In his first speech to Congress, President Donald Trump set a more optimistic tone than in his dark inaugural address.
He opened Tuesday night with a welcome condemnation of vandalism at Jewish cemeteries and hate crimes, and said he wanted to deliver a message of unity and strength “from my heart.” He ended with a call for all citizens to renew the American spirit.
If only he carried that theme through the entire address. Instead, Trump repeated his longstanding and baffling premise, that he is governing a dark, crime-ridden, Gotham-like nation facing dire threats at home and abroad.
Early polling indicates the speech was a big hit with viewers. And his talk of economic growth probably heartened Rust Belt states he carried. But we wish he had focused more clearly on inspiring all Americans toward specific goals, which he also failed to do at his Jan. 20 inauguration. When he called for his promised $1 trillion infrastructure plan, which would have broader bipartisan appeal, he could have reassured doubters with details.
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Instead, Trump repeated campaign promises to his core supporters, blamed the Obama administration, mouthed GOP platitudes and highlighted issues likely to deepen our divisions
While his hasty actions have undocumented immigrants around the nation living in fear of stepped-up deportation raids, Trump now says he would be open to an immigration reform bill if there can be a compromise.
After the federal courts blocked his first try, Trump said he will sign a new order limiting refugees and restricting travel from the Middle East to stop a “beachhead of terrorism” from forming inside America.
No matter how many executive orders and actions he signs, Trump needs Congress to push forward his agenda. But Republicans are not fully behind him, and some were besieged last week in town halls, where constituents told them not to touch their Obamacare benefits.
Some Republicans also question Trump’s budget blueprint, which seems designed for a national security state: $54 billion more for the military, no cuts for border security, but 10 percent less for domestic programs and deeper cuts in environmental protection and foreign aid.
While the $590 billion annual defense budget has declined since the peak of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the president has a lot of persuading to do that such a large increase is necessary, especially when America’s biggest threats are not conventional armies, but terrorists and rogue nations such as North Korea.
Trump’s budget outline doesn’t appear to do much for the middle class or the working, forgotten Americans. It could significantly increase federal deficits if he and the GOP Congress follow through on tax cuts, also weighted toward corporations and the wealthy.
While we welcomed his call for Democrats to join him in tackling the country’s problems, he did not fully grasp his opportunity to unite Americans.