President Trump’s first address to the joint session of Congress was a lot of things: surprising in his call for a federal paid family leave bill; disgusting for his announcement of a new Victims Of Immigrant Crime Engagement (V.O.I.C.E.); and shameless in his use of slain Navy Seal Ryan Owens’ widow to deflect heat from himself for the raid that killed Owens and some twenty civilians including children.
Ryan Owens’ widow Carryn Owens was in the chamber and pointed out by Trump. She received the biggest ovation of the night.
But one has to wonder if Mrs. Owens would be in the chamber if word never got out about what might have been a botched raid in Yemen. Just as Trump was silent about NSA Mike Flynn’s contact with the Russians and his lying to the vice president until the media (real) reported it, chances are Mrs. Owens would have been at home grieving. It’s not her fault. She deserves our prayers and gratitude. Trump is just the P.T. Barnum of our time.
Trump has been under pressure to explain his sign-off on the deadly raid. He has alternately said it was a plan approved by the Obama administration (no, it wasn’t) and it was something “my generals” really wanted to do. Not once has he taken responsibility as the commander-in-chief. And of course there is the little issue of Ryan Owens’ dad demanding an investigation and refusing to meet with Trump when his son’s body came back to the US.
Otherwise, Trump’s address was largely made up of repackaged campaign promises including the one to “repeal and replace Obamacare” just when it is crystal clear that seven and a half years wasn’t long enough for Republicans to come up with a replacement plan and are hearing from folks back home who don’t want to lose their coverage.
Talk also continued about a “great wall” just as Republicans are starting to balk at its enormous price and the fact that Mexico won’t pay for it (is there anyone, anywhere who believed they would?).
On a progressive note that clearly stunned fellow Republicans, Trump proposed federal legislation guaranteeing paid family leave, long a favorite of Democrats and the bane of Republicans. In a nice switch-a-roo, Dems stood and applauded while the Republicans did not.
But Trump trained his hateful guns once again on immigrants. He announced the establishment of an Office of Immigrant Crime Engagement. Yes, the acronym is VOICE. Unbelievable. He won the election and he is still scapegoating immigrants for the nation’s problems. It’s not quite clear why it’s not an Office of Illegal Immigrant Crime Engagement. Maybe that just would have screwed up Stephen Miller’s clever acronym (I am making an assumption he came up with the idea for VOICE).
In any event, it’s stomach turning. All crime and all violence should be prosecuted and all people should be protected. Setting up a separate, federal office to deal solely with alleged crime by immigrants is again, deplorable. It smacks of history’s most evil efforts to single out a vulnerable part of the population and lay blame on it for the country’s woes.
Here are some other odds and ends:
- Trump insisted on applauding into the mic when he clapped to recognize guests in the gallery. Some should tell him it makes an awful, awkward sound.
- One of the downfalls of having a House and Senate controlled by Republicans is that there is applause after every third word. Trump got a standing-o for denouncing “hate in all its ugly forms”—a very low bar indeed.
- Trump was so wound up to start his speech, he said, “Thank you very much” before Speaker Paul Ryan even introduced him. Next time, get a stage manager.
- Many Democrats they were moving and giving up their seats along the aisle where the president traditionally shakes hands. A real profile in courage in protest, eh?
Focus groups will no doubt show Trump did better than people expected. Keeping those expectations low is always a way to show improvement.
There’s no doubt Trump struck an optimistic tone bur as they say, the proof is in the pudding. For instance, Trump said his goal was to have clean air and water. That came just hours after he signed an executive order that would allow coal companies to dump material into streams.
Let’s see what happens.