The State of Disunion Speech


President Donald Trump’s State of Disunion speech will be little remembered and soon forgotten.

It was actually two speeches in a mashup that was both contradictory and ironic.

The opening and closing sections of the speech were soaring patriotic paeans to the “Greatest Generation” that liberated the world from fascism for the 75th anniversary year of D-Day this June — ironic for a Russian asset who has threatened to pull the U.S. out of NATO, for which he has been rebuked by his own party, US Senate votes to defend NATO as Trump attacks alliance, and who has vigorously attacked our European allies while currying favor with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. And Trumpism is the new American fascism.

While feigning calls for unity and bipartisanship — Before Expected Call for Unity, Trump Laced Into Democrats at Lunch for TV Anchors — the middle part of his speech was actually his campaign themes for 2020, a rehash of his divisive 2016 campaign — build the wall, make abortions illegal, tax cuts for plutocrats, eliminate consumer protection regulations, repeal and replace “Obamacare,” and an “America First” foreign policy withdrawing America from its role as the leader of the free world. Trump also made the fantastical claim that the U.S. would be at war with North Korea today if he had not been elected president — this from the man who elevated war tensions with North Korea with his “rocket man” insults until he sought to curry favor with another dictator, Kim Jong-un.

What will be remembered is Trump channeling the ghost of Richard Nixon in his SOTU speech in January 1974, calling on Congress to end the Watergate investigations:

An economic miracle is taking place in the United States — and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations. If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation.

Most commentators were flummoxed by the meaning of this passage. Why is Trump combining war and congressional oversight investigations and the Mueller probe?

One possible explanation is that Trump is saying that there can be bipartisan cooperation on legislation, if and only if Congress and the Mueller probe ends the investigations into Trump, or there will be partisan warfare against Congress. He is threatening Congress with total obstruction, just as current senate majority leader Mitch McConnell did to President Barack Obama. The Victory of ‘No’. The GOP is no stranger to authoritarianism.

Democrats in Congress and prosecutors in the Department of Justice will ignore this idle threat, just as they did with Richard Nixon (who was forced to resign from office by August 1974).

As for the substance of Trump’s SOTU, it was laced with lies he has repeated frequently and multiple exaggerations. Here are just two hot-button items — immigration and abortion, elements of Trump’s 2020 campaign — from the Washington Post fact checkers. Fact-checking President Trump’s 2019 State of the Union address:

President Trump’s State of the Union speech once again was chock-full of stretched facts and dubious figures. Many of these claims have been fact-checked repeatedly, yet the president persists in using them.

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“The lawless state of our southern border is a threat to the safety, security and financial well-being of all Americans. We have a moral duty to create an immigration system that protects the lives and jobs of our citizens.”

By any available measure, there is no new security crisis at the border.

Apprehensions of people trying to cross the southern border peaked most recently at 1.6 million in 2000 and have been in decline since, falling to just under 400,000 in fiscal 2018. The decline is partly because of technology upgrades; tougher penalties in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks; a decline in migration rates from Mexico; and a sharp increase in the number of Border Patrol officers.

The fiscal 2018 number was up from just over 300,000 apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border for fiscal 2017, the lowest level in more than 45 years.

There are far more cases of travelers overstaying their visas than southern border apprehensions. In fiscal 2017, the Department of Homeland Security reported 606,926 suspected in-country overstays, or twice the number of southern border apprehensions. In fiscal 2016, U.S. officials reported 408,870 southern border apprehensions and 544,676 suspected in-country overstays.

The big issue at the southern border are waves of thousands of Central Americans running from poverty and violence in their home countries and seeking entry to the United States.

But here’s the catch: Any wall would be built a mile or so inland from the border. Many of those attempting to immigrate are Central Americans seeking asylum. To petition for asylum, a person needs to be on U.S. soil under current law. So in theory, immigrants could cross the border and file a legally valid petition for asylum before reaching Trump’s wall. The incentive would still exist, and so would the visa overstays.

“Meanwhile, working-class Americans are left to pay the price for mass illegal migration — reduced jobs, lower wages, overburdened schools, hospitals so crowded you can’t get in, increased crime, and a depleted social safety net.”

Trump exaggerates the link between immigration and crime; almost all research shows legal and illegal immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than the native-born population.

In general, economists say illegal immigration tends to affect less-educated and low-skilled American workers the most, which disproportionately encompasses black men and recently arrived, low-educated legal immigrants, including Latinos.

The consensus among economic research studies is that the impact of immigration is primarily a net positive for the U.S. economy and to workers overall, especially over the long term. According to a comprehensive 2016 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on the economic impacts of the U.S. immigration system, studies on the impact of immigration showed “the seemingly paradoxical result that although larger immigration flows may generate higher rates of unemployment in some sectors, overall, the rate of unemployment for native workers declines.”

“The border city of El Paso, Texas, used to have extremely high rates of violent crime — one of the highest in the country, and considered one of our nation’s most dangerous cities. Now, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of our safest cities.”

Trump appears to be echoing comments he heard from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Jan. 10, but this claim is wrong.

The El Paso Times, in a fact check, said some form of barrier has existed between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez for decades, though Trump appeared to be referring to fencing that was completed in mid-2009: “Looking broadly at the last 30 years, the rate of violent crime reached its peak in 1993, when more than 6,500 violent crimes were recorded. Between 1993 and 2006, the number of violent crimes fell by more than 34 percent and less than 2,700 violent crimes were reported. The border fence was authorized by [President George W.] Bush in 2006, but construction did not start until 2008. From 2006 to 2011 — two years before the fence was built to two years after — the violent crime rate in El Paso increased by 17 percent.”

The city had the third-lowest violent crime rate among 35 U.S. cities with a population over 500,000 in 2005, 2006 and 2007 — before construction of a 57-mile-long fence started in mid-2008.

You should take note that Trump made no mention in his SOTU speech of his illegal child separation (kidnapping) policy intended to punish lawful asylum seekers from Central America, the inhumane caging of those children in detention camps, and the administration’s recent admission that reuniting separated migrant children with family may be impossible:

It may not be “within the realm of the possible” to reunite thousands of migrant children separated from their families at the southern border with their parents or guardians, the Trump administration said in court filings late Friday.

The statement from the Office of Refugee Resettlement said at this point it would “destabilize the permanency of [the children’s] existing home environment, and could be traumatic to the children” to remove them from the sponsor homes where they were placed after separation.

These filings come in response to an ACLU suit that returns to court Feb. 21. “The Trump administration’s response is a shocking concession that it can’t easily find thousands of children it ripped from parents, and doesn’t even think it’s worth the time to locate each of them,” said ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt, who is leading the suit. “The administration also doesn’t dispute that separations are ongoing in significant numbers.”

The state-sponsored kidnapping of children from their parents and the inhumanity of treating them like caged animals, solely because their parents or guardians lawfully sought asylum in the United States, completely undercuts any “sanctity of human life” argument made about abortion. The forced birthers’ fetus fetish only extends to the fetus from conception to birth. After that, “You’re on your own baby!” “Don’t expect me to feed you, house you, clothe you, educate you or provide medical care, you taker!” (What would Jesus do? Matthew 25: 31-46.)

“Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments before birth. … And then, we had the case of the governor of Virginia where he stated he would execute a baby after birth.”

The debate over abortion has moved to the forefront in recent weeks as many state legislatures where a majority of residents are in favor of abortion rights are moving to incorporate the Roe v. Wade standards into state law.

Now, all but seven states have prohibitions on gestational limits, from 20 to 24 weeks, or the point of “viability.” (A woman is considered to have reached full term when she is between 37-42 weeks.) Indeed, only 1.3 percent of abortions — or about 8,500 a year — take place at or after 21 weeks, according to 2014 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Guttmacher Institute.

The legislation in New York would not have “allowed a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments before birth.” It states a health-care practitioner “may perform an abortion when, according to the practitioner’s reasonable and good faith professional judgment based on the facts of the patient’s case: the patient is within twenty-four weeks from the commencement of pregnancy, or there is an absence of fetal viability, or the abortion is necessary to protect the patient’s life or health.”

The now-tabled bill in Virginia would have reduced the number of doctors required to agree that “the continuation of the pregnancy is likely to result in the death of the woman” or “impair the mental or physical health of the woman” from three to one. It would have also removed the phrase “substantially and irremediably” from the section describing the required conditions for a woman to have an abortion. In other words, continuing pregnancy would no longer have to “substantially and irremediably impair” a woman’s physical or mental health, it would simply need to “impair” it. Lastly, the bill would have removed the 24-hour waiting period. The bill also specifies that measures of life support “shall be available and utilized” if there is evidence of viability.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) was widely criticized for his comments on the bill after he told a radio show, the procedures are “done in cases where there may be severe deformities. There may be a fetus that’s not viable. So in this particular example, if a mother’s in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered, the infant would be kept comfortable, the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.” Critics suggested the governor was endorsing infanticide. His office later said the governor was referring to medical treatment, not ending the life of a baby.

One final note, Trump made no mention in his speech that he is threatening another government shutdown next week, again taking Americans hostage to his ransom demands for a border wall. Trump: Congressional negotiators ‘wasting their time’ if they’re not talking about border wall. So next week we are going to have yet another manufactured “Trump Shutdown” of the government, or a crisis when he tries to declare a national emergency over his border wall. Senate GOP warns Trump against using national emergency for border wall. “GOP lawmakers warned that declaring a national emergency would be met with resistance on Capitol Hill, where Congress could try to block Trump by using a resolution of disapproval.”