Last night President Donald J. Trump addressed his first Joint Session of Congress and in my opinion became the President of the United States. I have been somewhat critical of the manner in which Donald Trump speaks. Perhaps it is just his style or mannerisms but something has always seemed to be a mild irritant to me. Not the message of his speeches, just the way he delivers them. But last night he gave a strong speech that should resonate across the nation. He laid out his agenda for the country and the common theme throughout the speech was we had to work together to achieve the greatness he sees in our nation.
There are many critics of the President and one that has been unrelenting has been Van Jones, former Obama White House assistant and now commentator on CNN. Jones said the that the moment in the speech where Trump paid tribute to Navy SEAL Ryan Owens, who was killed last month in a raid in Yemen, was “one of the most extraordinary moments you have ever seen in American politics, period” and went on to say that at that moment Trump “became President of the United States.” He also suggested that this type of action by Trump could make him a two-term President. This was high praise from one of the most vociferous critics of the Trump Presidency. For everyone watching the speech that moment, when Carryn Owens, the widow of this fallen hero, stood with tears in her eyes looking towards the heavens and mouthing the words “I love you baby” there had to be tears in your eyes as well. This display of raw love and emotion touched hearts around the world.
Even the President’s harshest critics are being forced to admit that last night he looked and acted Presidential. He came right out at the start and references Black History Month and then strongly condemned attacks on Jewish graveyards and places of worship, declaring they had no place in America. He repeatedly called for Congress to work together to solve the nation’s problems and on one of the major issues of our time he called for a compromise immigration reform bill. Trump said that our immigration rules needed to change and he cited nations like Canada and Australia that have a merit based immigration system. What he is saying here is that if you come to the United States you must have the means and skills to take care of yourself financially. It is not the duty of the American taxpayer to provide for new immigrants, particularly when we have so many of our own citizens in need of help and this drains our resources.
As was expected Trump called for the repeal and replacement of ObamaCare. He laid out some of the major problems with the system and clearly stated “mandating every American buy government-approved health insurance was never the right solution for America.” This resonated with me because I had a conversation with one of my daughters on this subject earlier in the day. She and her husband have three children, two and home and one in college, and they have to purchase their own health insurance. They are strictly lower-middle class and would never be considered well off. But since her husband works and earns a certain amount of income they are not eligible for any subsidy. They now pay $1700 a month for health insurance with a high deductible. That is more than the rent they pay for their home. Further complicating this is the issue with their son in college. The school he attends offers a health insurance plan for $500 a semester. Removing him from their plan would reduce their costs. But the Affordable Care Act as the determiner of what is a valid healthcare plan does not recognize the plan the school offers because it does not offer and cover birth control. This means if they opted for the plan the school offers they would have to pay a fine because their son would not be covered under the law. They are caught in a vise between government regulations on health care and the real cost of health care.
There are some solutions to the health insurance issue but Democrats will strongly resist any effort to change this system despite the fact that premiums and deductible are rapidly rising and competition for lower rates is prohibited by not allowing the Exchanges to be multi-state providers. President Trump cited the comments by the Governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevins, from earlier in the day where he called the ObamaCare plan in his state a disaster. Now you can debate whether Governor Bevins is correct or his predecessor, Steve Beshear who calls is a success is correct but there are some facts that are not debatable.
Kynect, the Kentucky Exchange, is like all the other state exchanges financially unsustainable on their own. They have to rely on federal grants that were never intended to be long-term funding streams. Eventually the states, like Kentucky, will have to come up with the money to fund this program and that means a taxpayer bailout. Without federal subsidies and increase taxes at the state level these Exchanges will eventually collapse.
The President made it clear that he supported NATO and this brought a standing ovation from even the Democrats in the chamber. He made it clear that the United States will work with any nation that seeks to find peace and freedom. At the same time he let it be known that we will not shirk from our duty a leader in the free world.
At the end of his speech something did happen that bothered me. Traditionally members of Congress remain in their seats until the President has left the room. A member of Congress told me this morning that when Obama spoke in the Chamber the Secret Service advised them to remain. But as Donald Trump was ending his speech the Democrats, who seemed unable to stand for most of the speech, suddenly jumped to their feet and started filing out of the chamber. It was like a grade school when the final bell rang. To me this was not disrespecting Donald Trump as much as it was disrespecting the office of the Presidency. A few years ago Cong. Joe Wilson (R-SC) made a major mistake by blurting out the now famous “you lie” comment during an Obama speech. He was widely criticized and ultimately apologized. I think the Democrats should look at their behavior last night, including the group of female legislators that the camera caught repeatedly using a thumbs down sign in unity. That was organized and demeans the office they hold as well as the Presidency of the United States. Where the President was making a plea for compromise and unity they were signaling they intended to be as partisan as ever and were not willing to work together to solve the nation’s problems.
In summary the President delivered by almost all accounts a powerful speech. It will, in my opinion, resonate with a large segment of our population. Those that are bitterly partisan will fail to acknowledge that it was a good speech and that is the problem we continue to face as a nation divided.