Tuesday, February 05, 2019

The Trumps' State of The Union Guests - What Do They Tell Us?

The White House has announced 13 guests of the President and First Lady will attend the State of the Union.  It's a great way to have viewers connect to the speech, but is there any real substance to it?  This post is mostly based on the optics and descriptions the White House is presenting us, though I've done a little bit of further research.  The descriptions are taken from the White House announcement though a couple are abbreviated,)

From the pictures and names in the WH release there are:
  • 9 whites
  • 1 hispanic
  • 3 blacks  (two of whom are former criminals saved from prison by God &Trump)
  • 6 women (all of whom are there because they are victims of crime, drugs, or illness)
  • 7 men (Four are police or military related, one an ex-con saved by God, one business man, one bully victim kid named Trump)

Let's look at the messages Trump is sending out:

  1. Three generations of women relatives of Gerald and Sharon David of Reno, Nevada, who were tragically murdered in their home in Nevada by an illegal immigrant in January 2019.  [MESSAGE:  Illegal Immigrant Menace - We need a wall.  But   his crime only happened in January 2019, The suspect has not yet been charged with murder according to Snopes which calls this claim "unproven." Alternate message; Guilty without a trial.]
  2. In 1996, he was sentenced to 35 years in prison for selling crack cocaine and other related offenses. While in prison, Matthew found God, completed more than 30 bible studies, became a law clerk, taught GED classes, and mentored fellow inmates. On January 3, 2019, Matthew was the first prisoner released as a result of the First Step Act.  [MESSAGE:  I guess this is to the religious right and perhaps African-Americans.  See more about the First Step Act below.*]
  3. At 9 years old, Grace was diagnosed with Germinoma, a germ-cell brain tumor, and in May 2018, Grace started cancer treatment. Throughout the rest of the year, Grace stayed positive and strong, making the rounds in the hospital, cheering up other patients, and always having a smile for the many caring medical professionals who treated her. [MESSAGE:  A feel good "child beats cancer with a smile" story.  She was a NY Jets honorary captain in August 2019]
  4. Ashley Evans has struggled with opioid and substance abuse for much of her life.  In 2017, she was pregnant and suffered a relapse. Her recovery began with the birth of her daughter along with the help of Brigid’s Path, a medical care facility in Kettering, Ohio. Ashley has persevered and overcome many obstacles to maintain her sobriety.  [MESSAGE:  Not sure.  A recognition  of the opioid crisis?  A nod to Ohio, a swing state? BTW, Brigid's Path has not been rated by Charity Navigator, because, "7 years of full IRS Forms 990 are needed to complete a rating"
  5. Elvin Hernandez is a Special Agent with the Trafficking in Persons Unit of the Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Investigations division. He has more than 18 years of Federal law enforcement experience investigating narcotics, gangs, and human trafficking. During his current 7-year assignment, Elvin has conducted numerous successful international human trafficking investigations involving transnational organized crime groups. [MESSAGE: Homeland Security is vital to your safety and we can check off Hispanic on the list.]
  6. Roy James is the Plant Manager of the Vicksburg Forest Products lumber facility. He had worked at the sawmill for 26 years and become Vice President of Operations when he was told that the facility would close its doors. Thankfully, last year, Vicksburg was designated an Opportunity Zone through provisions in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The plant soon reopened and Roy was hired to oversee the entire facility. [MESSAGE: Trump is creating jobs, putting people back to work.  Another nod to African-Americans.  See more below**]
  7. Timothy Matson joined the Pittsburgh Police Department in 2005 and made the SWAT team in 2016. As a key member of the SWAT team, he would breach the entrance during raids, a very dangerous task. In October 2018, Tim responded to the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue. He suffered multiple gunshot wounds and saved countless lives in that heinous, anti-Semitic attack. [MESSAGE:  Police are our heroes.  And an indicator that Trump is against hate?]
  8. Judah Samet is a member of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. In October 2018, he survived the horrific shooting that killed 11 members of his community. Judah is also a survivor of the Holocaust. Judah immigrated to Israel after the war and was present for the declaration of the Israeli State in 1948. He served as a paratrooper and radio man in the Israeli Defense Forces and moved to the United States in the 1960s. [MESSAGE:  There's nothing here to suggest this is an anti-gun thing.  Probably, I like Israel.]
  9. Joshua Trump is a 6th grade student in Wilmington, Delaware. He appreciates science, art, and history. He also loves animals and hopes to pursue a related career in the future. His hero and best friend is his Uncle Cody, who serves in the United States Air Force. Unfortunately, Joshua has been bullied in school due to his last name. He is thankful to the First Lady and the Trump family for their support. [MESSAGE:  The left is a bunch of bullies.]
  10. Tom Wibberley is the father of Navy Seaman Craig Wibberley, a Seaman killed on the U.S.S. Cole. Craig grew up in Williamsport, Maryland, and enjoyed fly fishing, snow skiing, and working with his father on old Corvettes. He had a passion for computer science and decided to join the Navy to serve his country and pursue an opportunity to further his training in computers. Craig served aboard the U.S.S. Cole with distinction and was accepted to the Navy Information Technician School. His commander planned to recommend him for Officer Candidate School. However, on October 12, 2000, Craig and 16 fellow members of the crew were killed in a terrorist attack. [MESSAGE:  Thank you for your service.]
  11. President Trump granted Alice Johnson clemency on June 6, 2018. Alice had been serving a mandatory life sentence without parole for charges associated with a nonviolent drug case. During her nearly 22 years of incarceration, Alice accomplished what has been called an “extraordinary rehabilitation.” [MESSAGE:  I listen to my friend Kim Kardashian who said I should do this one.]
So, the men are mostly John Wayne hero types, except for a Black con who was released by Trump and a young kid bullied because his name is Trump.  The women are highlighted for their victimhood.  Not their achievements.   There's a Hispanic hero, but there are three women victims of illegal immigrant crime to balance that off.

Just introducing this group will take up probably 20 minutes alone.  It's going to be a long night.  

*The First Step Act - passed and was signed into law in December 2018.  The Brennan Center notes:
While still President-Elect, Trump nominated Jeff Sessions, a vocal critic of any reduction to the U.S. prison population, to be the nation’s chief law enforcement officer. Nonetheless, Grassley and Durbin reintroduced the SRCA again in October 2017 and navigated it through committee in early 2018. The bill looked poised to stall once again due to vocal opposition from Sessions.
But the momentum started to pick up in early 2018, when the White House brokered the Prison Reform and Redemption Act, a bipartisan bill aimed at improving conditions in federal prisons. This bill, which was renamed the FIRST STEP Act after some modest improvements were added, still lacked any meaningful sentencing reform component, meaning it would have done little to reduce the prison population. For the White House, that was part of the appeal: Republican leaders believed that SRCA’s sentencing reform provisions made it a nonstarter among conservatives. But because of that, the Brennan Center and a coalition of more than 100 civil rights groups opposed the bill, arguing that the votes were there for sentencing reform — if only Republican leaders would put a bill on the floor. Nonetheless, the FIRST STEP Act passed the House of Representatives by a wide margin of 360 to 59.  [You can read more at the link, how some Republicans worked hard to block this law.]

**Vicksburg, Mississippi Industrial Wood Products plant.  A timber industry journal, Timber Processing,  notes that this North Carolina company is taking over an existing facility in Vicksburg and credits $220,000 in assistance from Mississippi.  It doesn't mention any federal help, though Vicksburg did qualify for opportunity zones.   

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