Former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear delivered the Democratic Party’s response to President Donald Trump’s address Tuesday night, criticizing Trump for not living up to his populist campaign trail rhetoric and pressing for compromise solutions on health care reform.
“You picked a Cabinet of billionaires and Wall Street insiders,” Beshear said, sitting in the Lexington Diner in Lexington, Kentucky. “That’s not being our champion. That’s being Wall Street’s champion.”
He delivered the remarks plainly and occasionally awkwardly, with a setting and tone entirely at odds with the president’s speech before a joint session of Congress.
“I’m a proud Democrat, but first and foremost, I’m a proud Republican and Democrat and mostly American,” Beshear began, perhaps misspeaking.
He rattled off his experiences as a former Democratic leader in a deeply red state, pointing to his aggressive implementation of Obamacare as an achievement and claimed to have focused on working with Republicans.
Taking a shot at Trump’s rhetoric, Beshear said: “The America I love has always been about looking forward, not backward.”
He pledged that Democrats were “committed to creating the opportunity for every American to succeed” and began making a policy contrast with Trump over working class values.
“One of your very first executive orders makes it harder for those families to even afford a mortgage. Then you started rolling back rules that provide oversight of the financial industry,” Beshear said in a message directed to Trump.
On the first day of Trump’s presidency, his administration eliminated a mortgage rate cut set to go into effect by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and in early February he signed an executive order putting a rule requiring retirement advisers to act in their clients’ best interests under review.
He said Obamacare needed fixes, but said no Republican alternative put forth so far would improve coverage or help those most at risk.
“You and your Republican allies in Congress seem determined to rip affordable health insurance away from millions of Americans who most need it,” Beshear said. “This isn’t a game. It’s life and death.”
The Kentucky governor called on Republicans to honor the intent of the health care reform law Democrats passed under Obama.
“In 2010, this country made a commitment that every American deserved health care they could afford and rely on,” Beshear said, imploring the people to help Democrats by “speaking out.”
He turned to the national security arena, where he warned Trump was overly cozy with Russia and hurting the U.S.’ relationships with other nations, which he said “makes us less safe.”
“President Trump is ignoring serious threats to our national security from Russia, who is not our friend, while alienating our allies,” Beshear said.
Finally, Beshear spoke out against Trump’s attacks on immigrants, the media and a host of others.
“President Trump has all but declared war on refugees and immigrants,” Beshear said. “He’s eroding our Democracy, and that’s reckless. Real leaders don’t spread derision and division.”