Speaking from the Lexington Diner downtown Tuesday night, former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear accused President Donald Trump of “eroding our democracy” and said political leaders need to remember that “helping us is their work.”
“President Trump also needs to understand that people may disagree with him from time to time, but that doesn’t make them his enemies,” Beshear said in a nationally televised response to Trump’s first address to a joint session of Congress. “When the president attacks the loyalty and credibility of our intelligence agencies, the court system, the military, the free press, individual Americans, simply because he doesn’t like what they say, he’s eroding our democracy, and that’s reckless.”
Beshear accused Trump of championing Wall Street rather than “families struggling to make ends meet.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
And as expected, he chided the president and Republicans who want to repeal or revamp the Affordable Care Act, saying their plans would reduce the number of people with health insurance.
“You and your Republican allies in Congress seem determined to rip affordable health insurance away from millions of Americans who most need it,” he said.
Beshear was tapped by Democrats to offer the rebuttal because of his success at implementing the Affordable Care Act in Kentucky. By some estimates, about half a million Kentuckians received health coverage through the act under Beshear, who was governor from 2007 to 2015.
“Mr. President, folks here in Kentucky expect you to keep your word because this isn’t a game. It’s life and death for people,” Beshear said. “These ideas promise access to care but deny the importance of making care affordable and effective.”
But during a speech on the Senate floor earlier Tuesday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took aim at Beshear, saying that “the absolute Obamacare disaster that Gov. Beshear presided over continues to harm Kentucky today — even after he’s left office.”
Beshear also took on the topic of national security and immigration during his rebuttal, saying Trump “is ignoring serious threats to our national security from Russia, who’s not our friend, while alienating our allies.”
“His approach makes us less safe and should worry every freedom loving American,” Beshear said.
He said Trump “has all but declared war on refugees and immigrants.”
“We can protect America without abandoning our principles and our moral obligation to help those fleeing war and terror, without tearing families apart and without needlessly jeopardizing our military men and women fighting overseas,” he said.
Kentucky Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, delivered a response to Beshear’s speech for the Republican Party of Kentucky via Facebook, blasting him for “a culture of corruption, self-dealing and pay to play” during his two terms.
He echoed Trump’s contention that the Affordable Care Act has resulted in fewer choices and higher costs in the Kentucky health insurance market.
And, Thayer said, “if Obamacare is left unchanged, it will blow a $350 million hole in our state budget.”
Beshear’s son, Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear, hosted a short one-on-one recap with his father on Facebook after Beshear’s address.
While the former governor said he was “kinda glad it’s over,” he also said he enjoyed the opportunity.
“It’s always fun to say what you want to say and deliver a message to the American people that it’s time that we ... remember what this is all about, and that is helping people,” he said.