The United States is officially getting a new President today. Before Biden takes over, Trump addressed the nation one more time as President to say goodbye.
The bulk of Donald Trump‘s farewell speech (which you can watch for yourself at the link below) is focused on the supposed achievements of the Trump administration. So, let’s break it down.
During the first minute, Trump invokes his infamous slogan “Make America Great Again”. In the same breath, he says, “We did what we came here to do and more.”
This is a questionable statement on many accounts. For example, one of the administration’s major campaigning points was the promise of building a Mexico-funded border wall with the US’ southern neighbor. Trump promised in 2015 and 2016 that the wall would stretch for 1,000 miles (1,600km). But as of January 8, 2021, US Customs and Border Protection stated that the Trump administration had completed 453 miles (just over 700km) of the wall.
So, a few questions can be posed: What did the Trump administration actually come here to do as opposed to what they said they would do? Or, were his promises and statements just stretches of the truth that no politician is a stranger to?
Next, Trump offers well wishes to the upcoming administration. Taken at face value, they seem like a pleasant surprise, but we could also question the phrasing behind them. Trump expresses hope that the next presidency will keep America safe and prosperous – insinuating that he had achieved that, and all the next administration had to do was continue it. At the end, he cryptically states, “We also want them to have luck. A very important word…”
The 45th President goes on to thank his family, members of the administration, and their families. As part of his thanks, Trump invokes what is perhaps a poor choice of wording given the freshness of the Capitol riots. He thanks members of his team who “poured out their heart and soul to fight for America”. He continues, thanking the Secret Service, the US military, and state and local law enforcement. Trump finishes this segment by thanking the American people, especially for the “privilege” given to him by the people to lead them.
If a part of his speech is to be taken to heart, then it is in these quotes:
“We must never forget that while Americans will always have our disagreements, we are a nation of incredible, decent, faithful, and peace-loving citizens, who all want our country to thrive and flourish, and be very, very successful and good.”
[The video briefly cuts to Trump denouncing the Capitol riots and political violence]
“Now more than ever we must unify around our shared values and rise above the partisan.”
He goes on to remember his presidency as the “only true outsider”, that is, non-career politician, to ever hold the office. While all previous presidents held positions either as military members, lawyers, lower-ranking politicians, or a mix of those, Trump did not. Trump got out of military drafts and focused on his career as a trust fund businessman and TV personality (or “builder” as he put it in the speech). But that’s hardly to say that he was the only “outsider”. Many remember Ronald Reagan’s initial career in Hollywood as out-of-the-ordinary in the world of politicians and presidents.
After a series of flowery parallels Trump draws between his work in real estate and his presidency, he talks of leaving his “former life” to enter the “difficult arena” of the presidency. Whether Trump completely left behind his “former life” and businesses during the Presidency, though, is up to debate.
A list of supposed accomplishments
Now we come upon the bulk of the speech: listing off supposed accomplishments.
- “Achieved the greatest economy in the history of the world“
He boasts of his administration achieving “the greatest economy in the history of the world” – a perhaps purposefully hard-to-measure statement, as “greatest economy” could depend on a number of varying indicators and could mean different things in different cultures.
- “Restored a nation existing to serve its citizens“
Trump claims to have restored a nation existing to serve its citizens – certainly a noble and needed principle. There’s no doubt, though, that not nearly all of the nation’s citizens were properly, if at all, served by the nation.
Why is there no doubt? Partly because of the riots that pervaded the year of 2020 in the United States.
“How the state addresses the demands of its people for political reforms and economic welfare as well as how the state uses its coercive force responsibly would matter whether or not it faces revolution”, professor Gizachew Tiruneh stated in a paper titled Social Revolutions: Their Causes, Patterns, and Phases.
Demands of people from across the political, economic, and social spectrum in the US were clearly not met. The Black Lives Matter riots, coupled with the recent Capitol riots, are a testament to that.
Trump goes on to state, “Our agenda was not about right or left, it wasn’t about Republican or Democrat, but about the good of a nation. And that means the whole nation.” Trump’s colorful and varied Twitter insults, recently organized into categories by the New York Times, show that he insulted the following groups, among others: “the public”, “Republicans”, “Democrats”, peaceful protestors (like those who took a knee during the anthem, those who protested the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh as a judge, and some Black Lives Matter protestors), and DACA children.
- “Passed the largest package of tax cuts and reforms in American history”
- “Slashed more job-killing regulations than any administration had done before”
- “Fixed our broken trade deals”
- “Withdrew from the horrible trans-Pacific partnership and the impossible Paris Climate Accord“
- “Renegotiated the one-sided South Korea deal“
- “Replaced NAFTA with the groundbreaking USMCA, that’s Mexico and Canada, a deal that’s worked out very very well”
- “Very importantly, we imposed historic and monumental tariffs on China“
- “Made a great new deal with China“
- “Unlocked our energy resources and became the world’s #1 producer of oil and natural gas, by far”
- “Reignited America’s job creation“
- “Reached record-low unemployment for African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, women, almost everyone”
- “Boosted the retirements and pensions of hardworking citizens”
- “Rebuilt the American manufacturing base“
- “Opened up thousands of new factories“
- “Brought back the beautiful phrase ‘Made in the USA’“
- “To make like better for working families, we doubled the child tax credit“
- “Signed the largest-ever expansion of funding for childcare and development”
- “Joined with the private sector to secure commitments to train more than 16 million American workers for the jobs of tomorrow”
- “Produced not one but two vaccines with record-breaking speed”
The United States’ fast vaccine development for the entire world is, no doubt, a big achievement.
- “Launched the fastest economic recovery our country has ever seen” (following the virus)
- “Passed nearly 4 trillion dollars in economic relief“
- “Saved or supported over 50 million jobs“
- “Slashed the unemployment rate in half”
- “Created choice and transparency in healthcare“
Trump did work to make healthcare more transparent, which is by all accounts a good thing – since many Americans are hit by surprise bills following medical treatment.
- “Stood up to Big Pharma” to get “the lowest prescription prices anywhere in the world“
Trump also attempted to make prescription drugs come at a lower cost for citizens, but his efforts (made late in his term) might not see the light of day. And that could be for the better; taking prescription drugs more easily attainable might be dangerous, given drug addiction problems many states in the nation face. It could also arguably end up making more money for pharmaceutical companies by treating symptoms, as opposed to, searching for and eradicating root causes of diseases.
One point that Trump might have actually exceeded promises on was that of anti-abortion – an important clause to his pro-life supporters but a blow to women fighting for their freedom of choice.
- “Passed VA [Veteran’s Affairs] Choice, VA Accountability, and landmark criminal justice reform“
Criminal justice reform was a huge topic during Trump’s presidency, especially its final year. Trump signed into law the First Step Act, which aims at lowering rates of recidivism and reintegrating inmates into society successfully, along with other minor reforms. Trump used the police, and his supposed love of them, as a major campaigning point. But little was done to keep them accountable for their actions, to minimize hate crimes, and to eradicate unnecessary police violence.
- “Achieved the most secure border in US history“
- “Restored American respect at home and world leadership abroad. The world respects us again“
Does the world respect the United States again, like Trump said? It depends on who you ask. Some EU leaders, who were often at odds with the 45th President, might disagree. But others cite Trump’s success when dealing with world leaders from outside of Europe and the Western world.
- “Reclaimed our sovereignty by standing up for America at the United Nations and withdrawing from the one-sided global deals that never served our interests”
For Trump’s critique of international alliances such as the Paris Climate Accord and NATO, we’ll draw upon these well- and accurately- said words of Business Insider: “There is an underlying truth to Trump’s criticism of NATO that the US spends a significant amount of money and provides an extraordinary amount of resources and manpower to the protection of Europe and Asia. But the US benefits a great deal from this, and US involvement in NATO has long helped it solidify its role as the globe’s leading power.” So, the US both gives and gets from its role as leader.
- “Rebuilt our military“
- “Launched the first new branch of the United States Armed Forces in 75 years: the Space Force“
- “Revitalized our alliances and rallied the nations of the world to stand up to China like never before”
The Trump administration found that China was committing genocide against the Uighurs. This is a paramount step toward other governments recognizing it as such (no one had denounced it so strongly yet), for the Biden administration to take further action, and ultimately, for it to stop and for those responsible to face justice.
- “Obliterated the ISIS caliphate and ended the wretched life of its founder and leader”
- “Stood up to Iran’s oppressive regime and killed the world’s top terrorist, Iranian butcher”
Here Trump stated names, perhaps going back on his idea following the Manchester bombing that occurred at an Ariana Grande concert in 2017/ “So many young, beautiful, innocent people, living and enjoying their lives, murdered by evil losers in life”, Trump had said. “I won’t call them monsters, because they would like that term. They would think that’s a great name. I will call them from now on losers, because that’s what they are. They’re losers. And we’ll have more of them, but they’re losers. Just remember that.” The sobriquet “losers” was met, back then, with mixed reactions.
- “Recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights”
- “Achieved a series of historic peace deals [the Abraham Accords] in the Middle East“, continuing, “It is the dawn of a new Middle East and we are bringing our soldiers home“
- “I am especially proud to be the first President in decades who has started no new wars“
He did not start any wars in the classic sense of the term. This is true, and very important – if perhaps not commendable. Should we really congratulate anyone for successfully not starting a war? Trump did, however, start a trade war with China, and under his administration, members of the public called for Civil War.
- “Reasserted the sacred idea that in America, the government answers to the people“, with the important of serving the “everyday people of America. Our allegiance is not to the special interests, corporations, or global entities”
- “Worked to build a country in which every citizen could find a great job and support their wonderful families“
- “Fought for communities where every American could be safe, and schools where every child could learn“
- “Promoted a culture where our laws would be upheld, our heroes honored“
Notably left off of the list were indigenous Americans, environmental policies, and the social welfare of many groups of people such as disabled citizens. Trump himself confirmed, during the speech, “My top priority as President were American workers and American families”.
The “China virus”
Trump continued to call the COVID-19 the China virus during his speech, a name some call racist, which others say is not racist, citing geographical names for various diseases throughout history (think the Spanish flu, Guinea worm, and German measles).
Economy and jobs, especially blue-collar, were the clear focus here. This is the platform that Trump ran for President on, and won on. His base seemingly consisted of more white, male, and rurally located citizens than Joe Biden‘s did. As for insights into how born-into-money, millionaire-by-the-age-of-eight Trump might have successfully appealed to blue-collar workers, we recommend checking out this Harvard-led academic work.
Trump went on to state that what allows America to succeed has always been a belief in America’s “unyielding and unashamed conviction in the nobility of our country and its unique purpose in history.” America might indeed have a unique purpose in history – but it might be for the exact opposite reasons that Trump listed. America’s historical importance perhaps comes from its ability to recognize and acknowledge its mistakes publicly, to work toward fixing them, to lead other nations in matters of social reform, and, to reevaluate who its heroes are.
Trump calls upon the currently hot topics of “freedom of expression, free speech, and open debate”, saying that political censorship and blacklisting is “not even thinkable” in America. “In America, we don’t insist on absolute conformity or enforced, rigid, orthodoxies and punitive speech codes. We just don’t do that. America is not a timid nation of tame souls who need to be sheltered and protected from those with whom we disagree”, Trump says, likely alluding to his recent exile from large social media platforms, safe space culture, and cancel culture. Some of Trump’s opponents, such as Angela Merkel, spoke out against the censoring actions of social media companies, saying they were “problematic” breaches of the “fundamental right to free speech”.
Free speech is legally governed by the US Constitution to protect citizens against prosecution or discrimination by the US government. This law does not directly apply to private companies such as publishers – who reserve their own legal rights. Then there’s the infamous Section 230. This is a law that provides legal immunity to internet services for content posted on the internet. If social media functions as a public forum, for example, then it would not be subject to liability for content posted on it – but in essence, it should allow all free speech on it. However, with Twitter monitoring certain user’s actions, the question is raised whether it has started to function as a publisher and not a public forum – and which it should be treated as. We shouldn’t give Twitter, a for-profit with its own private interests, the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s acting out of goodness.
Free speech always comes with its limits – boundaries can relate to slander, classified information, public security, and more. Free speech on and off the internet will likely continue to be a hot topic worldwide. Legal action regarding hate speech, for example, is a topic of debate in Norway and other places. Some argue that hate speech should be illegal, while some say it’s hard to define and therefore subject to uncertainties, while others say it should be legal and its users should be subject to societal sanctions but not legal sanctions.
Continuing on the topic of “freedom” Trump says that it was freedom that drove “millions of everyday citizens to set out across a wild continent and carve out a new life in the great West”. This call upon manifest destiny is perhaps one of the lousiest parts of the entire speech. It belittles America’s original settlers, indigenous peoples, which Trump consistently did throughout his Presidency, too.
Overall, there seem to have been few high points to match the low points in this farewell. What did you think of Trump’s farewell speech? Let us know in the comments.
The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Norway Today unless specifically stated.
Source: #Norway Today, #NorwayTodayNews
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