Speaking to Congress But Talking to the Nation

Speaking to Congress But Talking to the Nation

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

As he prepares to speak before a joint session of Congress tonight for the first time, so many people have been calling for the President to address their issue, to straighten out some policy confusion, or to backtrack on some tweet. In all likelihood they will all be disappointed entirely or at least to a degree. The leaks about what Trump will say have flowing for the past 36 hours, just as “La-La-Land” handed over their best picture Oscars to “Moonlight” but no one can rely on what they think he will say.  

Perhaps it is the issue of immigration which began in the campaign, escalated after the election, continued during the transition and erupted during the first five and a half weeks of his presidency which needs the most attention and fixing—immediately. It is clear that racism, prejudice, and discrimination have escalated throughout the country. It began as White anger against Hispanics and other undocumented workers. That was followed by an Executive Order which targeted Muslims from seven countries who were seeking to enter the country legally. It has now morphed into a set of attacks against the history’s longest target of bias, the Jews. There have been a frightening number of anti-Semitic bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers throughout the country and now the desecration of two Jewish cemeteries.  

In addition to the events themselves, they have been accompanied by the absence of a compelling response by the President. These very incidents Trump fails to recognize he has fueled, directly or indirectly. Even more bizarre than his failure to comprehend the ugliness of anti-Semitism until being dragged to read a teleprompter speech, is the fact that he now is suggesting that the telephone threats against JCC’s and the cemetery vandalizing were staged to embarrass him and his Administration by either the groups themselves—the Jews–or by Trump opponents. How effectively he will address the fear and hostility pervading the immigrant community and the scare that is beginning to spread within the Jewish community remains to be seen. Considering how vicious and persistent Trump attacked Obama about his failure to “call-out” radical Muslims, it would seem to be past time for Trump to stop tiptoeing around the growing anti-Semitic activities occurring throughout the country.

It will be interesting to see how or even whether he will address the racial hostility which has developed already only during the first weeks of his tenure in office.

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