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Press Democrat: Sonoma County’s congressmen say President Trump's speech long on promises, short on details

Feb 28, 2017
News Articles

Sonoma County’s two members of Congress said President Donald Trump made expansive promises and talked about spending trillions of taxpayer dollars in a speech Tuesday night that was short on explaining how any of it will be done.

“He made a lot of lofty promises that quite honestly I don’t see how they can be achieved,” said Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, in a telephone interview shortly after the president’s first speech to a joint session of Congress.

Thompson and his colleague, Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, also questioned some of the motives in the chief executive’s prime time address to the nation. Trump’s hourlong speech, punctuated by frequent applause, promised to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, boost national defense and secure the border with Mexico, Thompson said, while noting that Republican lawmakers have declared Trump’s proposed budget “dead on arrival.”

“He never once discussed where we would get the trillions of dollars for these endeavors,” Thompson said.

While giving Trump credit for a “very measured” delivery, reading mostly from a teleprompter, Thompson said he has a “basic trust issue” with what the president says.

The formal speech sounded like hundreds Trump has made before “and he hasn’t stuck to any of them,” Thompson said.

Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, said he had “rarely heard a speech that was so long and so completely devoid of substance and specifics.”

At this point, more than five weeks after his inauguration, the president should “lay out in some detail” how he will achieve his goals, Huffman said. Instead, Trump “just promised a whole bunch of outcomes.” The speech also included some “deflections,” Huffman said, including the lack of comment on allegations that Trump’s campaign staff had inappropriate contact with Russian officials before and after the election, an issue that “is on everyone’s mind” in Washington.

Huffman also saw a self-serving motive in Trump’s lengthy focus on Carryn Owens, the widow of William “Ryan” Owens, the Navy SEAL senior chief petty officer killed in a January raid in Yemen. The president has been faulted for approving the military action, one that critics say was poorly planned — albeit partly while President Barack Obama was in power — and resulted in little intelligence gain.

“Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity,” Trump said, during a tribute that prompted a two-minute standing ovation as Carryn Owens wept and appeared to pray in the visitor’s gallery.

Huffman said he joined in the applause but said Trump was “exploiting a tragedy to sort of change the subject. That left a bad taste in my mouth.”

Both Democrats slammed Trump’s comments on proposed repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, the signature legislative achievement of President Obama.

“It was good campaign fodder, but it had little basis in fact,” Thompson said, noting that Trump said he wants to provide insurance for people with preexisting medical conditions but opposes the mandate that everyone buy insurance.

Without the mandate, Thompson said, you can’t pay for covering preexisting conditions.

“The program works in its whole,” he said. “You can’t just pick out the pieces you like.”

Huffman said the president’s plan was lacking specifics.

“We still have no idea what the replacement plan is or how we’re going to transition to it. We were just told it’s going to be great.” Trump’s speech used the words “great” or “greater” 19 times.