Trump’s State of the Union looked to take credit, hardline stances
February 7, 2018
President Donald J. Trump delivered his first State of the Union Address – a speech made annually by the President of the United States for over two-hundred years.
“Over the last year we have made incredible progress and achieved extraordinary success,” said Trump in his 80-minute speech, which highlighted the passage of the Republican tax plan. The President called for immigration policy, a stronger infrastructure package and strict foreign intervention against North Korea.
Suffolk University Government Associate Professor Dr. Brian Conley was surprised by some of the president’s policy choices.
“The thing I was most surprised by is the idea that the U.S. is going to continue to use Guantánamo [Bay detention camp] as some part of foreign policy and the war on terrorism,” said Conley in a recent interview. “Both previous administrations acknowledged that it was a really problematic response to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Toward the end of Barack Obama’s presidency, Obama reflected on his administration and one change he would make if he could, which was “I think I would have closed Guantánamo on the first day,” according to the New Yorker.
Suffolk students were most struck by the president’s comments on immigration.
“It was clear that Trump wanted to make a hardline stance on immigration in the State of the Union,” said senior International Relations major Jenny Rego.
Rego added that advisers such as Stephen Miller likely influenced Trump’s immigration decision.
Trump characterized immigration reform in the State of the Union Address as “one where nobody gets everything they want, but where our country gets the critical reforms it needs.”
Trump’s immigration plan included creating a path to citizenship for immigrants who meet work and education requirements where Democrats can likely agree with. Other areas of the plan are more polarizing like building a wall along the Mexican-American border, eliminating the Diversity Immigrant Visa and ending what Republicans call “chain migration,” which is when immediate families immigrate together.
James Usovicz, a freshman double majoring in History and Government agreed with Rego.
“I think immigration really stood out in this address, Trump seems very keen to put pressure on the matter,” said Usovicz.
Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy delivered the Democratic party’s official response to President Trump’s first year in office. A technical school in what Kennedy called “a proud American city, built by immigrants” of Fall River, Massachusetts served as the venue for his response.
“This administration isn’t just targeting the laws that protect us – they are targeting the very idea that we are all worthy of protection,” said Kennedy.
Rego, who has interned for Kennedy, felt the Congressman accurately reflected the position of his party and his own values.
“What stood out to me most in his speech was his statement [which was] spoken Spanish that the Democrats will fight for the Dreamers,” said Rego. “A message I think showed a lot of solidarity with immigrants around the country who are being persecuted on multiple fronts by the Trump administration.”
Some of the nation’s leading publications, such as the Washington Post, the New York Times, ABC News and others offered “fact-checks” that assessed the truthfulness of various assertions and lies made by Trump.
“There are implications any time elected officials mislead the public,” said Conley, who assured that saying the President lied in the State of the Union Address is “a really quite bold assertion.”
Trump boasted economic achievements such as job creation, increased wages and historic low unemployment rates for African-Americans. The question remains as to what extent Trump played a role in shaping the economy so quickly in his first year.
“It is standard for presidents to claim whatever benefit is happening while in office,” Conley explained, regardless of whether or not he played a role in that success.
Trump also made calls for bipartisanship in his address, rhetoric that may be foiled if Congressional Republicans and the White House fail to negotiate a budget this week and suffer another government shutdown.
“Another shutdown would likely serve to only further lower public faith in Congress,” said Usovicz who believes that Congress will pass a budget, or a continuing resolution that would fund the government temporarily.
“It means that its purely rhetorical,” said Conley if the government does shut down, “that there is working bipartisanship in Washington – it’s a rhetorical claim.”
Conley also recommended that students gather an understanding of the president’s agenda, not just from the State of the Union, but by reading newspapers regularly and even using Twitter to stay up to date on actions taken by Congress and the administration.