Rep. Joe Kennedy responds to Trump’s State of the Union: ‘Bullies’ never win
Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass. will accuse President Donald Trump of dividing the country in the official Democratic response to the State of the Union on Tuesday night, according to excerpts released ahead of the speech.
by BENJY SARLIN
WASHINGTON — Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass. will accuse President Donald Trump of dividing the country in the official Democratic response to the State of the Union on Tuesday night, according to excerpts released ahead of the speech.
"It would be easy to dismiss the past year as chaos, partisanship, politics, but it's far bigger than that," Kennedy is expected to say. "This administration isn’t just targeting the laws that protect us, they are targeting the very idea that we are all worthy of protection."
Speaking from Fall River, Massachusetts, Kennedy — the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy — will call for "A Better Deal" and highlight Democratic demands for a higher minimum wage, paid leave and expanded health care, while declaring that "top CEOs making 300 times the average worker is not right" while the stock market soars.
But it's the lines targeting Trump's demeanor and his alienation of Americans who "feel the fault lines of a fractured country" that are the most pointed.
"Bullies may land a punch," Kennedy will say, according to the excerpts. "They might leave a mark. But they have never, not once, in the history of our United States, managed to match the strength and spirit of a people united in defense of their future."
While the president gets the grand stage for the State of the Union, the event is often a showcase for rising stars from the opposition party as well. In Kennedy, Democrats are going with a younger member who also points to the glory days of their past.
The 37-year-old Democrat attended Stanford University and Harvard Law School and worked with the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic before becoming a prosecutor. Following in his family's footsteps, he went into politics early and won a House seat opened up by Barney Frank’s retirement in 2012.
Kennedy is less well-known than various Democrats tagged as potential 2020 presidential contenders, and the televised response will be by far his biggest moment on the national stage. But he has drawn some attention this year for speeches and statements in hearings decrying poverty, his grandfather's signature issue, and attacking proposed cuts to health care programs and social spending in stark moral language.
In one viral moment from a hearing in March, he took issue with Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who had described efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act an "act of mercy."
Kennedy said the speaker "must have read different Scripture."
"There is no mercy in a system that makes health care a luxury," Kennedy said. "There is no mercy in a country that turns their back on those most in need of protection: the elderly, the poor, the sick and the suffering. There is no mercy in a cold shoulder to the mentally ill."
While Kennedy is not at the speech himself, he invited a transgender soldier who has served in Afghanistan, Staff Sgt. Patricia King, to attend as a guest. Kennedy has worked on related issues in Congress and King's appearance highlights his opposition to Trump's decision to not allow transgender individuals to serve in the military, a ban that has since been stalled in the courts.