The State of the Union…

Raeesa Ashique - 3B Electrical
Posted on: February 4, 2018

We are back once again with “Damnit Donald”, chronicling the absurdities and scrapes which have characterized every point of his presidency.

The State of the Union Address

President Trump delivered his maiden State of the Union address on Tuesday, January 30. At an hour and twenty minutes, the speech drew nearly 46 million television viewers.

Apparently, his administration is “building a safe, strong, and proud America”, and “there has never been a better time to start living the American dream.”

He called for bipartisan cooperation with Democrats—ironic, since cooperation has been severely lacking throughout the duration of his term—saying, “Tonight I am extending an open hand to work with members of both parties, Democrats and Republicans, to protect our citizens, of every background, colour and creed.” However, he tarnished the pledge to revisit the issue of immigration with the seemingly snide comment, “Americans are dreamers, too.” This is a reference to the topic of Dreamers, which is addressed later in the article.

Trump began by bragging about his economic record: the low unemployment rate, restored consumer and business confidence, and a high stock market. While it is true that the economy is prospering, the accompanying statistics are much lower than one might expect.

Presidents generally take the opportunity in this address to introduce new policy initiatives; eager to be different, Trump spent more time bragging than speaking towards productive matters. His noted policy initiatives included lowering the high cost of prescription drugs, investing in American infrastructure, and prison reform. However, he did not specify how these prices could be reduced, or from where the target of $1.5 trillion to invest in new infrastructure would come.

Joseph Kennedy III, great-nephew of President John F. Kennedy, Massachusetts congressman, delivered the Democratic rebuttal, calling the presidency “chaos”, and noting that “many have spent the past year anxious, angry, and afraid.”

The “Putin List”

The US Treasury Department released a list of 210 prominent Russians last week, as part of the sanctions law—Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (Caatsa)—passed by Congress in August. The government stressed that this “is not a sanctions list, and the inclusion of individuals or entities… does not and in no way should be interpreted to impose sanctions on those individuals or entities.” It also notes that “inclusion on the unclassified list indicate that the US Government has information about the individual’s involvement in malign activities.”

The sanctions law is meant to punish Russia for meddling in the 2016 US election, its human rights violations, the annexation of Crimea, and ongoing military operations in Ukraine.

However, by not imposing news sanctions on said people, some US lawmakers say that Trump is giving Russia a free pass.

Trump begrudgingly signed the act with ten minutes to midnight on the deadline of January 29, attaching a statement calling it “deeply flawed”. In a very Trump-esque manner, he said, “As president, I can make far better deals with foreign countries than Congress.” The US government also argued that Caatsa had already pushed other governments to cancel deals with Russia worth billions of dollars, so sanctions were not necessary. State department Heather Nauert said, “From that perspective, if the law is working, sanctions on specific entities or individuals will not need to be imposed because the legislation is, in fact, serving as a deterrent.”

The list included 114 politicians—excluding Putin—and 96 oligarchs. The politicians include all forty-two of Putin’s aides and top law enforcement official, spy chiefs Alexander Bortnikov of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and Sergei Naryshkin of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), and CEOs of all major state-owned companies. The oligarchs appear to be from a Forbes magazine ranking of Russia billionaires, arranged alphabetically; they are all worth more than $1 billion and affiliation with the Kremlin does not seem to have be a factor. In fact, the Ananyev brothers are included although they fled the country last year, threatening to sue the government after their bank was declared bankrupt.

By calling attention to those who have benefited under Putin’s rule, this list isolates Putin’s government diplomatically and economically.

The Kremlin is calling this an attempt to meddle in their presidential election, as it could damage the reputation of those named.

Putin called the list a “hostile step”, but that he will not act: “We were waiting for this list to come out, and I’m not going to hide it: We were going to take steps in response, and, mind you, serious steps, that could push our relations to the nadir. But we’re going to refrain from taking these steps for now.”

Government Reopens

The American government shutdown for three days, starting on Friday, January 19, when Republicans and Democrats could not agree on a bill to temporarily fund the government. Trump signed a stopgap funding bill late on Monday, allowing hundreds of thousands of government workers to return to work on Tuesday. This is the fourth temporary funding bill since October, which will keep the government open until February 8; the Senate approved it by 81-18, and the House by 266-150.

Trump ended Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in September, which protects nearly 800,000 undocumented people who were brought to the country as children, saying that he would reinstate the policy in return for funding for the Mexico border wall. Immigration issues have been entangled with the budget ever since, as Democrats are looking to protect “Dreamers” from deportation.

However, the Democrats caved on this issue, as they did not want to be blamed for the government shutdown. In a statement, Trump said, “I am pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses.” Majority Leader Mitch McConnel has promised to discuss this issue further at a later date.

Donald, the Superbug

Rapper Jay-Z appeared on CNN’s The Van Jones Show, and called Trump’s evaluation of African countries as “s***hole” countries “disappointing and hurtful”. He said that the election has highlighted fundamental issues of racism in the country, including “how people talk…behind closed doors”.

“You have sprayed perfume on the trash can…What you do when you do that is the bugs come. You spray something and you create a superbug because you don’t take care of the problem.

“You don’t take the trash out, you keep spraying whatever over it to make it acceptable. As those things grow, you create a superbug. And then now we have Donald Trump, the superbug.”

President Trump tweeted a characteristically immature response: “Somebody please inform Jay-Z  that because of my policies, black unemployment has just been reported to be at the LOWEST RATE EVER RECORDED!” First of all, this is false: African American unemployment dropped to a historic low at 6.8% in December.

Jay-Z also commented on unemployment figures on the show: “It’s not about money at the end of the day…That’s missing the whole point. You treat people like human beings…that’s the main point.”