Trump’s Tone Does Not Make Up for Lack of Substance

March 2, 2017

Photo by NASA HQ PHOTO (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Photo by NASA HQ PHOTO (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Another day, another stump speech. Despite his 40-odd days into the presidency, President Trump appears to be stuck in perpetual campaign-mode.

In a joint session of Congress, Trump merely presented a broad agenda of immigration, foreign policy, and civil rights. His style may have changed, but the substance of his message has not.

Don’t Be Fooled by Softer Tone on Immigration

In his address, Trump spoke of freedom. He spoke of dreams. He even sounded optimistic. Still, he offered nothing specific.

Trump’s Muslim ban executive order was suspended by the courts. Yet he reminded us his intention to sign another immigration executive order. This is a proposal that has nothing to do with U.S. security and everything to do with appealing to anti-Muslim bigotry. When taken to court, he ultimately failed to prove how travelers from the countries listed pose a threat to national security.

Although a DHS intelligence report found no evidence of extra threat posed by travel-ban nations, he repeated his claim that foreign nationals account for the “vast majority” of terrorists in the post-9/11 period.

On refugees and immigrants, Trump doubled-down on his belief that, "It is not compassionate but reckless to allow uncontrolled entry where proper vetting cannot occur." Not only is the U.S. vetting system, for immigrants or refugees, intense and comprehensive, but it is a lie that the entry is "uncontrolled" and not properly vetted.

He wrongly blamed America's terrorism problem on individuals who came from outside the U.S. (most terrorism suspects are native-born U.S. citizens). He endlessly peddles the myth that immigrants are so fiercely dangerous that he is ordering DHS to establish an office for Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE).

He falsely suggested that undocumented immigrants are responsible for a disproportionate share of crime (immigrants commit fewer crimes than the native-born). Despite suggesting it earlier that day, Trump refrained from mentioning any support for a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants.

Self-Proclaimed Civil Rights Champion

While Trump finally condemned recent anti-semitic acts, his glaring omission of Islamophobic, right-wing, and white supremacist hate crimes carries a contradictory message of exclusionary politics. The racially motivated murder committed in Kansas last week, in which two Indian men were targeted specifically because they were thought to be Iranian, was worthy of a full six words during his address.

In his talk of unity and peace, Trump wasted an opportunity to highlight the recent example of American Muslims who raised thousands of dollars to restore vandalized Jewish cemeteries.

The only times Trump addressed American Muslims and Islam were within the national security framework. His preference for the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” encourages the misconception that ISIS and other terrorist networks are inherently Islamic which paves the way for Islamophobia.

When Trump crowns himself as a civil rights advocate, it is difficult to believe him when Attorney General Jeff Sessions plans to “pull back” on police department civil rights suits. Sessions also disputes official reports — despite not reading them — on the misconduct of Ferguson and Chicago police officers.

Stuck in Campaign Mode

Forty days have passed since his inauguration, yet Trump has failed to transition from being a candidate to being the President of the United States. He refrains from mentioning policy specifics and continues to capitalize on fear-mongering. If Trump intends to live up his role as President, he must answer to calls for accountability. He must follow through with his promise to uphold civil liberties in America. Peace and unity were nothing more than hollow words in his speech. A house divided cannot stand.

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