Opinion | Knopf: State of chaos
For the record
“We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution, and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good,” said President Donald Trump in his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening. An auspicious start, we hoped would portend of a new Trump working on behalf of all citizens, in a divided government, after the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. Hope springs eternal. It was rumored his State of the Union would launch his long promised infrastructure program, something we all welcome. Instead of a comprehensive policy speech, the president held a political rally, pandering to 35 percent of the country.
The president reached a new low, even for him. After citing a litany of proof of performance statistics (some true and some lies) the president ignored the sentiments of the vast majority of Americans. The president used the historic moment to campaign for his border wall — a wall the American people have clearly said they don’t want, border agents reported they don’t need, and a multibillion-dollar boondoggle only a xenophobic minority supports.
If that wasn’t enough, then the president went on a rant about late-term abortions, lies only fringe anti-choice activists talk about. He spoke about the suffering of babies who could feel their lives being swept away. He is pandering at the lowest level of any president in modern history. He is eclipsing the villainy of Joe McCarthy, the criminal destroyer of human lives.
“He lies. @POTUS is once again lying and using the #SOTU address to spread falsehoods about our beloved city of El Paso. Fact is that El Paso has been one of the safest cities in the nation long before the wall was built in 2008. #WallsDontWork 6:48 PM – 5 Feb 2019” — Rep. Veronica Escobar
The Twitter post was preceded by a 2003 newspaper article repost naming El Paso the second safest large U.S. city, five years before the wall was built. Trump said, “The border city of El Paso, Texas, used to have extremely high rates of violent crime — one of the highest in the country, and [was] considered one of our nation’s most dangerous cities. Now, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of our safest cities.”
Several national journalists happened to be on the Mexico border in the past week, and their reports agree. Border town folks often traverse the border daily for business, school and to see family. They don’t need the process made more difficult and time consuming. In the past few weeks, one of our sturdier border barriers was tunneled under. A barrier is expensive to build and maintain. There are better, more effective ways to secure our border.
John Brennan, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, objected strenuously to the president’s claim, “If I had not been elected president … we would be in a major war with North Korea.” Brennan said, “Nothing could be further from the truth. … He exacerbated the risk with his rhetoric.” Brennan’s astute and schooled analysis was echoed by many others experienced in state craft.
Brennan further noted the response of the generals present, “stoic.” For the record, the president’s only military experience is his attendance at New York Military Academy (college preparatory school). He gets low marks from military insiders because he makes unilateral decisions like ceasing military exercises with South Korea, gets no concessions from North Korea and declares victory despite the documented evidence North Korea continues to expand its weapons program.
The president also demanded, “If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn’t work that way!” It would really be great for the president to acquaint himself with the Constitution and the separation of powers. Newly elected Representative Katie Hill, D-Calif., Vice Chair of the House Oversight Committee said, “It’s a national security crisis. … Our job is to find the truth and share (it) with the American people.”
Trump referred to “ridiculous partisan investigations,” which have yielded guilty pleas and indictments of 34 people. Analysts compared Trump’s speech to President Richard Nixon’s last State of the Union address before the Watergate investigation results forced him to resign from office.
Susan Del Percio, a Republican strategist, said “it was a speech given out of fear.” No surprise there. That’s all the president has peddled from the beginning. Referring to immigration, Trump said the “political class” poses a danger to the “working class.” Let’s be clear. The only people Trump knows anything about are white people, the majority of his base: white men, whites over 50 years of age, whites who make over $50K, white evangelicals, white non-college grads and rural whites. Yes, some of those are working class. A lot of working class folks are not white, and they are realizing Trump is not helping them.
Michelle Obama in her book talks about white fear cultivated by conservatives during the Obama campaign. She said they cast her as a modern day Nat Turner! All Trump is selling is white identity politics. Every person I know who voted for Trump is white, and they support him as vigorously today as the day they cast their votes.
NBC reported the economic numbers stated by Trump were inflated, and he took credit for milestones accomplished in the Obama administration, like the U.S. being the No. 1 oil and gas producer in the world. NBC anchorman Brian Williams said, “We’ve just never seen it before. … the number of state and local officials stepping up to refute the President of the United States.”
Former CIA chief Brennan said, “The Republican members of Congress have stooped to … craven politics … they have cow-towed to him … they have been complicit.”
Speaking of craven politics, can we talk about Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam? I admit I know next to nothing about this man or this case. But I gotta ask the question, who out there would like to have their entire career destroyed over an ill-considered snapshot from college? As my friend and colleague Tim Stroh said, “It’s a witch hunt.” The #MeToo movement has spawned an execution before trial mentality, said Stroh. I agree. Back it up. If the picture is the proof of a career spent marginalizing and discriminating against minorities, fine. But if this is just a case of bad judgment 35 years ago, let’s not take a wrecking ball to the man’s career. We don’t know the context; it could have been political satire on the racism of the KKK. Now Northam says it’s not him in the photo. He already apologized. Let’s all just take a breath.
See our digital online version of this column for links to source material. Susan Knopf is a Summit County resident and writes a weekly column for the Summit Daily News. She has won awards from the Associated Press and United Press International for her news reporting.
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