Weekly Feature

2018-01-24 / Editorials

Predictable president preps for awkward State of the Union

Managing Editor

President Donald Trump will make his first State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress next Tuesday, Jan. 30. A handful of lawmakers have already said they will boycott the speech out of protest over a variety of gaffes made by the chief executive during his first year in office.

It’s difficult to imagine this speech coming at a worst time for Trump. The government shut down Saturday for lack of a short-term spending agreement. Then early Monday afternoon, the Senate reached a compromise to end the shutdown. Trump surely will have to acknowledge it without the kind of boasting he posts on Twitter.

“Democrats are holding our military hostage over their desire to have unchecked illegal immigration. Can’t let that happen!” Trump tweeted on Saturday. Earlier the same day, “Democrats are far more concerned with illegal Immigrants than they are with our great military or safety at our dangerous southern border. They could have easily made a deal but decided to play shutdown politics instead.”

Administration officials were quick to blame the Democrats, stating that the proposal could have been adopted Friday to avoid the shutdown. But it also became clear that certain members of the GOP were disinterested in negotiation and dug in their heels in resistance.

Vice President Mike Pence spoke Monday as well.

“We welcome the news that thanks to the firm stand taken by President Trump and House and Senate Republicans, the government shutdown in Washington, D.C., is coming to an end,” he said. He also referred to the failure as the “Schumer shutdown” in reference to the New York State senator who also serves as the Senate minority leader.

“Today we enter the third day of the Trump shutdown – the first ever real shutdown to occur when one party controls the entire legislative process,” Schumer said Monday from the floor of the Senate. “You never know who to deal with when it comes to the Republicans.” Sounds like two kids fighting in a sandbox.

While there will be mixed reactions when Trump arrives on Capitol Hill next Tuesday evening, it will be interesting to see how he spins this week’s developments. He may take credit for masterminding the compromise or point to the ability of Republicans in the House to get the Democrats to, in effect, wave the white flag.

While it would be a throwback to the 19th century to hear members of Congress boo Trump as he enters the chamber, it’s likely that some will stand but politely refrain from applauding.

One of those who will not be in attendance is Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington State. Her displeasure stems from comments allegedly made by the president regarding immigration.

“[I refuse] to dignify a president who has used the platform of the Oval Office to fan the flames of racism, sexism and hatred — most recently with his vulgar condemnation of Haiti and other African countries,” she said on Jan. 15. “I profoundly disagree with his approach and his unacceptable behavior. His path is dangerous. His path is destructive. His path cannot be normalized. I will not normalize it. This is our own form of nonviolent resistance, a path advocated for by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday we just celebrated yesterday but whose lessons we must continue to incorporate.”

Tuesday’s State of the Union sounds like the pinnacle of political theater. The fun starts at 9.

(David F. Sherman is managing editor of Bee Group Newspapers and a columnist for the Weekly Independent Newspapers of Western New York, a group of community newspapers with a combined circulation of 286,500 readers. Opinions expressed here are those of the author. He can be reached at dsherman@beenews.com.)

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