Rep. Justin Amash (R–Mich.) reacted today to Donald Trump's State of the Union address, praising the president in some areas but criticizing him in others.
In an early morning Twitter thread, Amash first noted that "there were two outstanding lines in" the president's address. One was: "America was founded on liberty and independence—not government coercion, domination, and control." The other: "Great nations do not fight endless wars."
Both were indeed highlights of Trump's address. The first line came as he discussed the dangers of socialism. "Here, in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country," Trump said. "We are born free, and we will stay free. Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country." Trump's words seemed to have brought a frown to the face of democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.), as I pointed out last night.
The other line Amash mentioned, about "great nations" not fighting "endless wars," was also a whopper. As Reason's Christian Britschgi noted yesterday, that line came more than a month after Trump ordered the sudden withdrawal of 4,000 U.S. troops fighting the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria. "As we work with our allies to destroy the remnants of ISIS, it is time to give our brave warriors in Syria a warm welcome home," Trump said last night.
The president has also said he will pull 7,000 U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, where the administration is holding peace talks with the Taliban. "As we make progress in these negotiations, we will be able to reduce our troop presence and focus on counterterrorism," Trump said in his address. "We do know that after two decades of war, the hour has come to at least try for peace."
Trump's sentiment in that area was also praised by Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.), who on Monday criticized bipartisan support for a Senate bill condemning Trump's plans to withdraw troops from both Middle Eastern countries. "I applaud @realdonaldtrump for delivering an America First vision which included getting out of Afghanistan after almost two decades of being at war," Paul tweeted last night. "We must stop our endless wars and focus on rebuilding at home."
Amash wasn't completely happy with Trump's speech, claiming he was "hit or miss" when it came to foreign policy. But on the whole, Amash was pleased Trump recognized the need "to bring our forces home from Syria and Afghanistan."
"One war was never authorized, and the other has gone on for far too long," Amash said.
Outside of foreign policy, Amash did credit Trump for denouncing "the destructive politics of partisanship," though he explained that Trump has "been anything but nonpartisan":
The president rightly denounced the destructive politics of partisanship. Unfortunately, he's been anything but nonpartisan (see tweets). Americans deserve principled representation and honest policy debates, not politicians who incite suspicion, fear, and hatred of "the others."
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) February 6, 2019
The Michigan representative didn't have a whole lot to say about Trump's remarks on trade (The president defended his decision to place tariffs on Chinese goods and asked Congress to pass a bill that would increase his authority to implement more tariffs.) Amash did, however, recommend that Trump read the works of economists Henry Hazlitt and Frédéric Bastiat:
As for the president's policies on trade and tariffs, I have a couple book recommendations for him: pic.twitter.com/RvAOjXnPxk
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) February 6, 2019
Amash also criticized Trump for failing to "mention the massive national debt—overwhelmingly the result of reckless spending." It's a fair point. As Reason's Eric Boehm wrote last night, Trump said nothing about the need to rein in federal spending. This despite the fact that the Congressional Budget Office says the federal budget deficit will surpass $1 trillion in 2020. The national debt, meanwhile, hit $22 trillion at the end of 2018. The sort of spending that led to this massive debt "is unsustainable and threatens the prosperity of Americans," Amash wrote.
Finally, Amash praised Trump's words on criminal justice reform, particularly regarding the FIRST STEP Act. "My administration worked closely with members of both parties to sign the FIRST STEP Act into law," Trump said. "This legislation reformed sentencing laws that have wrongly and disproportionately harmed the African American community. The FIRST STEP Act gives non-violent offenders the chance to re-enter society as productive, law-abiding citizens."
While Amash was "pleased" Trump "highlighted" this issue, he noted there's a lot more to be done "to reform the system at both the federal and state levels of government."
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