Democrats Need to Respond to Trump’s Narrative about Solving American Disinvestment

I didn’t like it and I realize that it was packed full of hatred and lies.

But I’m among those who believes that President Trump’s speech last night (I’ve put the transcript below) was effective.

I say that for several reasons.

First, last night Trump told a narrative of disinvestment in the United States that is, significantly, true. This passage, his assessment of “the mistakes of recent decades,” is true, to a point.

For too long, we’ve watched our middle class shrink as we’ve exported our jobs and wealth to foreign countries. We’ve financed and built one global project after another, but ignored the fates of our children in the inner cities of Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit — and so many other places throughout our land. We’ve defended the borders of other nations, while leaving our own borders wide open, for anyone to cross — and for drugs to pour in at a now unprecedented rate. And we’ve spent trillions of dollars overseas, while our infrastructure at home has so badly crumbled.

We have disinvested from the US. We have spent money elsewhere rather than in the US, most notably dumping billions on wars and ineffective reconstruction of the countries we destroyed. Less visibly (and not addressed by Trump) the financialization that accompanies globalization means that money slushing through the economy ends up in different places, even while many of those places are still in the US. That reality is why, in my opinion, so many voted for Trump: because he acknowledged that the US is getting hollowed out.

And Trump offered a solution. This is where Trump got downright offensive — which I’ll come back to (because that’s where I think Democrats should respond). But he did lay out a problem and offer a solution.

I also think Trump’s speech was effective because he addressed his critics, however obliquely. He started by — finally — addressing the attacks on Jewish targets.

Recent threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a Nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.

Obviously, his claim that we condemn hate and evil is utter bullshit. But it is what people want to hear.

In the most dramatic moment of the address (which the reality show host milked thoroughly), Trump called out Ryan Owens’ widow.

We are blessed to be joined tonight by Carryn Owens, the widow of a U.S. Navy Special Operator, Senior Chief William “Ryan” Owens. Ryan died as he lived: a warrior, and a hero –- battling against terrorism and securing our Nation. I just spoke to General Mattis, who reconfirmed that, and I quote, “Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies.” Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity. For as the Bible teaches us, there is no greater act of love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Ryan laid down his life for his friends, for his country, and for our freedom –- we will never forget him. To those allies who wonder what kind of friend America will be, look no further than the heroes who wear our uniform.

Trump had been dodging responsibility for getting Owens killed. Owens’ father has demanded answers about the raid (including whether the Muslim ban made the Arab partners on the raid less interested in working with us). But at least for last night, Trump reversed that, doing what a long line of Presidents have done: paper over the waste and destruction of war by turning it instead into a narrative about heroism.

Again, I don’t like this move. I know that both yesterday and today Trump is back to dodging responsibility for that raid and future raids. I know that Mattis is probably just telling his boss what he wants to hear, not least because he’s the one who exploited Trump’s ego to get him to approve the raid. But I hope those who have a problem with Trump exploiting Carryn Owens’ grief also had a problem with Obama and Hillary exploiting the Osama bin Laden raid for five years (and I assume everyone reading this had a problem with the way Bush exploited Pat Tillman, both in life and in death), because the move is the same. It’s a move leaders have been making since ancient times, because it works to get subjects to forget about how nasty and stupid war is.

And, finally, yes, I do think Trump’s delivery made a difference. It matters that he wasn’t his normal belligerent self. The same people who’ll be satisfied that Trump denounced hate will be happy that his delivery was not that of a toddler.

As I said though, the key was that Trump offered solutions to problems, real problems. His solution was always the most xenophobic one, and was often based off made up statistics about how dangerous terrorists are (or, for that matter, how foreign they are).

Trump falsely claimed most terrorists in the US are immigrants. Both Islamic terrorists and right wing ones are Americans.

Trump falsely claimed drugs were “pouring into our country and poisoning our youth,” without mentioning that the opioid crisis started when very American companies got people addicted to painkillers.

Trump falsely suggested crime always pits cops and victims against evildoers, ignoring how often the cops are the ones victimizing communities.

But Trump did lay out the problem and offer a solution, even if the solution (and other solutions, such as health savings accounts and privately funded infrastructure) will not actually solve the problem.

That leaves Democrats several openings to respond. First, they, too, need to tell a narrative like this. This is a point Marshall Ganz made in a great interview with John Judis the other day.

You need a story about a future that can be built based on democratic values, Bernie articulated some of that. But it’s most powerful if it can be enacted locally as well as nationally. I think one of the smart things the Christian Coalition did was starting to organize locally around school boards. Because then you can take over the schools and change the text books. That was a step toward this whole national mobilization that was going to happen.

Democrats need to learn to tell a story that links shared values with plausible goals, like JFK’s Peace Corps or Man on the Moon; Bernie’s free college, universal health care and good jobs; or Trump’s wall in the South, Muslim ban and trade deals.

One thing the story needs is alternate villains. It’s not enough to say that we like immigrants. It’s partly that we need to be saying that immigrants are fundamental to what makes America great. But it’s also about blaming the real culprits: serial stupid wars (launched by both Republicans and Democrats), banksters and financialization, charter school charlatans. As it happens, those villains happen to be the people Trump has hired to run his government.

There’s also a line that I think Democrats should exploit: “And streets where mothers are safe from fear — schools where children learn in peace — and jobs where Americans prosper and grow — are not too much to ask.” Immediately on hearing it last night, I pointed out that walking through the streets is not what “mothers” (note how Trump has framed women and their issues?) fear.

They fear not being able to get their kid medical care because the co-pay is too expensive. They fear having to skip meals because they’ve run out of cash for the month. They fear cops shooting their innocent sons down in the street. They fear their kids drinking lead-poisoned water. They fear family members being rounded up and sent away.

Trump may have diagnosed the macro issue of America right, the disinvestment into America. But he — a billionaire who fears going into bankruptcy again or being publicly humiliated — didn’t diagnose the micro fears correctly.

So, yeah, Democrats need a narrative, one with solutions and villains, something that Bernie had but Hillary largely lacked.

But they also have the opportunity to show they’ve got a better understanding of what Americans actually fear — and with it, explain why their policies are actually better suited to solving those problems than Trump’s fear-ridden fixes. Far too many Democrats have been dodging these policy discussions, hoping something else will magically topple Trump (and all the Republicans who would take over if he were toppled). But Trump is making it easy, because his policies are disasters that are already having repercussions in people’s lives. Democrats just need to squarely place blame when Trump makes Americans’ lives noticeably worse, even in the short term.

The most intriguing line in Trump’s speech, in my opinion, was this one:

We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts. The bravery to express the hopes that stir our souls. And the confidence to turn those hopes and dreams to action. From now on, America will be empowered by our aspirations, not burdened by our fears –- inspired by the future, not bound by the failures of the past –-and guided by our vision, not blinded by our doubts.

Trump’s entire mobilizing strategy, of course, is not a call to courage, but instead of magnification of fears. I’ve been having a bit of fun with Trump trolls on Twitter, in fact, calling them out for being pants-wetting cowards. I note that Americans used to be less fearful. About a third of them get quiet when I point out how an obsession with pointless fears makes America weaker.

So this lie, among all the vile lies he told last night, may be his riskiest one. Because Trump can’t have Americans recognizing that he’s actually asking them to be fearful of things that don’t hurt them so they ignore the things that really are. That’s the job of Democrats: to show how Americans have more to fear from Trump than from their immigrant neighbors.

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, the First Lady of the United States, and Citizens of America:
Tonight, as we mark the conclusion of our celebration of Black History Month, we are reminded of our Nation’s path toward civil rights and the work that still remains. Recent threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a Nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.
Each American generation passes the torch of truth, liberty and justice –- in an unbroken chain all the way down to the present.
That torch is now in our hands. And we will use it to light up the world. I am here tonight to deliver a message of unity and strength, and it is a message deeply delivered from my heart.
A new chapter of American Greatness is now beginning.
A new national pride is sweeping across our Nation.
And a new surge of optimism is placing impossible dreams firmly within our grasp.
What we are witnessing today is the Renewal of the American Spirit.
Our allies will find that America is once again ready to lead.
All the nations of the world — friend or foe — will find that America is strong, America is proud, and America is free.
In 9 years, the United States will celebrate the 250th anniversary of our founding — 250 years since the day we declared our Independence.
It will be one of the great milestones in the history of the world.
But what will America look like as we reach our 250th year? What kind of country will we leave for our children?
I will not allow the mistakes of recent decades past to define the course of our future.
For too long, we’ve watched our middle class shrink as we’ve exported our jobs and wealth to foreign countries.
We’ve financed and built one global project after another, but ignored the fates of our children in the inner cities of Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit — and so many other places throughout our land.
We’ve defended the borders of other nations, while leaving our own borders wide open, for anyone to cross — and for drugs to pour in at a now unprecedented rate.
And we’ve spent trillions of dollars overseas, while our infrastructure at home has so badly crumbled.
Then, in 2016, the earth shifted beneath our feet. The rebellion started as a quiet protest, spoken by families of all colors and creeds -– families who just wanted a fair shot for their children, and a fair hearing for their concerns.
But then the quiet voices became a loud chorus — as thousands of citizens now spoke out together, from cities small and large, all across our country.
Finally, the chorus became an earthquake – and the people turned out by the tens of millions, and they were all united by one very simple, but crucial demand, that America must put its own citizens first … because only then, can we truly MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.
Dying industries will come roaring back to life. Heroic veterans will get the care they so desperately need.
Our military will be given the resources its brave warriors so richly deserve.
Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways gleaming across our beautiful land.
Our terrible drug epidemic will slow down and ultimately, stop.
And our neglected inner cities will see a rebirth of hope, safety, and opportunity.
Above all else, we will keep our promises to the American people.
It’s been a little over a month since my inauguration, and I want to take this moment to update the Nation on the progress I’ve made in keeping those promises.
Since my election, Ford, Fiat-Chrysler, General Motors, Sprint, Softbank, Lockheed, Intel, Walmart, and many others, have announced that they will invest billions of dollars in the United States and will create tens of thousands of new American jobs.
The stock market has gained almost three trillion dollars in value since the election on November 8th, a record. We’ve saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars by bringing down the price of the fantastic new F-35 jet fighter, and will be saving billions more dollars on contracts all across our Government. We have placed a hiring freeze on non-military and non-essential Federal workers.
We have begun to drain the swamp of government corruption by imposing a 5 year ban on lobbying by executive branch officials –- and a lifetime ban on becoming lobbyists for a foreign government.
We have undertaken a historic effort to massively reduce job‑crushing regulations, creating a deregulation task force inside of every Government agency; imposing a new rule which mandates that for every 1 new regulation, 2 old regulations must be eliminated; and stopping a regulation that threatens the future and livelihoods of our great coal miners.
We have cleared the way for the construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines — thereby creating tens of thousands of jobs — and I’ve issued a new directive that new American pipelines be made with American steel.
We have withdrawn the United States from the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership.
With the help of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, we have formed a Council with our neighbors in Canada to help ensure that women entrepreneurs have access to the networks, markets and capital they need to start a business and live out their financial dreams.
To protect our citizens, I have directed the Department of Justice to form a Task Force on Reducing Violent Crime.
I have further ordered the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice, along with the Department of State and the Director of National Intelligence, to coordinate an aggressive strategy to dismantle the criminal cartels that have spread across our Nation.
We will stop the drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth — and we will expand treatment for those who have become so badly addicted.
At the same time, my Administration has answered the pleas of the American people for immigration enforcement and border security. By finally enforcing our immigration laws, we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions of dollars, and make our communities safer for everyone. We want all Americans to succeed –- but that can’t happen in an environment of lawless chaos. We must restore integrity and the rule of law to our borders.
For that reason, we will soon begin the construction of a great wall along our southern border. It will be started ahead of schedule and, when finished, it will be a very effective weapon against drugs and crime.
As we speak, we are removing gang members, drug dealers and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our citizens. Bad ones are going out as I speak tonight and as I have promised.
To any in Congress who do not believe we should enforce our laws, I would ask you this question: what would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or a loved one, because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?
Our obligation is to serve, protect, and defend the citizens of the United States. We are also taking strong measures to protect our Nation from Radical Islamic Terrorism.
According to data provided by the Department of Justice, the vast majority of individuals convicted for terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country. We have seen the attacks at home -– from Boston to San Bernardino to the Pentagon and yes, even the World Trade Center.
We have seen the attacks in France, in Belgium, in Germany and all over the world.
It is not compassionate, but reckless, to allow uncontrolled entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur. Those given the high honor of admission to the United States should support this country and love its people and its values.
We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America — we cannot allow our Nation to become a sanctuary for extremists.
That is why my Administration has been working on improved vetting procedures, and we will shortly take new steps to keep our Nation safe — and to keep out those who would do us harm.
As promised, I directed the Department of Defense to develop a plan to demolish and destroy ISIS — a network of lawless savages that have slaughtered Muslims and Christians, and men, women, and children of all faiths and beliefs. We will work with our allies, including our friends and allies in the Muslim world, to extinguish this vile enemy from our planet.
I have also imposed new sanctions on entities and individuals who support Iran’s ballistic missile program, and reaffirmed our unbreakable alliance with the State of Israel.
Finally, I have kept my promise to appoint a Justice to the United States Supreme Court — from my list of 20 judges — who will defend our Constitution. I am honored to have Maureen Scalia with us in the gallery tonight. Her late, great husband, Antonin Scalia, will forever be a symbol of American justice. To fill his seat, we have chosen Judge Neil Gorsuch, a man of incredible skill, and deep devotion to the law. He was confirmed unanimously to the Court of Appeals, and I am asking the Senate to swiftly approve his nomination.
Tonight, as I outline the next steps we must take as a country, we must honestly acknowledge the circumstances we inherited.
Ninety-four million Americans are out of the labor force.
Over 43 million people are now living in poverty, and over 43 million Americans are on food stamps.
More than 1 in 5 people in their prime working years are not working.
We have the worst financial recovery in 65 years.
In the last 8 years, the past Administration has put on more new debt than nearly all other Presidents combined.
We’ve lost more than one-fourth of our manufacturing jobs since NAFTA was approved, and we’ve lost 60,000 factories since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.
Our trade deficit in goods with the world last year was nearly $800 billion dollars.
And overseas, we have inherited a series of tragic foreign policy disasters.
Solving these, and so many other pressing problems, will require us to work past the differences of party. It will require us to tap into the American spirit that has overcome every challenge throughout our long and storied history.
But to accomplish our goals at home and abroad, we must restart the engine of the American economy — making it easier for companies to do business in the United States, and much harder for companies to leave.
Right now, American companies are taxed at one of the highest rates anywhere in the world.
My economic team is developing historic tax reform that will reduce the tax rate on our companies so they can compete and thrive anywhere and with anyone. At the same time, we will provide massive tax relief for the middle class.
We must create a level playing field for American companies and workers.
Currently, when we ship products out of America, many other countries make us pay very high tariffs and taxes — but when foreign companies ship their products into America, we charge them almost nothing.
I just met with officials and workers from a great American company, Harley-Davidson. In fact, they proudly displayed five of their magnificent motorcycles, made in the USA, on the front lawn of the White House.
At our meeting, I asked them, how are you doing, how is business? They said that it’s good. I asked them further how they are doing with other countries, mainly international sales. They told me — without even complaining because they have been mistreated for so long that they have become used to it — that it is very hard to do business with other countries because they tax our goods at such a high rate. They said that in one case another country taxed their motorcycles at 100 percent.
They weren’t even asking for change. But I am.
I believe strongly in free trade but it also has to be FAIR TRADE.
The first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, warned that the “abandonment of the protective policy by the American Government [will] produce want and ruin among our people.”
Lincoln was right — and it is time we heeded his words. I am not going to let America and its great companies and workers, be taken advantage of anymore.
I am going to bring back millions of jobs. Protecting our workers also means reforming our system of legal immigration. The current, outdated system depresses wages for our poorest workers, and puts great pressure on taxpayers.
Nations around the world, like Canada, Australia and many others –- have a merit-based immigration system. It is a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially. Yet, in America, we do not enforce this rule, straining the very public resources that our poorest citizens rely upon. According to the National Academy of Sciences, our current immigration system costs America’s taxpayers many billions of dollars a year.
Switching away from this current system of lower-skilled immigration, and instead adopting a merit-based system, will have many benefits: it will save countless dollars, raise workers’ wages, and help struggling families –- including immigrant families –- enter the middle class.
I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible, as long as we focus on the following goals: to improve jobs and wages for Americans, to strengthen our nation’s security, and to restore respect for our laws.
If we are guided by the well-being of American citizens then I believe Republicans and Democrats can work together to achieve an outcome that has eluded our country for decades.
Another Republican President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, initiated the last truly great national infrastructure program –- the building of the interstate highway system. The time has come for a new program of national rebuilding.
America has spent approximately six trillion dollars in the Middle East, all this while our infrastructure at home is crumbling. With this six trillion dollars we could have rebuilt our country –- twice. And maybe even three times if we had people who had the ability to negotiate.
To launch our national rebuilding, I will be asking the Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in the infrastructure of the United States — financed through both public and private capital –- creating millions of new jobs.
This effort will be guided by two core principles: Buy American, and Hire American.
Tonight, I am also calling on this Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare with reforms that expand choice, increase access, lower costs, and at the same time, provide better Healthcare.
Mandating every American to buy government-approved health insurance was never the right solution for America. The way to make health insurance available to everyone is to lower the cost of health insurance, and that is what we will do.
Obamacare premiums nationwide have increased by double and triple digits. As an example, Arizona went up 116 percent last year alone. Governor Matt Bevin of Kentucky just said Obamacare is failing in his State — it is unsustainable and collapsing.
One third of counties have only one insurer on the exchanges –- leaving many Americans with no choice at all.
Remember when you were told that you could keep your doctor, and keep your plan?
We now know that all of those promises have been broken.
Obamacare is collapsing –- and we must act decisively to protect all Americans. Action is not a choice –- it is a necessity.
So I am calling on all Democrats and Republicans in the Congress to work with us to save Americans from this imploding Obamacare disaster.
Here are the principles that should guide the Congress as we move to create a better healthcare system for all Americans:
First, we should ensure that Americans with pre-existing conditions have access to coverage, and that we have a stable transition for Americans currently enrolled in the healthcare exchanges.
Secondly, we should help Americans purchase their own coverage, through the use of tax credits and expanded Health Savings Accounts –- but it must be the plan they want, not the plan forced on them by the Government.
Thirdly, we should give our great State Governors the resources and flexibility they need with Medicaid to make sure no one is left out.
Fourthly, we should implement legal reforms that protect patients and doctors from unnecessary costs that drive up the price of insurance – and work to bring down the artificially high price of drugs and bring them down immediately.
Finally, the time has come to give Americans the freedom to purchase health insurance across State lines –- creating a truly competitive national marketplace that will bring cost way down and provide far better care.
Everything that is broken in our country can be fixed. Every problem can be solved. And every hurting family can find healing, and hope.
Our citizens deserve this, and so much more –- so why not join forces to finally get it done? On this and so many other things, Democrats and Republicans should get together and unite for the good of our country, and for the good of the American people.
My administration wants to work with members in both parties to make childcare accessible and affordable, to help ensure new parents have paid family leave, to invest in women’s health, and to promote clean air and clear water, and to rebuild our military and our infrastructure.
True love for our people requires us to find common ground, to advance the common good, and to cooperate on behalf of every American child who deserves a brighter future.
An incredible young woman is with us this evening who should serve as an inspiration to us all.
Today is Rare Disease day, and joining us in the gallery is a Rare Disease Survivor, Megan Crowley. Megan was diagnosed with Pompe Disease, a rare and serious illness, when she was 15 months old. She was not expected to live past 5.
On receiving this news, Megan’s dad, John, fought with everything he had to save the life of his precious child. He founded a company to look for a cure, and helped develop the drug that saved Megan’s life. Today she is 20 years old — and a sophomore at Notre Dame.
Megan’s story is about the unbounded power of a father’s love for a daughter.
But our slow and burdensome approval process at the Food and Drug Administration keeps too many advances, like the one that saved Megan’s life, from reaching those in need.
If we slash the restraints, not just at the FDA but across our Government, then we will be blessed with far more miracles like Megan.
In fact, our children will grow up in a Nation of miracles.
But to achieve this future, we must enrich the mind –- and the souls –- of every American child.
Education is the civil rights issue of our time.
I am calling upon Members of both parties to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children. These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school that is right for them.
Joining us tonight in the gallery is a remarkable woman, Denisha Merriweather. As a young girl, Denisha struggled in school and failed third grade twice. But then she was able to enroll in a private center for learning, with the help of a tax credit scholarship program. Today, she is the first in her family to graduate, not just from high school, but from college. Later this year she will get her masters degree in social work.
We want all children to be able to break the cycle of poverty just like Denisha.
But to break the cycle of poverty, we must also break the cycle of violence.
The murder rate in 2015 experienced its largest single-year increase in nearly half a century.
In Chicago, more than 4,000 people were shot last year alone –- and the murder rate so far this year has been even higher.
This is not acceptable in our society.
Every American child should be able to grow up in a safe community, to attend a great school, and to have access to a high-paying job.
But to create this future, we must work with –- not against -– the men and women of law enforcement.
We must build bridges of cooperation and trust –- not drive the wedge of disunity and division.
Police and sheriffs are members of our community. They are friends and neighbors, they are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters – and they leave behind loved ones every day who worry whether or not they’ll come home safe and sound.
We must support the incredible men and women of law enforcement.
And we must support the victims of crime.
I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American Victims. The office is called VOICE –- Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement. We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests.
Joining us in the audience tonight are four very brave Americans whose government failed them.
Their names are Jamiel Shaw, Susan Oliver, Jenna Oliver, and Jessica Davis.
Jamiel’s 17-year-old son was viciously murdered by an illegal immigrant gang member, who had just been released from prison. Jamiel Shaw Jr. was an incredible young man, with unlimited potential who was getting ready to go to college where he would have excelled as a great quarterback. But he never got the chance. His father, who is in the audience tonight, has become a good friend of mine.
Also with us are Susan Oliver and Jessica Davis. Their husbands –- Deputy Sheriff Danny Oliver and Detective Michael Davis –- were slain in the line of duty in California. They were pillars of their community. These brave men were viciously gunned down by an illegal immigrant with a criminal record and two prior deportations.
Sitting with Susan is her daughter, Jenna. Jenna: I want you to know that your father was a hero, and that tonight you have the love of an entire country supporting you and praying for you.
To Jamiel, Jenna, Susan and Jessica: I want you to know –- we will never stop fighting for justice. Your loved ones will never be forgotten, we will always honor their memory.
Finally, to keep America Safe we must provide the men and women of the United States military with the tools they need to prevent war and –- if they must –- to fight and to win.
I am sending the Congress a budget that rebuilds the military, eliminates the Defense sequester, and calls for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history.
My budget will also increase funding for our veterans.
Our veterans have delivered for this Nation –- and now we must deliver for them.
The challenges we face as a Nation are great. But our people are even greater.
And none are greater or braver than those who fight for America in uniform.
We are blessed to be joined tonight by Carryn Owens, the widow of a U.S. Navy Special Operator, Senior Chief William “Ryan” Owens. Ryan died as he lived: a warrior, and a hero –- battling against terrorism and securing our Nation.
I just spoke to General Mattis, who reconfirmed that, and I quote, “Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies.” Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity. For as the Bible teaches us, there is no greater act of love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Ryan laid down his life for his friends, for his country, and for our freedom –- we will never forget him.
To those allies who wonder what kind of friend America will be, look no further than the heroes who wear our uniform.
Our foreign policy calls for a direct, robust and meaningful engagement with the world. It is American leadership based on vital security interests that we share with our allies across the globe.
We strongly support NATO, an alliance forged through the bonds of two World Wars that dethroned fascism, and a Cold War that defeated communism.
But our partners must meet their financial obligations.
And now, based on our very strong and frank discussions, they are beginning to do just that.
We expect our partners, whether in NATO, in the Middle East, or the Pacific –- to take a direct and meaningful role in both strategic and military operations, and pay their fair share of the cost.
We will respect historic institutions, but we will also respect the sovereign rights of nations.
Free nations are the best vehicle for expressing the will of the people –- and America respects the right of all nations to chart their own path. My job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America. But we know that America is better off, when there is less conflict — not more.
We must learn from the mistakes of the past –- we have seen the war and destruction that have raged across our world.
The only long-term solution for these humanitarian disasters is to create the conditions where displaced persons can safely return home and begin the long process of rebuilding.
America is willing to find new friends, and to forge new partnerships, where shared interests align. We want harmony and stability, not war and conflict.
We want peace, wherever peace can be found. America is friends today with former enemies. Some of our closest allies, decades ago, fought on the opposite side of these World Wars. This history should give us all faith in the possibilities for a better world.
Hopefully, the 250th year for America will see a world that is more peaceful, more just and more free.
On our 100th anniversary, in 1876, citizens from across our Nation came to Philadelphia to celebrate America’s centennial. At that celebration, the country’s builders and artists and inventors showed off their creations.
Alexander Graham Bell displayed his telephone for the first time.
Remington unveiled the first typewriter. An early attempt was made at electric light.
Thomas Edison showed an automatic telegraph and an electric pen.
Imagine the wonders our country could know in America’s 250th year.
Think of the marvels we can achieve if we simply set free the dreams of our people.
Cures to illnesses that have always plagued us are not too much to hope.
American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream.
Millions lifted from welfare to work is not too much to expect.
And streets where mothers are safe from fear — schools where children learn in peace — and jobs where Americans prosper and grow — are not too much to ask.
When we have all of this, we will have made America greater than ever before. For all Americans.
This is our vision. This is our mission.
But we can only get there together.
We are one people, with one destiny.
We all bleed the same blood.
We all salute the same flag.
And we are all made by the same God.
And when we fulfill this vision; when we celebrate our 250 years of glorious freedom, we will look back on tonight as when this new chapter of American Greatness began.
The time for small thinking is over. The time for trivial fights is behind us.
We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts.
The bravery to express the hopes that stir our souls.
And the confidence to turn those hopes and dreams to action.
From now on, America will be empowered by our aspirations, not burdened by our fears –-
inspired by the future, not bound by the failures of the past –-
and guided by our vision, not blinded by our doubts.
I am asking all citizens to embrace this Renewal of the American Spirit. I am asking all members of Congress to join me in dreaming big, and bold and daring things for our country. And I am asking everyone watching tonight to seize this moment and —
Believe in yourselves.
Believe in your future.
And believe, once more, in America.
Thank you, God bless you, and God Bless these United States.

29 replies
  1. Six says:

    This clarity on your partisan fears, and your desire to redirect the fears of Americans, is appreciated. Also appreciated is your faith in the power of partisan narrative. Before this, I have been wondering for many months on exactly how to make use of your observations. I’m closer to making that determination.

    • Charles says:

      I didn’t see a single partisan reference in Emptywheel’s post…. unless being anti-bulls–t is partisan.

    • John Casper says:


      Can you link back to the top five “observations” you were “wondering for many months on exactly how to make use of?”

      Thanks in advance.

  2. PG says:

    The Democrats’ narrative would be most effective if it would include the overarching issues of money in politics and the composition of regulatory boards. Primarily, very little will change without campaign finance reform. Pay to pay is the rotten core of our political system and as long as special interest groups control decision-making processes, citizens fighting for fairness, justice and peace will exhaust their resources and energy in efforts that yield meager results.

    Ultimately, if the Democrats don’t confront this issue head-on, a third party will have to emerge that embraces truth and fairness. But, the Democratic Party, as it stands, doesn’t appear ready to cut the puppet strings.

  3. j.a. mason says:

    pat tillman, ryan owens & osama bin laden, one of these things is not like the others. both siderism rears its ugly head yet again.

  4. Bitter Angry Drunk says:

    See that’s the thing: Congressional Democrats have a hard time opposing Trump because most of them don’t actually oppose a lot of what he’s doing. They don’t oppose the stupid wars. They don’t oppose Goldman scum operating the government. A lot of them haven’t opposed his cabinet appointments. Most of them don’t see the problem with the militarization of police. They damn sure don’t have a problem with charter schools.

    This part is off topic from EW’s piece, but honestly, the thing that Democrats most vehemently oppose is the left. In fact that the left is the only thing Democrats oppose at all. Been thinking about this since Perez was made DNC chair. The only actual fighting the Dems do is against the left. Worse, the only winning they do is at the expense of the left. I guess I’ve become one of those #DemExit people. Yeah, starting a new political party or trying to transform the Green Party into an actual thing would be a daunting task, given the campaign rulz. But man, for everything Bernie accomplished and for everything that’s happened since, the effort to reform the Democratic Party clearly isn’t working.

    Anyway, another great post by Marcy.

    • SpringTexan says:

      I agree with you, Bitter Angry Drunk, but the deck is so stacked against third parties that we still need a “hostile takeover” of the Democratic Party. As Yves Smith has noted: “Let’s not forget that the Democrat Party has assets — ballot lines, data, and having been written into statutes nationwide — that are worth seizing.”

      But yes, it’s clear the establishment Democrats will fight anything TOOTH AND NAIL. We can’t kid ourselves that they don’t bitterly oppose us and enthusiastically support war and predatory bankers. They’ve made that very clear.

      • John Casper says:


        This is important and not well understood.

        “…The deck is so stacked against third parties that we still need a “hostile takeover” of the Democratic Party. As Yves Smith has noted: “Let’s not forget that the Democrat Party has assets — ballot lines, data, and having been written into statutes nationwide — that are worth seizing.”


        Your 9:35 is pasted from the Brad Johnson link you posted. Appreciate the link, it’s good content. Maybe next time you could put it inside quotation marks so Brad gets credit?

        Obama’s not doing this alone and it’s not clear how wide his options are. The MSM–controlled by private equity groups–won’t give progressives much oxygen.

        Shouldn’t progressives open a second front, where objectives are aligned?

        “Red States Are Leading the Way in Renewable Energy”

    • SpringTexan says:

      Both the below pieces are good takes. The establishment Democrats think all they need is “better messaging” and to kick real liberals in the teeth – they looooove hippie-punching and still expect to own the hippies:
      Now, progressives in the party are further alienated. Good luck getting them to vote for Democrats. No matter how many people may have insisted that Ellison/Perez wasn’t a replay of Sanders/Clinton, it’s impossible to deny that in some ways it was. The progressives needed to receive some kind of gesture. And they have received one: an enormous middle finger.
      Former president Barack Obama, whose legacy is being rapidly dismantled by President Donald Trump and a Republican Party dominating all levels of government, was instrumental in the election of Tom Perez as the new head of the Democratic Party. …Obama, whose presidency oversaw a catastrophic collapse in electoral power for Democrats, and who paved the way for Hillary Clinton as the failed Democratic presidential nominee, has publicly expressed his intent to continue to direct the party now that he is out of office…. In post-election exit interviews, Obama made clear that he intends to maintain control over the Democratic Party, whose problems he perceives to be rooted in messaging failures, not policy weaknesses. He told Rolling Stone that it would be “incorrect” to conclude that the Obama administration neglected rural or working-class communities; instead the discontent is a result of a “communications” problem to be solved by a new “common story” and then “figuring out how do we attract more eyeballs and make it more interesting and more entertaining and more persuasive.” Obama told NPR and David Axelrod that his post-presidency plan is to focus on “developing young Democratic leaders” to continue the same policies as his administration but with a better messaging approach to ex-urban and rural voters.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    “Privately funded infrastructure” is a contradiction in terms.

    Tax deduction-based savings overwhelmingly benefit the top 1%, sometimes extending to the top 20%. By design, that leaves 80-99% of Americans with nothing, even though they paid for those benefits through the mechanism of foregoing the tax revenue that will pay for them.

    Cutting federal revenue is also an aim of Trump’s quest to add 10% to an already bloated defense/aggression budget. (All of it virtually unaccountably spent, thanks to a supine Congress.) While spending more, Mr. Trump would starve the rest of government. A classic twofer. You’d think he was selling fast food “chicken” parts that were only half chicken.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Mr. Trump’s brief statement of what Americans fear may have been correct.  But as you say, his analysis of the source of those fears was wildly inaccurate.  In that, establishment Dems will back him.  They are as much involved in the reasons for the vulnerability of average Americans as Republicans.  We do need competing voices that better articulate our real fears and what causes them.  We won’t hear them from those currently in power.

  7. scribe says:

    Well said, EW, and your points have a lot of force.  They might even work.  But right now, the Democrats have a pair of problems.

    First, they’ve descended into a competitive downward spiral of fear-mongering, at each step trying to outdo the Republicans in scaring people to voting for them, or against the Republicans.   This is not dissimilar to the way, in the 80s, the Dems tried to out-tough the Republicans on crime, the result being the 1986 crime bill (that gave us the notorious crack-powder coke disparity, to highlight just one shining legislative turd, and eliminating both bail and sentencing discretion, for two more).  And it’s reminiscent of the 90s, when the Dems “ended welfare as we know it” (out-Rethugging the Rethugs), enacted the Prison Litigation Reform Act (gutting habeas and recourse to federal court for prisoners’ abused by the system) (Slick Willie signed that), the AEDPA (Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act – further gutting habeas and giving the feds all sorts of relatively-unneeded new crimes to prosecute)(Slick Willie, again), and drove a stake through both Glass-Steagall and ended effective private regulation of securities fraud (the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act, passed over Slick Willie’s veto, sponsored by Chris Dodd.  Votes in favor of override, i.e., to pass it:  Ted Kennedy, Carol Mosely Braun, Tom Harkin, Claiborne Pell….).  And the opiate problem?  Remember, OcyContin came on the market during Slick Willie’s administration, and came quickly to market to help the company’s finances, etc., in the face of concerns that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea.  And then it wasn’t withdrawn until the maker had amortized its investment (and found a less-abusible substitute).  And so on.

    During the Second Bush’s terms, in the face of documented torture and war crimes, the Democrats knuckled to Deadeye Dick growling “Go fuck yourself” spiced with a dash of anthrax, to pass the so-called USA PATRIOT Act, roll over on warrantless wiretapping, start a couple self-funding wars that cost a couple trillion dollars so far (being for it before they were against it) and then substitute strongly worded letters for the impeachment they took off the table.  The same House leadership that coughed up that hairball – and wasted the results of the 2006 election and takeover of the House – is still in charge as minority leader.  The rest of the leadership is still there, too, if they’re not raking it in from peddling influence as consultants/lobbyists.

    All the while, the economy and such jobs as existed were being driven down to third-world levels and those voters who usually voted Democratic or sat out were getting ground into dust, dragged from pillar to post by the Dems’ adherence to neoliberal economics and politics.  Along came Obama, who hired to be his VP the Senator from MBNA (who’d given us the 2005 Bankruptcy Act amendments, which made it well nigh impossible for little people to go through Chapter 7 but instead required them to go on a payment-plan in Chapter 13 but only after enduring court-ordered lectures on fiscal responsibility, while allowing derivative counterparties to seize the assets of bankrupts instantly, ahead of and to the exclusion of all others, and before courts got to administer the bankruptcy estates) and proceeded to have Timmy Turbo-Tax foam the runway for the banks with the bodies, lives and homes of people who’d been suckers to believe in the American Dream of Home Ownership and been sold one flavor or another of financial rape disguised as an ARM.  It was no surprise when Jon Corzine, fresh off having a billion-plus of investors’ funds disappear into thin air, came down to Capitol Hill and declined to invoke The Fifth, knowing full well that as a banker, former Democratic governor, and contributor he stood no chance of being charged, let alone enduring the indignity of spending even a day in custody.  And Obama’s DoJ was busy working out plea deals over government officials’ crimes, then re-working them to avoid the ugliness of putting a government official in prison, even for a day.  OTOH, Obama’s DoJ showed no reticence when it came to prosecuting people who contributed to John Edwards’ campaign (Gerry Spence’s last trial, an acquittal) nor to keeping in office a Republican US Attorney in NC just so he could prosecute Edwards himself (US Attorneys’ jobs are prime patronage plums, reserved for lawyers who raise a hell of a lot of money for the campaign.  Ask Chris Christie – that’s how he got it.  Keeping someone from the opposite party in one is pretty much unheard of.).  For that matter, IIRC the only significant pols Obama’s DoJ prosecuted were Democrats, for getting out of line with O.  Ask Bob Menendez – a big fundraiser for the party who disagreed with Obama on policy matters and was promptly indicted, causing a coming S.Ct. case on the Speech and Debate Clause.

    The atrocities went on.  Willie told unions and working class people that the Democrats’ future did not lie with them, preferring to go for scotch, cigars, yadda yadda with the banksters, or at least letting the banksters run wild so long as they kept the campaign funds flowing.  Obama insulted those same people with his crack about bitter people clinging to guns and religion;  even today if you get out of the cities you’ll see a lot of t-shirts worn which express the wearer’s pride in being and doing just that.  Clinton the Second had a rural outreach coordinator for her campaign.  One.  In Brooklyn.  And she made it very clear that she intended to not only continue but also to amp up the very policies of Obama and Willie which had led to the economic privation and more.

    Yeah, people are angry.  People outside the DC Beltway and I-287 in NJ and NY have not been doing too well lately, are getting fucked, and know it.  They aren’t happy about it.

    In Trump, a lot of them decided that HRC and the Democratic Establishment were the devil they knew and, moreover, that they wanted no part of that devil.  Charlie Brown and the Football no more – the Dems had pulled that stunt one time too many.

    Just yesterday, there was an article on Yahoo News addressing the core of the problem by way of reporting on the election of a new DNC chair.  To paraphrase the headline “Dems choose losing over letting the Left lead”.  The Dems are too stuck on – addicted to – raking in Big Money from the very wealthy, the same people who have both instigated most of the policies the average American is getting screwed over by, the same people who’ve benefitted most by it.  The money flows in, gets spent and spread to all sorts of apparatchiks and does nothing other than result in policies which further tighten the Patriciate’s death grip on the necks of average Americans.  And, given the DNC has again chosen a friend of the banksters over even a hint of the Left, not a damn thing will change for the better.

    • SpringTexan says:

      Thanks. Your analysis is spot on about the Democrats and fear-mongering. And other things. We have to see the reality for what it is amid the fog of competing false narratives.

  8. Ed Walker says:

    Democrats are hamstrung on the major issue you cite: disinvestment in the US. It isn’t the government that led this flight, it was the rich and their corporations and their pet CEOs and CFOs. They saw increased profits from using cheap foreign labor and gifts from China and Taiwan. They used their pet congressionals to pass laws making it safe to invest overseas, and  to insure there would be military force to back them up. They used lobbyists to get bureaucrats to shape regulations to ease their moves abroad.

    Trumpy blames politicians but they are the followers trying to get money for reelection, not the driving force. Trumpian solutions leave the pirate class free to plunder around the world, and make it easier to steal from their fellow citizens.

    Democrats are hamstrung because they too support the rich at the expense of everyone else. It’s their explicit policy to raise money from the people who plunder. They haven’t changed anything after a string of humiliating defeats.

    Bernie shows that there is another funding model. Democrats can’t figure it out.

    • GKJames says:

      “Democrats … too support the rich at the expense of everyone else.” Could that be for a different reason, though? For decades they were vilified as Communists whenever they proposed something that wasn’t in line with tenets of unfettered capitalism. Had they not moved to the center, what traction would they’ve been able to generate in terms of winning elections? Add the fact that running for and staying in office is expensive because the country refuses to switch to publicly financed campaigns, Democrats are effectively compelled to cater to their paymasters, who tend to be the business community because that’s where the money is. Had Democrats over the years been assured that they could legislate consistent with their worldview without risk of getting hammered from the right, there might well have been more legislation in favor of main street. In other words, Democratic politicians, like all politicians, were following the market, i.e., an aging electorate moving to the right, rather than leading. And then the electorate turned on them, even though policies in favor of “everyone else” are now even more remote.

      • that guy says:

        Would suggest you reconsider this in light of the seemingly-permanent majority in Congress the Dems held after the New Deal.  The Dems were a minority in the house for all of five cycles between 1931 and the end of Reagan’s presidency.  In the same period, the Dem party failed to control the Senate for six years.  That doesn’t sound like a party that can’t win elections on the basis of their positions.  Moreover, they still get hammered from the right.  Clinton’s Triangulation moved the Dems into moderate Republican territory, fragmented the Republican party of the time, and pretty much led to the right wing of politics going nuts.  Moving rightward didn’t stop criticism, it moved the entire political discussion in the country.

    • Ed Walker says:

      While I think there GK James might be right about the reasons the Dems moved to the center, there was no need to cave completely to the rich. And now there is absolutely no reason to cave. First, the repubs are horribly unpopular. Second, Obama raised hundreds of millions from ordinary people; so did Bernie in 2016. Even HRC raised more than $100 million in small contributions, and that doesn’t include a lot of contributions just over the line for small contributions.

      Dems don’t need campaign finance reform. They need better candidates and a program othat caters to small contributors.

  9. GKJames says:

    I suppose. But isn’t the risk here — a risk reflected in headlines around the world along the lines of the president’s having shown “softened edges” — of expectations diminished to such a degree that, hey, he didn’t hurl insults at a particular (and vulnerable) group of people, so he’s now legitimately presidential? That his “narrative of disinvestment” may be true doesn’t change the fact that he’s (i) been part of a political and social dynamic that participated in it; and (ii) not proposed anything remotely tangible and realistic about changing that. In other words, it was the usual performance art (enhanced, unfortunately, by the widow who elected not to let personal grief get in the way of being a political prop). As for his offering a solution, “even if [it] will not actually solve the problem,” that’s both true — the essence of the guy is to offer solutions in search of problems — and beside the point in that, by definition, they’re not solutions. More probable is that he and his followers will consider all the positive press (the only thing that concerns them), to be affirmation of his governance. Further, while Democrats have an opportunity to offer an alternative, they continue to show no sign of a coherent, concise (read, understandable to the average distracted citizen), consistent, and substantively meaningful program.

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Excellent comment, Ed. Continuing to marginalize Sanders must be a high priority for establishment Dems, who are as responsible for the problems Trump correctly recognized as are Republicans and their family/corporate patrons. Disinvestment will continue as long as CEO bonuses can be increased by finding the next China. That’s not a personal or personnel problem as much as it is a systemic problem, one comparable to that posed by banksters.

  11. jo6pac says:

    The demodogs could really improve their lot but won’t because the elite in charge can’t see they did anything wrong. Nancy P. has already said the party isn’t changing the message from the party because it work so well the first time. It was those dirty hippies (I’m one), Russians, and the fbi that ruined the chosen ones run for potus.

    Here’s a list of things the demodogs blame their failures on. This from a commenter at NC.

    The current potus is nuts but has pence as vp and we now he’s a complete sell out.

  12. Evangelista says:


    It appears to need to be pointed out that “disinvestment in America” includes domestic “disinvestments”, such as, for examples, bankers and investors creating a middle-class foundationed credit economy and then manipulating, Ponzi-ing, confidence-gaming and insurance-frauding to destroy the fundamental economic foundation they structured for that credit economy to cause massive manipulated-into-receivership disruption in the manipulated to credit-economy middle class and large scale foreclosing, and then injection of capital into a favored financial sector upper class to permit that class to pick up the manipulated into foreclosure-sale ex-middle class properties for elite ‘investment ownership’, to be rented back to the middle class shorn of ownership and so ‘disinvested’ from what was, previously, their properties, movements of employment opportunities ‘offshore’ to minimize employer responsibilities and employee costs and maximize elite ‘global’ investor profits, and curbing domestic relief program distributions to ex-middle class domestic consumers (making them ex-consumers) while diverting the “savings” generated by such domestic relief curbings to foreign excursion spending.

    [for an example of the last, the state of Maine is currently boasting having curbed SNAP benefits previously provided to able-bodied persons whe are not employed, eliminating 9,000 from SNAP rolls.  No new employments were generated to provide alternative food-buying incomes to the 9.000, which means the SNAP curbing removed the amounts the eliminated SNAP beneficiaries were spending in Maine communities when receiving the benefits.  Assuming, for easy computation, that the average SNAP benefit to each of the eliminated Maine SNAP beneficiaries was $100., the 9,000 would have been, previously injecting $900,000 into Maine’s economy, initially through grocers, primarily, spreading from them, Maine’s “economizing” action has removed that money from the Maine economy.]

    $900,000 freed up from investment in the domestic American economy, made available for spending on military programs, perhaps to finance U.S. bases, and incursions, overseas?


  13. lefty665 says:

    For a long, long time politicians have been using fallen warriors to change the subject from the ugly business of war to the patriotism, the courage, the glory of the fallen, and that we owe them a debt we cannot repay for their ultimate sacrifice.  I remember around 50 years ago Walter Lippman explaining that once Lyndon Johnson evoked the warrior dead it snuffed out any rational discussion of why we were fighting. To question that was to demean the patriotic sacrifice made by courageous warriors dying in defense of their homeland and its people. I expect we could find similar scenarios with Caesar and his Legionnaires, and from there back to the beginnings of warfare and language. Trump certainly did not incite a flood of people demanding to know just what the f*ck we were doing in Yemen anyway.  Instead, the response was mostly that he appeared “Presidential”. T’was ever thus.

    Thank you EW for working on sorting out specific issues for Dems to be championing, and tactics for proceeding.  It is largely thankless work, but must be done. The ongoing Dem tantrums and hysteria since the election, attacking Trump’s every action and comment, are counter productive. There is plenty to be outraged about (and undoubtedly more to come), but every now and then Trump slips in a decent act or simply follows in his predecessor’s footsteps. When that begets umbrage just like the truly outrageous does, all objections become trivialized. Substantive issues and the people arguing them get discounted as just more of the same irrational hysteria. Getting issues sorted out and passing out the occasional “atta boy” will help in organizing an effective opposition. But, to get there the Dems are going to have to come to terms with losing this election by themselves, that their candidates and campaigns have mostly sucked for 25 years, and change their ways. There are few signs they are close to there yet. But that’s another story.




    • Kokuanani says:

      The Dems have had the poor judgment to send out requests for contributions immediately after the Perez fiasco.  Our house has received quite a number.  This has provided an excellent opportunity to return the mailer with nasty comments and indications that no $$$ will be forthcoming — and why.  I hope the DNC et al. are getting a lot of this feedback.  [And I note with regret that I’ve denied myself more such opportunities by unsubscribing to so many in the past.]

      • SpringTexan says:

        That’s my response too, sometimes with a good enclosed article, to any solicitation I get.

  14. mitchell says:

    “We” did not disinvest anything. Our nation’s elite disinvested because avaricious, sociopathic greed, I dunno, compelled them, and the state allowed them if not actively enabled them. Started under St. Ronnie, then Slick Willy made it bipartisan.

    What “we” did was to allow this crap, this hollowing out of our economy.

    All that said, would be tough for the Dems to come up with any scenario that doesn’t sound pretty radical.

    At the very least, a return to New Deal policies would be required. You’d think law’n’order fetishists would like to see it brought down on these financial enemies of the state. But nah, that would be socialism.

    And here we are, and probably will be remaining.

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