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September 17, 2019

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brian greenspun:

Where I Stand: State of Union teeters on the brink

The state of our union is … teetering on the brink.

I will assume that a large number of Nevadans watched President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech Tuesday night. I will also assume that the number of Americans who tuned into Rep. Joe Kennedy III’s response was significantly less. And so, as a public service to our readers, I will try to compare and contrast the two speeches.

When President Trump humanized his speech with real-life American stories, he got high marks. When he tried to manipulate my fellow countrymen into believing that he loved the “Dreamers” and hated the Russians, he fell far short.

While it is not a critique of substance but of style, I would suggest to our president that if he wants me to think he is sincere when he says things he doesn’t believe he should, at the very least, look me in the eye. Whether he couldn’t read more than a few words at a time from the teleprompter, or just had an aversion to looking straight into the camera, I don’t think he spent more than a full minute of the 80-minute speech looking into the eyes of America. That’s not very smart for a reality TV star.

Contrast that with the grandson of Bobby Kennedy, who looked us straight in the eye when he spoke about an America that should be united not divided, and that the richest nation in the world “ shouldn’t leave anyone behind,” and the style and sincerity points go to the man who spoke from Fall River, Mass., and not to the fellow speaking to a joint session of Congress.

Kennedy talked about the perilous political times in which we find ourselves. This was before that elementary-school level memo that congressional Republicans conspired with Trump to release on Friday. Release of the memo was opposed by the Department of Justice as well as the FBI because it caused “grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”

Congressman Kennedy said, “Many have spent the last year anxious, angry, afraid. We all feel the fractured fault lines across our country.” He added, “We hear the voices of Americans who are forgotten and forsaken. We see an economy that makes stocks soar, investor portfolios bulge and corporate profits climb but fails to give workers their fair share. A government that struggles to keep itself open. Russia, knee deep in our democracy. An all-out war on environmental protection. A Justice Department rolling back civil rights by the day. Hatred and supremacy proudly marching in our streets. Bullets tearing through our classrooms, concerts and congregations, targeting our safest and sacred places. And this nagging and sinking feeling, no matter your political beliefs, that this is not right, this is not who we are.”

He also said that “this administration isn’t just targeting the laws that protect us, they are targeting the very idea that we are all worthy of protection.”

When Trump tried, unsuccessfully, to convince the nation he had helped to divide that he wanted to unify us, Kennedy proclaimed that “we are all equal, that we all count in the eyes of our laws, our leaders, our God, and our government. That is the American promise.”

He further separated his vision of America from that of our pretend populist of a president when he said, “They are turning American lives into a zero-sum game. Where for one to win, another must lose. … We are bombarded with one false choice after another. Coal miners or single moms, rural communities or inner cities. The coast or the heartland. … So here is an answer that Democrats offer tonight. We choose both.”

Kennedy’s words, his vision and his challenge to Americans soared while those of our president just stumbled from one self-congratulatory sentence to another. While Trump talked about significant progress in fighting America’s enemies overseas, and for which every American should be grateful, he barely, if ever, mentioned the challenges of climate change and the environmental outrages being visited upon our communities by his administration’s callous actions.

The young Kennedy did present a vision worthy of our consideration:

“We choose the thousands of American communities whose roads are not paved with power or privilege, but with an honest effort, with good faith and the resolve to build something better for your kids. That, that is our story. It began the day our Founding Fathers and mothers set sail for a new world fleeing oppression and intolerance. It continued with every word of our independence, the audacity to declare that all men are created equal. An imperfect promise for a nation struggling to become a more perfect union.”

Now, that is the kind of vision delivered with sincerity that can unite our country, rather than the words of our current leader who chooses to divide us.

Two ideas for America while our country teeters on the brink.

There is no guarantee that our democracy or any democracy survives from one century to another. A democracy takes hard work, understanding and the commitment of its people to work every day to make sure that the government of, by and for the people “shall not perish from the Earth.”

Friday, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives and President Donald Trump went to war with the FBI and the Justice Department. Congressman Devin Nunes and every Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee, aided and abetted by the president, released a memo that was intended to do one thing and one thing only: obstruct special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., decried what he claimed was a partisan attack on our nation’s law enforcement agencies.

“The latest attacks on the FBI and the Department of Justice serve no American interests — no party’s, no president’s, only Putin’s,” McCain said. “The American people deserve to know all the facts surrounding Russia’s ongoing efforts to subvert our democracy, which is why special counsel Mueller’s investigation must proceed unimpeded.”

McCain continued, “Our nation’s elected officials, including the president, must stop looking at this investigation through the warped lens of politics and manufacturing partisan sideshows. If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him.”

Today, we find ourselves at a crossroads. Not since the scourge of Joe McCarthy has our democracy been so threatened. McCain, sadly afflicted with a brain tumor, has more courage and intelligence than the speaker of the House, the GOP members of the Intelligence Committee and, yes, the president. They are obstructing the rule of law rather than advancing it.

President Trump said all Americans are dreamers. He should only know what I am dreaming about today.

Brian Greenspun is editor, publisher and owner of the Sun.