February, 2017

Reaction to President Trump’s Address to Congress

President Trump took a different approach with tonight’s speech than he did at his inaugural. But it was still a speech that stressed the “lawless chaos” that has crippled our country and can only be cured with his own hard-line policies.

Once again, Trump painted a picture of a country where factories are closing, undocumented immigrants are pouring across the border while taking away jobs of hardworking Americans and citizens are no longer safe due to rising crime rates and terrorism.

In his prepared remarks, Trump mentioned jobs 14 times, immigration 9 times and safety 8 times.

The overall theme was big solutions to big problems. The problem is that most of the problems Trump described aren’t real. By any measure, the economy has been growing for years, net illegal immigration is low, violent crime is down significantly and terrorism kills almost no one.

That said — and the bar is set quite low for this observation — Trump was relatively calm and “presidential.” The speech was well written and delivered reasonably well too.

For the first time since he was elected, Trump actually reached out to some citizens who are still afraid of him. From his denouncement of hate crimes at the beginning to his promise of a smooth transition for those currently enrolled in healthcare exchanges, Trump took a much softer approach than he has since taking office.

Trump also took the “heroes in the balcony” to a new level with the widow of slain Navy SEAL Ryan Owens. Even though Trump insists on re-litgating the facts behind the failed Yemen raid which caused Ryan’s death, it was a very powerful moment to see his widow with tears streaming down her face and clearly appreciative that her husband’s service was recognized by the commander in chief and the nation.

That moment sums up Trump’s speech. He uses “alternative facts” to create a reality he wants to exist. It creates a very jarring experience for anyone watching.

Trump Goes Off the Record After Complaining About It

“Donald Trump on Friday railed against the media’s use of anonymous sources in stories. Four days later, he was one,” BuzzFeed reports.

“In a private meeting with national news anchors ahead of his address to Congress Tuesday night, Trump went on background with reporters as a ‘senior administration official’ to discuss issues like immigration, telling attendees that it was time for a legislative compromise from both parties.”

Trump Dines Out

Benny Johnson: “The president was heading to his new flagship property in D.C., the Trump Hotel, for a private dinner at the BLT Steakhouse inside. Once the president arrived at the location, the reporter who was on assignment to cover him, Jordan Fabian of The Hill, was not let into the building and had to wait in the van outside for the remainder of the dinner, without a guest list or details of what was happening inside.”

“Inside the restaurant, I was seated at a table which I had booked hours earlier, directly next to where Trump would be dining. I made the booking based on a tip from a trusted source. I was ready to tell the story no one else would get to see and was personally fascinated to observe how a restaurant prepares for a president — and how Trump interacts when he believes no press are present.”

“The night was a wild one. Here is what happens when President Trump goes to dinner.”

Trump Suddenly Open to Path to Citizenship

“President Trump, signaling a potential major shift in policy, told news anchors on Tuesday that he is open to a broad immigration overhaul that would grant legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants who have not committed serious crimes,” the New York Times reports.

Said Trump: “The time is right for an immigration bill as long as there is compromise on both sides.”

“The idea is a sharp break from the broad crackdown on undocumented immigrants that Mr. Trump has taken in his first weeks in office and the hardline positions embraced by his core supporters that helped sweep him into the White House. The president hinted at the reversal just hours before he was to deliver his first address to Congress, although it was not clear whether he would mention it in his speech.”

Trump Passes Blame for Yemen Raid

“Weeks after a U.S. naval officer was killed in a covert mission in Yemen, Trump has resisted accepting responsibility for authorizing the mission and the subsequent death of Senior Chief Petty Officer William ‘Ryan’ Owens,” the Washington Post reports.

In an interview with Fox News, Trump said the mission “was started before I got here” and noted “they lost Ryan.”

Trump Won’t Offer Details on Health or Tax Plans

President Trump “will not embrace a specific plan to replace Obamacare or overhaul the country’s tax code in his major speech Tuesday night… but will make an aggressive case for building infrastructure and increasing school choice,” Politico reports.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer “depicted the speech as fairly lengthy — 70 to 80 minutes, with Trump still revising and writing Tuesday afternoon — but light on details and more about the president’s vision.”

Trump Suggests Anti-Semitic Threats Coming from Jews

President Trump appeared to suggest that the wave of bomb threats against Jewish community centers across the U.S. could be coming from within the Jewish community itself, BuzzFeed reports.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who was part of a group of state attorneys general meeting with Trump, said that the commander-in-chief seemed to indicate he felt some of the threats were being made from the inside, as part of a potential effort “to make others look bad.”

FBI Planned to Pay Spy Who Wrote Trump Dossier

“The former British spy who authored a controversial dossier on behalf of Donald Trump’s political opponents alleging ties between Trump and Russia reached an agreement with the FBI a few weeks before the election for the bureau to pay him to continue his work,” the Washington Post reports.

“While Trump has derided the dossier as ‘fake news’ compiled by his political opponents, the FBI’s arrangement with Steele shows that bureau investigators considered him credible and found his line of inquiry to be worthy of pursuit.”

New Travel Ban Would Exempt Existing Visa Holders

President Trump “plans to sign a revised executive order banning travel Wednesday, which is likely to apply only to future visa applicants from seven majority Muslim countries tabbed as terror risks,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The original executive order, signed last month, applied to existing visa holders as well as new applicants. The State Department said that as a result of the order, it had revoked visas from nearly 60,000 people.”

Why the Trump Agenda Is Moving So Slowly

New York Times: “When Republicans won in November, it looked as if 2017 would reflect a major legislative shift to the right. But two months into the 115th Congress and six weeks into the Trump administration, progress on fulfilling Republicans’ major domestic policy goals is looking further away, not closer.”

“This is partly just the usual slow grinding of legislative gears… But there’s another element in the sluggish or nonexistent progress on major elements of the Republican agenda. Large portions of the Republican caucus embrace a kind of policy nihilism. They criticize any piece of legislation that doesn’t completely accomplish conservative goals, but don’t build coalitions to devise complex legislation themselves.”

“The roster of congressional Republicans includes lots of passionate ideological voices. It is lighter on the kind of wonkish, compromise-oriented technocrats who move bills.”

Trump Proposes Cutting State Department By 37%

“The Trump administration is proposing to cut spending by 37% for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development budget,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“President Donald Trump is developing a federal budget that officials said would add more than $50 billion to the base defense budget. The increase would be made possible by significant cuts elsewhere, officials said on Monday, particularly to the State Department and its foreign-aid division. The budget for the State Department and USAID this year is approximately $50 billion.”