DemDaily: The Soft-Sell

March 1, 2017

In the first speech of his presidency before a joint session of Congress, at a critical point in the first 100 days of his presidency, Donald Trump rose to the occasion with an attempt to present a more presidential posture -- but even the speechwriters couldn't hold the Donald back from interjecting his own self-aggrandizement.

His opening reference to Black History Month, his condemnation of recent attacks against the Jewish community, and his statement that "we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms" struck a unifying tone.

He was just 5 minutes into the speech, however, before he launched into an almost biblical narrative about the "rebellion" that rose to elect him.

"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." - Trump on his election

While the uplifting delivery was in stark contrast to the usual temperamental tweeter, the substantive references to his policies were a reminder of the reality we are facing.


Among the list of "accomplishments" and goals, he announced the creation of an office called VOICE (Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement) under the Department of Homeland Security, which is tasked with serving "American victims" of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants (this was met by audible groans from the chamber).

The speech had its moments, however, including the tribute to the widow of fallen Navy Seal Ryan Owen, Carryn Owen, who was in the chamber. Ryan Owen was killed in an intelligence raid in Yemen (which Trump authorized).

Democratic female Members clad in white as a nod to the suffragette movement, and their male colleagues, remained seated for a majority of the speech -- but rose on the subject of bringing jobs back to America, paid family leave, and infrastructure investment.

Rather than list the highlights, we will turn it over to the fact checkers, who have had their work cut out for them in the first 40 days of this administration.


Subject (in order mentioned)
Trump Statement
Fact Check
Border Security and Flow of Immigration into the US "We've defended the borders of other nations while leaving our own borders wide open... It is not compassionate, but reckless to allow uncontrolled entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur." Our borders are guarded by 21,000 Border Patrol agents along with a similar number of Customs and Border Protection officers at the 325 official ports of entry to the US. New York Times
Trade and Manufacturing Labor "We've lost more than one-fourth of our manufacturing jobs since NAFTA was approved" The largest drop in manufacturing jobs is attributed to technological progress, not foreign competition. America's manufacturing output is at the highest level in history - but more jobs are automated.  New York Times
Investment in American Jobs by Corporations "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." Ford, Fiat Chrysler, and Softbank all had these plans to invest in the United States prior to the election of Donald Trump.  Washington Post
Government Expenditures on Aircraft Contracts "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." Trump takes credit for the lowered cost of the F-35 program, but the Pentagon had announced cost reductions of roughly $600 million before Trump began meeting with Lockheed Martin's chief executive.  Washington Post
Cost of Immigration "By finally enforcing our immigration laws we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions and billions of dollars and make our communities safer for everyone." Extensive research shows noncitizens are not more prone to criminality than US-born citizens. In general, economists have found that immigration overall results in a net positive to the U.S. economy. Deportations also cost taxpayer money.  Washington Post
Labor Force Statistics "Ninety-four million Americans are out of the labor force."
An false claim based on a real number. The Bureau of Labor Statistics' monthly survey, known as the Current Population Survey (CPS), shows that, as of January 2016, 94.4 million Americans 16 years and older were "not in the labor force." This number is calculated by subtracting the 159.7 million people in the labor force from the total noninstitutional US population of 254.1 million people = 94.4 million. The BLS data shows that the 94.4 million consists primarily of retirees, students, stay-at-home parents or the disabled.
Washington Post
Foreign Defense Spending "America has spent approximately $6 trillion in the Middle East, all this while our infrastructure at home is crumbling. With this $6 trillion we could have rebuilt our country - twice." The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service said that the Department of Defense estimates the US has spent $1.7 trillion in the Middle East on "war-related activities" from 2001 through Sept. 30, 2016. That includes military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Libya. It is unclear which timeline or area of spending would produce any number approaching $6 Trillion USA Today
Environmental Protection
"My administration wants to work with members of both parties to... promote clean air and clean water"
Just hours before the speech, Trump signed an executive order beginning the rollback of President Obama's 2015 "Clean Water Rule." Trump's budget is reported to propose laying off 20% of the EPA's workforce. USA Today

The Polls

Going into the speech, Gallup showed Trump's Job Approval rating at 42%, the lowest for a modern US president at this point in his administration.

It will be days before we know how the speech may have affected those numbers, but a CNN rapid-response poll following the address showed 7 out of 10 respondents felt "more optimistic about the direction of the country" than they did before the speech.

Tomorrow, however, is another day.

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Kimberly Scott

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