My parents taught me to have reverence for this country and its duly elected officials who represent the United States. I have instilled that ethic in my children and now in my grandchildren. But after seeing the spectacle of disrespect shown by the Congressional Democrats (my family’s political party) during last week’s State of the Union Address, where they sat on their hands for practically the entire speech, I was appalled. The State of the Union Address has always been a family event in my home. The pomp and protocol has always been fascinating and exciting; but this year was different. From the moment that the Sergeant at Arms of the United States House of Representatives announced, “Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States,” the Democrats showed their true colors by refusing to stand as President Trump entered the chamber. That was the height of chutzpah! I lived through Richard Nixon and we never dreamed of doing that.
The Democrats should take a lesson from Louisiana Representative Steve Scalise, who put country before himself, whom President Trump honored and praised for his resolve for returning to work less than four months after he took a bullet from a gunman, who was a Bernie Sanders supporter and almost died. Sanders should have been the first to jump from his seat when the president acknowledged him, but ol’ Bernie didn’t have enough class to do it for that brave man. That is simply because Scalise is a Republican!
In his speech, President Trump was signaling a willingness to make bipartisan deals on the second-year agenda priorities like immigration as well as infrastructure. He said, “Tonight I call upon all of us to set aside our differences to seek out common ground to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people we were elected to serve.” Gut gezogt (Well said), but it fell on deaf ears on the other side of the aisle.
Trump appealed for common ground in the immigration debate, while holding firm on his demands for border security. The president called for bi-partisanship – to put politics aside and “get the job done.” That was a pretty astounding declaration to a “do nothing Congress” that has not proposed any new legislation of its own and says no to everything the Trump administration sends to them.
The president tried to open the impasse in Congress by saying, “Tonight I am extending an open hand to work with members of both parties – Democrats and Republicans – to serve our citizens of every background, color, religion, and creed.”
The president described his recent offer on immigration as a “fair compromise” for both sides. The White House is pushing a plan to broaden eligibility for the DACA program, which gives a reprieve to illegal immigrants brought to the US as children and which Trump is planning to end, absent a legislative solution in March in exchange for border wall funding, and the end of chain migration and the visa lottery program. His objection to the current DACA dilemma, initiated by President Obama, is that it is unconstitutional. Trump wants Congress to establish a law that makes it proper. Again, the do-nothing Congress just bellyaches and has provided no legal recourse for the vulnerable “Dreamers” that they tout as being so precious to them. I fear the DACA recipients are being used as pawns by the Democrats to discredit the president before the mid-term elections. Politics is politics, but putting kids’ lives in jeopardy is another thing.
President Trump described his offer as a path to citizenship for 1.8 million DACA recipients. He said, “My highest loyalty, my greatest compassion, and my constant concern is for America’s children, America’s struggling workers, and America’s forgotten communities. Americans are dreamers, too.”
The president called for bipartisan cooperation on infrastructure projects as well, which he stressed should be leveraged by partnering with state and local governments and private sector investors for projects. As a businessman, Trump understands cost effectiveness.
The Democrat intransience was so glaring that even when Trump mentioned that African American unemployment is down to the lowest level in a long time, the members of the Black Caucus declined to stand or applaud. The same was true of the Hispanic Caucus, who also received the positive news of low unemployment rates.
I was particularly sickened by the Democrats’ ambivalence toward a 12-year-old boy who was recognized for gathering flags for veteran graves; they showed their same fahkrimten ponim (scowled expressions) for Preston Sharp, who put flags on soldiers’ graves on Veterans Day. The president said, “Preston’s reverence for those who have served our nation reminds us why we honor our flag, why we put our hands on our hearts for the Pledge of Allegiance, and why we proudly stand for the National Anthem.” My 12-year-old grandchildren related to this kid. How do I explain to them that some in the audience did not?
It was hard to tell which side the Democrats were on by their childish behavior during the State of the Union Address. The Democrats scowled as President Trump touted soaring jobs numbers, and they sat stone-faced when he honored veterans, and one of them even walked out during the patriotic chant of “USA, USA.” Democrats showed that they were in no mood to accept Trump’s call for bi-partisanship. His speech had 150 rounds of applause, but not from the Democrats.
The Republican National Committee reacted to the shenanigans during the State of the Union Address by saying, “Democrats are no longer just the party of resistance and obstruction; they are now also the party of sitting on their hands. No matter the issue, Democrats chose to sit on their hands tonight.” There were three notable exceptions among Democrat senators: Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota – all from red states and all facing tough re-election bids in November; they stood and applauded multiple times. But it goes to show that being a mentch is an important sign of leadership.
A very moving moment during the State of the Union Address was when the president introduced police officer Ryan Holets, who adopted a baby from of a homeless mom addicted to heroin. The baby, whom the police officer’s family named Hope, suffered the excruciating process of detoxing and the withdrawals because the birth mom was an addict and transferred the abuse to her child during pregnancy. Holets is a shining example of American values and goodness. Even the Democrats have to extol this.
Cynthia Zalisky is the Executive Director of the Queens Jewish Community. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org