrutiny.
"It is not compassionate, but reckless, to allow uncontrolled [U.S.] entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur. Those given the high honor of admission to the United States should support this country and love its people and its values," Trump said. "We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorists to form inside America."
The president also announced the creation of a new Department of Homeland Security office, called VOICE -- which stands for victims of immigration crime engagement -- which was met with several groans in the chamber. Trump said the new office will represent victims he said were forgotten by the government and "ignored" by the news media.
"I want you to know -- we will never stop fighting for justice. Your loved ones will never be forgotten; we will always honor their memory," he told a family impacted by immigrant crime in attendance.
Earlier Tuesday, Trump said for the first time that he is open to an immigration policy that provides a path to legal alien status, but not U.S. citizenship, as a measure to fight domestic terrorism.
"I directed the Department of Defense to develop a plan to demolish and destroy ISIS -- a network of lawless savages that have slaughtered Muslims and Christians, and men, women and children of all faiths and beliefs. We will work with our allies, including our friends and allies in the Muslim world, to extinguish this vile enemy from our planet," he said of terrorist factions, emphatically referring to them as "radical Islamic extremists."
Trump also touched on what he considers a business renaissance in the United States, noting his corporate accomplishments since taking office Jan. 20 with companies like Ford, Fiat Chrysler and Lockheed Martin, the latter allowing hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings on the production of the F-35 Lightning fighter jet.
"Job crushing" regulations implemented by former President Barack Obama, he said, have been eliminated in that pursuit.
"For too long, we've watched our middle class shrink as we've exported our jobs and wealth to foreign countries," Trump said.
As expected, the president also pledged to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Obama's signature healthcare package.
"Mandating every American to buy government-approved health insurance was never the right solution for America," he said. "The way to make health insurance available to everyone is to lower the cost of health insurance, and that is what we will do."
"We now know that all of those [ACA] promises were totally broken. ... I am calling on all Democrats and Republicans to work together to save us from this imploding 'Obamacare' disaster."
In his pledge to replace the ACA with a better system, Trump assured that people with pre-existing conditions will still be able to find coverage and that Americans can choose the plan that is right for them instead of having plans "forced" on them.
Two other key elements of the president's healthcare vision, he said, is lowering the cost of drugs and allowing citizens to buy insurance plans in other states.
"Our citizens deserve this and so much more, so why not join forces and finally get the job done and get it done right?" Trump asked. "Democrats and Republicans should get together to unite."
Other notable remarks:
- "This is not acceptable in our society," he said of rises in rates of crime and murder. "To create this future we must work with -- not against, not against -- the men and women of law enforcement."
- "Our partners must meet their financial obligations. And now, based on our very strong and frank discussions, they are beginning to do just that," he said after commending NATO as a valued U.S. partner. "The money is pouring in. Very nice."
- "My job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America."
- "If we slash the restraints across our government then we will be blessed with far more miracles just like Megan," he said of attendee Megan Crowley, a rare disease survivor of a muscle and nerve affliction called Pompe disease.
- "Education is the civil rights issue of our time. I am calling upon members of both parties to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children."
- "When we have all of this we will have made America greater than ever before. For America, this is our vision but we can only get there together. ... We are one people, with one destiny. We all bleed the same blood. We all salute the same flag. And we are all made by the same God.."
- "I am asking all citizens to embrace this renewal of the American spirit. I am asking all members of Congress to join me in dreaming big and bold and daring things for our country. And I am asking everyone watching tonight to seize this moment and believe in yourselves, believe in your future and believe once more in America."
- "In 2016, the Earth shifted beneath our feet. The rebellion started as a quiet protest, spoken by families of all colors and creeds -- families who just wanted a fair shot for their children, and a fair hearing for their concerns."
- "Above all else, we will keep our promises to the American people."
- "We have begun to drain the swamp of government corruption by imposing a five- year ban on lobbying by executive branch officials -- and a lifetime ban on becoming lobbyists for a foreign government."
- "Bad ones (undocumented immigrants) are going out as I speak. To any in Congress who do not believe we should enforce our laws, I would ask you this question: What would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income or a loved one because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?"
- "I have kept my promise to appoint a justice to the United States Supreme Court - from my list of 20 judges who will defend our Constitution."
Following the president's address, former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear delivered the Democratic response:
I was Governor of Kentucky from 2007 to 2015. Now, I'm a private citizen. I'm here in Lexington, Kentucky, some 400 miles from Washington at a diner with some neighbors, Democrats and Republicans, where we just watched the president's address. I am a proud Democrat, but first and foremost, I am a proud Republican, and Democrat and mostly, American. And like many of you, I am worried about the future of this nation.
Look, I grew up in Kentucky, in a small town called Dawson Springs. My dad and granddad were Baptist preachers. My family owned a funeral home and my wife Jane and I have been married for almost 50 years. I became governor at the start of the global recession and after eight years, we left things a lot better than we found them.
By being fiscally responsible, I even cut my own pay. We balanced our budget and turned deficits into surpluses without raising taxes. We cut our unemployment rate in half. We made huge gains in high school graduation rates and we found health coverage for over half a million Kentuckians.
We did that through trust and mutual respect. I listened. And I built partnerships with business leaders and with Republicans in our legislature. We put people first and politics second. The America I love allowed the small-town preacher's kid to be elected governor. And it taught me to embrace people who are different from me, not vilify them. The America I love has always been about looking forward, not backward. About working together to find solutions, regardless of party instead of allowing our differences to divide us and hold us back.
And we Democrats are committed to creating the opportunity for every American to succeed by growing our economy with good paying jobs, educating and training our people to fill those jobs, giving our businesses is the freedom to innovate, keeping our country safe and providing health care that families can afford and rely on.
Mr. President, as a candidate, you promised to be a champion for families struggling to make ends meet and I hope you live up to that promise, but one of your very first executive orders makes it harder for those families to even afford a mortgage.
Then you started rolling back rules that provide oversight to the financial industry and safeguard us against another economic meltdown and you picked a cabinet of billionaires and Wall Street insiders who want to eviscerate the protections that most Americans count on and that help level the playing field.
That's not being our champion, that's being Wall Street's champion. And even more troubling, you and your Republican allies in Congress seem determined to rip affordable health insurance away from millions of Americans who most need it.
Does the Affordable Care Act needs some repairs? Sure it does. But so far, every Republican idea to replace the Affordable Care Act would reduce the number of Americans covered, despite your promises to the contrary.
Mr. President, folks here in in Kentucky expect you to keep your word, because this isn't a game, it is life and death for people. These ideas promise access to care, but deny the importance of making care affordable and effective. They would charge families more for fewer benefits and put the insurance companies back in control.
Behind these ideas is the belief that folks at the lower end of the economic ladder just don't deserve health care. That it is somehow their fault that their employer doesn't offer insurance or that they can't afford to buy expensive health plans. But just who are these 22 million Americans, including 500,000 people right here in Kentucky, who now have health care that didn't have it before?
Look, they are not aliens from some distant planet. They are our friends and neighbors. We sit in the bleachers with them on Friday nights, we worship in the pews with them on Sunday morning. They are farmers, restaurant workers, part-time teachers, nurses aides, construction workers and entrepreneurs working at high-tech startups. And before the Affordable Care Act, they woke up every morning and went to work just hoping and praying they wouldn't get sick because they knew that they were just one bad diagnosis away from bankruptcy.
You know, in 2010, this country made a commitment, that every American deserved health care they could afford and rely on, and we Democrats are going to do everything in our power to keep President Trump and the Republican Congress from reneging on that commitment. But we are going to need your help by speaking out.
Another commitment now being tested is to our national security. Look, make no mistake, I am a military veteran myself and I know that protecting America is the president's highest duty. Yet President Trump is ignoring serious threats to our national security from Russia, who is not our friend, while alienating our allies who have fought with this side-by-side and are our friends in a dangerous world.
His approach makes us less safe and should worry every freedom-loving American. Instead, President Trump has all but declared war on refugees and immigrants. Look, the president can and should enforce our immigration laws, but we can protect America without abandoning our principles and our moral obligation to help those fleeing war and terror, without tearing families apart and without needlessly jeopardizing our military men and women fighting overseas.
You know, another Republican president, Ronald Reagan, once said "in America, our origins matter less than our destination" and that is what democracy is all about. President Trump also needs to understand that people may disagree with him from time to time, but that doesn't make them his enemies. When the president attacks the loyalty and credibility of our intelligence agencies, the court system, the military, the free press, individual Americans, simply because he doesn't like what they say, he's eroding our democracy and that's reckless. Real leaders don't spread derision and division. real leaders strengthen.
The unify, they partner and they offer real solutions instead of ultimatums and blame. Look, I may be old-fashioned, but I still believe that dignity, compassion and honesty and accountability are basic American values. And as a Democrat, I believe that if you work hard you deserve the opportunity to realize the American dream regardless of whether you are a coal miner in Kentucky, a teacher in Rhode island, and autoworker in Detroit, or a software engineer in San Antonio. Our political system is broken. It is broken because too many of our leaders think it is all about them. They need to remember that they work for us, and helping us is their work. Kentucky made real progress while I was governor because we were motivated by one thing, helping families. Democrats are trying to bring that same focus back to Washington, D.C.. Americans are a diverse people and we may disagree on a lot of things, but we have always come together when we remember that we are one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Thank you.
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