Trump cites common good, but will he seek common ground?

President Donald Trump delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress Feb. 28 in Washington (CNS photo/Jim Lo Scalzo pool via Reuters). President Donald Trump delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress Feb. 28 in Washington (CNS photo/Jim Lo Scalzo pool via Reuters).

In his address to Congress last night, President Donald J. Trump said that “True love for our people requires us to find common ground, to advance the common good and to cooperate on behalf of every American child who deserves a much brighter future.” As with much of his speech last night, this turn toward cooperation was a welcome shift from the more combative and chaotic rhetoric and actions of his first weeks in office. Certainly, Catholics and all people of goodwill can and should welcome a focus on the common good. However, while the opportunities for cooperation must be embraced, some of Mr. Trump’s proposals would clearly undermine the common good and further entrench divisions rather than building common ground.

A focus on education was one of the brightest spots in the speech. Declaring that “education is the civil rights issue of our time,” Mr. Trump followed through on a campaign promise calling for an education bill to fund school choice, especially for disadvantaged and minority students, to allow families “to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school that is right for them.” As proponents of Catholic education, we are heartened by the call for the full inclusion of religious schools in this proposal. For too long, the politics of education reform has been mired in debates over state funding of sectarian schools, often involving constitutional provisions with a deep history of anti-Catholic bias. While school choice is not a panacea, it is a necessary part of the discussion and no reform program would be complete without the involvement of Catholic schools, especially those serving poorer communities.

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Through his education proposals, Mr. Trump shows some willingness to look for common ground.

Through his education proposals, Mr. Trump shows some willingness to look for common ground. Unfortunately, his approach to immigration is still focused on division, rather than unity. Though he called for unity in support of law enforcement, his proposal for an office focused on American victims of crimes by immigrants would only increase and exaggerate fear and division. By further isolating and scapegoating immigrant communities and eroding their trust, it would likely make the mission of law enforcement officers in those communities more difficult and dangerous. Mr. Trump’s suggestion, from the first days of his campaign, that undocumented immigrants are particularly dangerous has never been supported by the facts; neither is this most recent iteration of the theme. As the bishops of the United States have repeatedly argued, real immigration reform has to recognize the dignity of all people and work for solidarity, not only border security. Common ground cannot be built on the basis of fear, and a blindly nationalistic “America First” rhetoric betrays both Christian and American values.

American Catholics know how both supporting Catholic schools and welcoming immigrants help to forge common ground and build up the common good. The task now is to help the nation—and Mr. Trump—recognize that these goods are compatible and interdependent.

These are only two of many proposals in Mr. Trump’s address. All of them need to be more fully fleshed out, including plans for their funding. As this happens, Democrats should be focused on opportunities for genuine, bipartisan cooperation where they exist. Monolithic opposition to Mr. Trump in such cases would only further entrench the dysfunctional combative political rhetoric he has finally turned away from in this speech. While this is not yet reason for celebration, it is reason for hope, which should never be rejected out of hand.

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Lisa Weber
7 months 3 weeks ago

The idea of state support for religious schools sounds nice, but I still oppose it because some religious schools teach creationism instead of science. We need children to be educated in science so they understand the information that underlies public decisions.

J Cosgrove
7 months 3 weeks ago

You might be interested in knowing that all Catholics are creationists. They believe God created the world and man. It is not necessary to believe that God created directly all of life but you must believe God created man who is different from all the other animals in many ways. An aside, there is no known mechanism for the arise of the various life forms over the billions of years of life on our planet. So "God did it" is a reasonable thesis given that it seems almost impossible for natural ways to account for the vast quantity of life.

Also the term "creationism" is one that is vaguely applied to anyone who has religious beliefs in terms of evolution. However, when pressed, those who criticize creationists or creationism will point to YEC's or Young Earth Creationists and not to everyone who believes in God. Yes, a lot of YEC science is driven by their religious/ideological beliefs but so are the beliefs of all atheists which make up most of the science academic community. There is little difference between them in the sense their science beliefs are driven by ideology as opposed to what the evidence says. Both will distort findings to support their ideology.

By the way YEC's can make outstanding doctors as evolution plays a zero part in medicine. YEC's accept modern day genetics which is the basis of much biological change and medicine. The real threat to the understanding of science comes from the dogma driven atheists who refuse to publish anything critical to their way of thinking. For example, most people don't know it but there has never been any evidence of a new species arising due to Darwin's ideas yet nearly everyone in the US and the Western world believes that Darwinian evolution is the mechanism for new life forms. But publishing such a conclusion would send shock waves through the science/education community. So they suppress any dissent to Darwinian evolution.

This doesn't mean that evidence will not be found that supports Darwin, but as of now it is not available. (evidence does exist that shows that minor adjustments to species take place over time and this is well understood but there is zero evidence that any major change to a species took place by Darwinian methods.)

J Cosgrove
7 months 3 weeks ago

I would look to the Democrats for the source of hostility to cooperation. They definitely sat on their hands during the speech and most refused to even shake President Trump's hand during the event. I applaud anyone who upholds their ideological beliefs but if one examines what are the ideological beliefs of Democrats, they are not pretty.

Until the editors/authors on this site can elucidate who can and who cannot enter the country as an immigrant, they should refrain from accusing others of ill will towards immigration. Why don't the editors make a concerted effort to come up with a comprehensive and intelligent immigration program and not just reflexively support anyone who manages somehow to get into the country.

Thomas Farrelly
7 months 3 weeks ago

America's editors will have a very difficult time convincing the Democrats to "seek common ground" or do anything whatsoever to cooperate with the Republican Administration and Congress. The statements of Democratic politicians, the stated opinions of liberal newspapers and blogs, the slow-walking of Presidential appointments, all confirm that the approach of the Democrats is total war. But do keep trying.
As for our "broken" immigration system and the "context" of illegal immigration, I have yet to see a complete and coherent statement of what a proper policy and practice would be, either from America's editors or from any responsible politician who complains about the current laws that are being broken. Recent statements by some Bishops and by some of America's writers clearly imply that the US has no right to keep out anyone who wants to come to the US "to seek a better life", or to deport anyone who has suceeded in doing so. Given the chaos that pervades much of Central America, this implies that virtually its entire population has a right to immigrate to the US. If this is what America's editors think is the right policy, they should say so in clear terms. If it is not their position, then they should clarify what they mean. Is there any limit? Should we accept 100 million Central American immigrants? Or 50 million? Please stop dodging the
issue of the numbers involved and make a clear statement.

Michael Barberi
7 months 3 weeks ago

I think the editors should take a more balanced and fair approach when it comes to the Trump policies that will eventually get implemented. Nothing in this editorial condemned, much less mentioned, the exaggerated and hate-filled rhetoric of the Democrats and the Media towards anything Trump has said or proposed. To whit, a week or so ago, many in the main stream media blatantly asserted on national TV and cable that the Flynn dust-up was equivalent to "911 and Pearl Harbor" with overtones that Trump violated existing laws. The Democratic Congressman running for the Chair of the Democratic National Party (but lost), said on national TV many times that Trump has committed impeachable crimes and he will call for Congressional impeachment hearings.

Further today, Democrat leadership called for AG Sessions to 'resign' before any investigation has uncovered, much less concluded, that he violated any law or ethics rules. Is the pot calling the kettle black here? Where is the voice of reason for a fair and balanced editorial?

Today, AG Sessions did recuse himself from any investigation regarding the Trump campaign and Russian officials. However, this is not an admission of guilt of any kind whatsoever and he fully explained what happened in a national news conference this afternoon. This was a prudent decision given the extreme and unsubstantiated political character assassinations going on in Washington.

The editors said that common ground cannot be found based on the "politics of fear" claiming that Trump's immigration plan violated Christian values. These assertions are at best controversial as they were based on some comments during his campaign that he has waked back. Since then, all that he has said is that immigrants who have entered the US illegally and have committed a felony should be deported. He was primarily talking about drug dealers, rapists and murders. He wants to secure the border and deport the criminals first, before he addresses those who entered the US illegally but have not committed a felony and have been leading good lives. Before we jump to negative conclusions, I say let us wait and see what happens as they may be given a path to citizenship...which is my hope.

I think the editors should wait until Trump policies are implemented before jumping to negative conclusions. If an editorial is necessary because it appears that a policy might harm America, it citizens or our neighbor (within reason), then I suggest writing something more balanced, convincing and not inadvertently biased, I, like the editors, do not like Trump's rhetoric or style of governing. However, I am willing to give him a change and then determine if I agree or not with his policies that get fully implemented.

Keep in mind that Congress will debate his policies to death before reaching a compromise. We should wait until we see more policy details before condemning them. More importantly, I don't allow immature and ignorant rhetoric, on either side of the political divide, to distort my practical and fair reasoning. I do agree that some of Trump's language does stir division but last night's address to a joint session of Congress was very Presidential and optimistic. I hope this continues.

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