Opinion: President Donald Trump’s Oval Office speech yet another spin of broken record

By Kassie Boyd, editor-in-chief

Kassie Boyd, Editor-in-Chief

President Donald Trump began his first televised Oval Office speech in January with claims of “a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border.” The speech attempted to justify the 35-day partial government shutdown that left thousands of workers without pay, and reiterated his demands for a border wall between the United States and Mexico.

Simply put, there is no crisis along our southern border. According to a Border Security Metrics Reports compiled by the Department of Homeland Security in 2018, illegal border crossing apprehensions in 2017 were the lowest they’d been since 1971. That same report reveals that undetected illegal border crossings have dropped by approximately 800,000 from 2006 to 2016.

Though Trump’s claim that ninety percent of heroin enters the United States through our southern border is technically true, a 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment done by the D.E.A. revealed that most of this heroin is smuggled in cars via legal ports of entry, and physical barriers are already present in sectors with the highest percentage of heroin seizures.

The real crisis is not along the border but rather in the White House. On Jan. 25, President Donald Trump ended the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. Approximately 800,000 federal workers labored without pay or were furloughed, and while the majority will be compensated, many relied on the regular income to support themselves and families.

However, federal workers are not out of the woods yet. The bill signed by President Trump offered Congress an ultimatum: “If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on Feb. 15, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and Constitution of the United States to address this emergency.”

The American people have made abundantly clear that they value the wages of workers above a steel barrier. When asked about Trump’s next move, a poll conducted by CNBC revealed that 66 percent of Americans believed Trump should allow the government to reopen – even without proper funding for his wall.

In an age of unprecedented technological advancements, a wall is perhaps the least effective way to defend the border. House Democrats offered one generous deal after another. They even matched Trump’s $5.7 billion dollar border security budget provided that the money goes towards immigration judges and drones rather than a wall – though it was struck down by the Senate.

What President Trump has painted as Democrats’ unwillingness to compromise is nothing more than his inability to concede and explore other, more functional solutions.

Opinion: Why the Wall is necessary, not discretionary

By Kaitlyn Kozalla, features editor, and Dustin Steiger, A&E editor

In January, President Trump addressed the American people and the world from the Oval Office. During this address, he tackled the topic of the government shutdown, which started on December 22 and lasted over a month, and how the much-anticipated “wall” plays a role in the crisis on the southern border.

Features editor Kaitlyn Kozalla and A&E editor Dustin Steiger

President Trump commented on illegal immigration saying, “America proudly welcomes millions of lawful immigrants who enrich our society and contribute to our nation. But all Americans are hurt by uncontrolled, illegal migration. It strains public resources and drives down jobs and wages.” Approximately one million legal immigrants are accepted into the United States each year, while somewhere between 11.3 million to 22 million illegal immigrants are estimated to currently reside in our nation’s prosperity. The fact of the matter is, illegal immigration hurts hard-working Americans, burdens taxpayers, and undermines public safety.

America was always meant to be a land of opportunity, not of undeserved advantages. You have the ability to better yourself, not the right to have what you haven’t earned. This is one reason why the wall is such a crucial aspect to the betterment of our nation. As more and more impoverished immigrants flood in- many of whom who either provide little economic benefit to our society or who thrive on welfare, as made evident by the statistics provided by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) – the general condition of our economy and our society will naturally face a decline. An estimated $116 billion is spent annually due to the effects of illegal immigration, a statistic provided by the Federation for American Immigration Reform. According to the CIS, “Each illegal alien costs nearly $70,000 during their lifetime.” Now, consider this; Trump wants to raise between 5 to 6 billion dollars on the wall. Even if the wall did a terrible job and only stopped around 85,000 illegal immigrants in its entire lifetime, the wall would still pay for itself.

As for the notion that those coming illegally are merely looking for safety and sanctuary, the Mexican government has offered them this. How did they respond? By attacking the Mexican authorities and continuing their march towards the States. They aren’t merely here for protection. They’re coming for the supposedly “free” benefits our nation works hard for, and they don’t care how they get them. Thus, the hard-working citizens of America are forced to fund criminals. They refuse to follow the procedure and instead flood in illegally, many bringing with them drugs and violence. According to Kevin McCarthy, the Republican Leader in the House of Representatives, a third of the women in the caravan have been raped or “violently treated,” and yet, many Americans still don’t see this as a threat. Then, of course, there’s the issue of drug trafficking. As President Trump said in his address, ”Every week, 300 of our citizens are killed by heroin alone, 90 percent of which floods across from our southern border. More Americans will die from drugs this year than were killed in the entire Vietnam War. . . Thousands (of) more lives will be lost if we don’t act right now. This is a humanitarian crisis, a crisis of the heart, and a crisis of the soul.”

Obviously, not all of those crossing the border illegally are violent and aggressive. There are some that are hard-working and will put in the effort to help themselves and our society. However, there are many who aren’t so noble and conscientious. We want to help and to protect, but we simply cannot allow just anybody and everybody to enter without consequences. What does this mean? It means that action must be taken. Ignoring the situation at hand and turning a blind eye to this continuously evolving threat serves only to degrade and destroy our nation. Years ago, President Obama himself said that “we simply cannot allow people to pour into the United States undetected, undocumented, unchecked.” Border security is not merely an option or a last resort. Republicans and Democrats alike agree that it’s a necessity, an essential aspect to the defense of our sovereign land and the safety of our people. It’s not partisan politics; it’s plain and simple protection. The government reopened on Jan. 25 of this year, but the threat still looms. If the situation continues down its current path, it’ll be up to the President to declare a national emergency in order to safely preserve our nation’s sovereign glory.

Column: President’s visit reinforces the ‘Divided States of America’

By Taylor Munce, sports editor

(Note: This is the third in a three-part series on the Trump rally in Erie on Oct. 10.)

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Taylor Munce, sports editor, The Panther Press

President Donald Trump came to Erie for a rally focused on promoting his campaign and fellow Republicans. Thousands of supporters, as well as many protesters, took to the streets of Erie to share their beliefs. I came as a journalist for the Panther Press and to experience how a Trump rally would feel for a Democrat like me. My experience can mostly be summed up in one word: uncomfortable.

The first person I interviewed was a protester. The woman was very pleasant when my colleague Dustin Steiger asked her opinion of the president. She calmly stated why she was upset with the president, citing things like his racism, sexism, and bigotry.

The next thing I encountered was getting to skip the long line of supporters trying to get in. Showing our press credentials, Dustin and I were instantly admitted and security checked us for any metals. Personally, I found this to be refreshing as I was panicking a few hours before about security and safety. I was worried about the possibility that I might be involved in a violent affair, such as the ones I’ve witnessed on television, where people have actively heckled and threatened journalists covering the event, many times at the urging of the president who has called them “dangerous and sick” and “the enemy of the people.

As soon as I arrived at the press area, I took note of my surroundings. Among the journalists present were reporters from the Washington Post, Fox News, the Erie Times-News, the Meadville Tribune, and many others. It was exciting to be in the midst of so many professional journalists from so many outlets. I also noticed the overhead display that flashed messages for those in attendance.

“If there is a protestor, simply hold your sign above your head and shout TRUMP TRUMP TRUMP. Do NOT touch the protestors and the police will take them out.” I found this unsettling. Though it may seem reasonable to President Trump, shouting at protesters does not seem like a good choice. Yelling in general does not get through to people as it causes chaos and misunderstandings, and angry people say things they later regret. Though I did not witness any protesters being removed, if this situation had occurred, I would have wanted to leave due to the mayhem that could have erupted and quickly become violent.

The overhead display also proclaimed: “Trump wants to protect your First Amendment along with your Second Amendment rights.” Of course, the First Amendment protects speech and the Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms; however, it is well known that this president commonly refers to members of the press as  “enemies of the people.” I spoke to Paul Farhi of the Washington Post about this issue: “We are not the enemy of the people. We are the friend of the people. I believe that he [Trump] likes the attention; it helps his campaign. He only says things like that because it riles them [supporters] up,” Fahri said. It seems contradictory for President Trump to claim that he protects First Amendment rights, even though he himself cannot seem to accept that media outlets have the right to publish whatever they want.

During the rally, Trump emphasized that he isn’t focused on “putting money into Washington’s pocket.” This claim seems interesting in light of the fact that many sources have recently reported that Trump himself has already raised more than $100 million for his 2020 campaign.

Then he claimed that Democrats “are a party of crime” and they “only act out of anger and rage.” He mentioned them banging on the doors of the Supreme Court after Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed as an Associate Justice, and he claimed that Democrats don’t like the “principles this country was made on.” Shortly after this, he stated that he loves “all of America.” How can this be true if he condones and encourages hatred against an entire political party? More Americans voted for Hillary Clinton (about 2.9 million), but Trump won the election due to the electoral college vote. What about those 65,845,063 Americans who voted for Hillary Clinton? Does President Trump love them too? And if he does, then why demonize them and their party by calling them the “party of crime”?

At each mention of the Democrats or anyone closely related to them, the crowd would boo and Trump would nod in agreement. Now, it’s fine to disagree with people, but spreading hate in order to push your agenda is ridiculous, especially when both parties came together to create the principles our democracy was founded upon.  

There may not have been parties exactly like we have today when the Constitution was written, but the seeds of agreement and dissent that have made America great and led to compromise and progress were present, and to speak so negatively of those who disagree with you seems unnecessary.

Prior to the president’s arrival, Glenn Thompson, U.S. Representative for Pennsylvania’s 5th congressional district, said: “That’s what Americans do. We stand up for each other.” If that is what Americans do, then why is it that we are at a war with each other when it comes to politics, race, and gender, just to name a few divisive issues?

There were also instances during his speech where Trump encouraged his audience that they needed to vote an all Republican Senate. That seems odd to me, too. If it’s understood that not everyone can get along, then how would having an all Republican Senate reflect the country? If senators were all from the same party, would the United States turn into an oligarchy? If this were to happen, only the laws Republicans wanted would pass, and this would most decidedly not reflect the will of the people.  

In the midst of all this uncomfortable rhetoric, there were two moments where I felt positively connected to the people in the arena. One was the praying for those in the path of Hurricane Michael and the other was the honoring of veterans. All veterans were asked to stand up as everyone honored and praised them for their service. Pennsylvania Senator Michele Brooks said, “It’s because of them that we can be here today and that we can enjoy the freedom we have today.” Even though I disagree with most of what the candidates said at this event, I will admit that it was very fulfilling to have the veterans recognized for their service and to know that we were united in praying for those affected by the hurricane.

When the rally ended, I felt unsettled. Although I gained valuable insight into how to cover a political event, I was left feeling as though I was not wanted in the arena due to my opposing political views. In fact, I left feeling like the president should not be making people like me feel so disconnected. As the President of the United States of America, he should be uniting, not dividing, all Americans.