Analysis and Improvements: Trump, Pelosi, Schumer and the Oval Office Address about the Border
Analysis > Analysis
and Improvements: Trump, Pelosi, Schumer and the
Oval Office Address about the Border Wall
Pelosi | Schumer | Discussion |
On 8th January, in the context of a US government partial shutdown and
President Donald Trump refusing to sign off a budget until he gets $5B for a
wall/fence on the southern US border with Mexico, President Trump escalated the
row with the new Democrat-majority House by using a formal Oval Office Address
to the Nation. Nancy Pelosi, House speaker, and Chuck Schumer, Democratic Senate
Leader gave a subsequent reply. Here is the full text of each speech and a
paragraph-by-paragraph analysis of what was said.
In summary, President Trump's speech was largely in his classic style,
including the use of 'facts' that often turn out to be untrue, frequent
emotional intensifiers that act to reduce rational reflection, and preparation
for subsequent action by declaring what 'needs to be done'. For each
paragraph, suggestions are offered for a more effective speech that may convince
more people and make Trump seem more presidential.
The Democrat speeches were surprisingly weak, full of floppy words and
qualifiers that reduce the impact of what they could say. For each of their
paragraphs, a 'better' alternative is suggested.
|My fellow Americans,
||Standard Presidential opener. Creates
connection, but also uses the possessive 'my', putting the speaker
|Tonight, I am speaking to you because
there is a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern
||Summarising the issue and context. Good
principle. Introduces 'crisis'. Implication that humanitarian and security are both
equally important, though with 'humanitarian' first, this
suggests that caring for others is a priority. Yet the text below speaks mostly to the security
|Every day, customs and border patrol
agents encounter thousands of illegal immigrants trying to enter our
country. We are out of space to hold them, and we have no way to
promptly return them back home to their country.
||Expanding the problem. 'thousands'
means 'so many it is a big issue'. 'trying' means failing. 'out of
space' signifies additional issue of holding. 'promptly' modifies
meaning to actually say they can be returned, but not in the
short term. Yet an overall reading where 'promptly' gets lost in the
words suggests a significant, urgent issue.
such as 'promptly' allows a qualified truth to be said, yet a
different meaning to be implied. Trump often uses such words in this
The issue of holding migrants is not strongly related to the
wall and so is a distraction.
Every day, customs and border patrol
agents catch thousands of illegal immigrants trying to enter our
country. We must stop them coming in. And if they do, we must return
them promptly. We have no space left to hold them and, frankly, it
is not nice for them.
|America proudly welcomes millions of
lawful immigrants who enrich our society and contribute to our
nation. But all Americans are hurt by uncontrolled, illegal
migration. It strains public resources and drives down jobs and
wages. Among those hardest hit are African Americans and Hispanic
||Nod to America being built on
immigration. Yet 'but' negates or downplays a previous sentence.
'all Americans' means 'you'. Migration is of course controlled
(America is one of the hardest countries to enter, even for
'drives down jobs and wages' suggests any number of immigrants
will directly and significantly affect the livelihood of many
existing people. This is a disproportionate claim. Explicitly naming
'African Americans and Hispanic Americans' seems intended make
people in these communities fear for their jobs.
great country is founded on legal immigration. People have come here
for centuries to contribute to our society and build their fortunes.
Illegal immigrants put an intolerable strain on our nation. They
take low-paid jobs from those of us who are starting their journey
towards the American Dream, casting good citizens by the wayside.
|Our southern border is a pipeline for
vast quantities of illegal drugs, including meth, heroin, cocaine,
and fentanyl. Every week, 300 of our citizens are killed by heroin
alone, 90% of which floods across from our southern border. More
Americans will die from drugs this year than were killed in the
entire Vietnam war.
||This suggests (but does not explicitly
say) that 300 people a week are killed by drugs brought via the
southern border. Yet the route by which drugs enter is not named
(most come through legal routes). It
has been noted elsewhere that most comes via other routes such as
via air. Mentioning 'Vietnam' adds a military tone.
appeal to fear, which continues through many of the points below.
Drugs are killing us and most are brought by criminals
through our southern border. Every week, 300 of our citizens are
killed by heroin alone. More Americans will die from drugs this year
than were killed in the entire Vietnam war.
|In the last two years, ICE officers
made 266,000 arrests of aliens with criminal records, including
those charged or convicted of 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes,
and 4,000 violent killings. Over the years, thousands of Americans
have been brutally killed by those who illegally entered our
country, and thousands more lives will be lost if we don’t act right
||Generally, quoting numbers makes
arguments seem more potent. Yet the detail of the numbers given is
not given, nor are crimes by immigrants compared with those by
nationals. No link to those illegally crossing the
border is made. Trump's exaggerations and untruths are so well known
now, such claims have less effect.
Emotional intensifiers are used liberally, such as
'violent' killings and 'brutally' killed. As listeners are aroused
emotionally they will think less rationally and be less likely to
'if we don't act right now' brings urgency, perhaps seeking to
justify imminent action.
Illegal migrants have committed
many crimes, including assaults, sex crimes and homicide. We must
act now to keep our streets and homes safe.
|This is a humanitarian crisis – a
crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul.
||'crisis' repeated three times for
emphasis. 'crisis of the heart and a crisis of
the soul' is oddly out of place amongst the aggressive rhetoric,
perhaps appealing to religious listeners.
This is a truly humanitarian crisis. People are being hurt by
illegal migrants and the many migrants who we must turn away must
know their attempts are futile and only hurt themselves and their
|Last month, 20,000 migrant children
were illegally brought into the United States – a dramatic increase.
These children are used as human pawns by vicious coyotes and
ruthless gangs. One in three women are sexually assaulted on the
dangerous trek up through Mexico. Women and children are the biggest
victims, by far, of our broken system.
||Again, the route by which migrants of
any age arrive is not mentioned. Talk of children, 'vicious coyotes
and ruthless gangs' and 'women are sexually assaulted' again acts to
intensify emotional reaction.
'broken system' again suggests
imminent action, yet the problems highlighted are mostly about what
happens before people reach America.
Before they even
reach the border, women are being assaulted and children are being
exploited. The people who they pay to bring them here are ruthless.
They must know with certainty there is no illegal way in. The
current system we have is inadequate and broken. We must build an
impenetrable wall to stem this tide of human misery, dissuading
people from ever setting out on such futile treks.
|This is the tragic reality of illegal
immigration on our southern border. This is the cycle of human
suffering that I am determined to end.
||'reality' suggests actual truth.
'human suffering' implies Trump sympathises with the plight of
migrants. 'determined to end' is more presaging of action.
No change suggested.
|My administration has presented
Congress with a detailed proposal to secure the border and stop the
criminal gangs, drug smugglers, and human traffickers. It’s a
tremendous problem. Our proposal was developed by law enforcement
professionals and border agents at the Department of Homeland
Security. These are the resources they have requested to properly
perform their mission and keep America safe. In fact, safer than
||'detailed proposal' is not clear -- the
main issue seems to be a wall. More intensifiers with 'criminal
gangs' etc. 'developed by law enforcement professionals' lends
My administration has presented Congress with a detailed proposal
to secure the border along its whole length, not just on the roads.
This proposal has been developed by law enforcement professionals
and border agents at the Department of Homeland Security. This is
not an option. It is totally necessary.
|The proposal from Homeland Security
includes cutting-edge technology for detecting drugs, weapons,
illegal contraband, and many other things. We have requested more
agents, immigration judges, and bed space to process the sharp rise
in unlawful migration fuelled by our very strong economy. Our plan
also contains an urgent request for humanitarian assistance and
||Here is the non-wall request. Numbers
and detail are not clear. The humanitarian aspect could also be
We do not want just a wall, as Democrats would have you believe.
We also need cutting-edge technology for detecting drugs, weapons,
illegal contraband and more. We need more agents, judges and
doctors. And of course we need humane holding space where families
can be kept together and the values of our great country upheld.
|Furthermore, we have asked Congress to
close border security loopholes so that illegal immigrant children
can be safely and humanely returned back home.
||Not clear what these are. 'humanely' is
a claim of being ethical.
No change suggested.
|Finally, as part of an overall approach
to border security, law enforcement professionals have requested
$5.7 billion for a physical barrier. At the request of Democrats, it
will be a steel barrier rather than a concrete wall. This barrier is
absolutely critical to border security. It’s also what our
professionals at the border want and need. This is just common
||This is the real point of the speech -
the wall. Again the request is 'made' by 'law enforcement
professionals'. As the Democrats have requested steel rather than
concrete (have they?) it is implied that they agree with the
implementation of a barrier and the only real question is the
material. 'common sense' claim suggests there is not really a
problem with the request (and that Democrats are consequently wholly
to blame for the current situation).
Our total approach to border security of course also needs what I
have called a wall, but in practice can be any effective barrier. In
consultation with experts we have determined that it will be made of
American steel. This common-sense measure will prevent all illegal
entry and dissuade potential illegal migrants from ever leaving
|The border wall would very quickly pay
for itself. The cost of illegal drugs exceeds $500bn a year – vastly
more than the $5.7bn we have requested from Congress. The wall will
also be paid for, indirectly, by the great new trade deal we have
made with Mexico.
||This suggests that (a) $500bn in drugs
enters via the border, (b) the wall will prevent this much drugs
from entering (hence somehow saving £500bn), and (c) the trade deal
with Mexico will also lead to an extra $5.7bn being gained from
them. All of these are highly questionable.
The border wall and other measures I have described will pay for
itself. The massive reduction in illegal immigration will save us
greatly in other security costs. It will save the huge human misery
of drugs addiction. It will sharply cut violence. Don't forget that
we will also be gaining greatly from our new trade deal with our
friends in Mexico.
|Senator Chuck Schumer – who you will be
hearing from later tonight – has repeatedly supported a physical
barrier in the past, along with many other Democrats. They changed
their mind only after I was elected president.
||This suggests Schumer and Democratic
opposition to the wall is purely political. What, exactly, did Schumer and others
support? A 'physical barrier' is not the same as a $5.7bn wall.
The Democrats don't like me. That's ok! I'm a proud Republican
who supports our democracy. What is wrong, however, is that they are
making this personal. They are opposing our strong plan just because
they hate the fact that you elected me as your President.
|Democrats in Congress have refused to
acknowledge the crisis. And they have refused to provide our brave
border agents with the tools they desperately need to protect our
families and our nation.
||Have they? They seem to support border
security but not huge expenditure on a wall.
'brave' and 'protect'
intensify the principle of threat.
As I have shown you,
this is a crisis. A huge, painful crisis that will keep hurting
people until we act decisively to end it. Yet Democrats are refusing
to help, leaving our brave border people to cope with the
overwhelming tides of migration.
|The federal government remains shut
down for one reason and one reason only: because Democrats will not
fund border security.
||The Democrats have a bill to open
government. Trump (and supporters) are refusing to pass this.
|My administration is doing everything
in our power to help those impacted by the situation. But the only
solution is for Democrats to pass a spending bill that defends our
borders and re-opens the government.
||It is unclear what is being done. 'The
only solution' means 'the only solution I will accept'. 'defends our
borders' implies that the only solution is a wall.
My administration and I are doing everything we can to help
everyone affected. But this needs money. All the Democrats need to
do is to pass a spending bill that defends our borders. Then we can
get on with the everyday business of government.
|This situation could be solved in a
45-minute meeting. I have invited congressional leadership to the
White House tomorrow to get this done. Hopefully, we can rise above
partisan politics in order to support national security.
||Suggesting that resolution is easy -
the Democrats just need to approve $5.7bn for something they (and
others) see as an ineffective and hugely wasteful solution to a
known and accepted issue.
We can solve this quickly and easily. I have invited
congressional leadership to the White House tomorrow to get this
done. For once, we just need to put national security first and
partisan politics second.
|Some have suggested a barrier is
immoral. Then why do wealthy politicians build walls, fences, and
gates around their homes? They don’t build walls because they hate
the people on the outside, but because they love the people on the
inside. The only thing that is immoral is the politicians to do
nothing and continue to allow more innocent people to be so horribly
||Talking of morality claims moral high
ground and hence superiority. 'wealthy politicians' suggests that
his opponents are out of touch with ordinary people. 'love the
people on the inside' implies not loving people on the outside -
which again is ordinary people.
Some have suggested a barrier is immoral. Why? Do you not have
walls to your house and fences outside? Should we not protect our
civilized way of life from those who would just walk in and destroy
it? The only immorality is to prevent a barrier when it is so
obviously a moral need.
|America’s heart broke the day after
Christmas when a young police officer in California was savagely
murdered in cold blood by an illegal alien, who just came across the
border. The life of an American hero was stolen by someone who had
no right to be in our country.
||A single emotive case is used as
justification for $5.7bn, which will prevent such things happening
Better to leave this out. It weakens the case.
|Day after day, precious lives are cut
short by those who have violated our borders. In California, an Air
Force veteran was raped, murdered, and beaten to death with a hammer
by an illegal alien with a long criminal history. In Georgia, an
illegal alien was recently charged with murder for killing,
beheading, and dismembering his neighbor.
||Whether these aliens came across the
southern border is unclear, including whether they came across a
line that would have a new wall on it.
Repeated emotional appeals
blunts their effect.
Better to leave this out.
|In Maryland, MS-13 gang members who
arrived in the United States as unaccompanied minors were arrested
and charged last year after viciously stabbing and beating a
Better to leave this out.
|Over the last several years, I’ve met
with dozens of families whose loved ones were stolen by illegal
immigration. I’ve held the hands of the weeping mothers and embraced
the grief-stricken fathers. So sad. So terrible. I will never forget
the pain in their eyes, the tremble in their voices, and the sadness
gripping their souls.
||It is not clear that he has (as
suggested) held hands with dozens of weeping mothers and hugged
Mention of 'soul' again, building to an emotive climax.
I have met with many families and people who have been
hurt by people who have slipped through the holes in our border
defenses. Drugs have ruined their lives. Violence has broken and
destroyed them. I will never forget their pain and am determined
that such tragedy must stop.
|How much more American blood must we
shed before Congress does its job?
||Congress has been Republican. Only now
are Democrats a majority in the House.
No suggested change.
|To those who refuse to compromise in
the name of border security, I would ask: imagine if it was your
child, your husband, or your wife whose life was so cruelly
shattered and totally broken?
||'If it were your child' intensifies
further the emotion.
This puts border security ahead of all other issues.
To those who are stopping us build the border security
we need, I ask this: Would you help if your family was so cruelly
|To every member of Congress: pass a
bill that ends this crisis.
||Further assumption of crisis and blame
is in Congress.
Shortening sentences and paragraphs.
No change suggested.
|To every citizen: call Congress and
tell them to finally, after all of these decades, secure our border.
||Placing citizens on his side, against
No change suggested.
|This is a choice between right and
wrong, justice and injustice. This is about whether we fulfill our
sacred duty to the American citizens we serve.
||Framing himself as absolutely and
justly right and Congress as equally wrong and bad.
No change suggested.
|When I took the oath of office, I swore
to protect our country. And that is what I will always do, so help
||Again putting border security above all
else, implying also that his wall is the only solution.
religion again. 'so help me God' may be seen as insincere.
change suggested (though the final phrase may be omitted).
| Thank you and goodnight.
|Good evening. I appreciate the opportunity to speak
directly to the American people tonight about how we can end this
shutdown and meet the needs of the American people.
||'appreciate the opportunity' is
long-winded, given the time constraints. 'the American people' would
better be 'you, the American people'. 'you' grabs the listener. 'the
American people' is too indirect.
'meet the needs' is vague. Be more specific.
'Good evening. I am speaking to you, the American people, because
you are being deceived.'
This is briefer and evokes outrage at being deceived.
|Sadly, much of what we have heard from President Trump throughout
this senseless shutdown has been full of misinformation and even
||'Sadly' is weak. Needs stronger
language. Leave out this word. Not needed. 'misinformation and
malice' alliterates, yet who will it connect with? 'malice' is not a
word that is commonly used.
President Trump has lied to you. He has tried to frighten you
with untruth. He is sustaining a needless shutdown that is hurting
hundreds of thousands of loyal American workers.
|The president has chosen fear. We want to start with the facts.
||Good 'facts over fear' principle. 'want
to start' is weak.
The president has chosen fear. We demand facts.
|The fact is: on the very first day of this Congress, House
Democrats passed Senate Republican legislation to reopen government
and fund smart, effective border security solutions.
||'The fact is' is longer than needed.
Just say 'Fact' - it has more impact. 'smart, effective border
solutions' sounds corporate, dull and disconnected.
Fact: on the very first day of this Congress, House Democrats
passed Senate Republican legislation to reopen government and fund
border security that really works.
|But the president is rejecting these bipartisan bills which would
reopen government – over his obsession with forcing American
taxpayers to waste billions of dollars on an expensive and
ineffective wall – a wall he always promised Mexico would pay for.
||'rejecting' could be stronger.
'bipartisan' is important but it is clearer to name the parties.
'obsession' suggests irrationality.
The president wants a wall because of his campaign promise, when
he simply did not understand anything about border security. Now,
when Republicans and Democrats have agreed to fund government, he is
manically obsessed about a wall that won't work, no matter what the
price to our people.
|The fact is: President Trump has chosen to hold hostage critical
services for the health, safety and wellbeing of the American people
and withhold the paychecks of 800,000 innocent workers across the
nation – many of them veterans.
||Strong, but could be stronger.
Fact: The President is blackmailing the American nation, holding
800,000 innocent workers - many of the veterans, to ransom. He has
more hostages than all the bank robbers in history.
|He promised to keep government shutdown for “months or years” –
no matter whom it hurts. That’s just plain wrong.
||Strong statement. 'plain wrong' is
clear and widely effective.
No alternative suggested.
|The fact is: We all agree that we need to secure our borders,
while honoring our values: we can build the infrastructure and roads
at our ports of entry; we can install new technology to scan cars
and trucks for drugs coming into our nation; we can hire the
personnel we need to facilitate trade and immigration at the border;
and we can fund more innovation to detect unauthorized crossings.
||Long and waffly. Needs more punch.
Fact: We all want secure borders and our border professional know
what works best, including technology and people to detect attempts
to smuggle drugs and people. Democrats and Republicans have approved
funding for this. Yet President Trump is now holding up this
|The fact is: the women and children at the border are not a
security threat, they are a humanitarian challenge – a challenge
that President Trump’s own cruel and counterproductive policies have
||Speaks to morals, yet can be seen as
Fact: President Trump has cruelly separated children from their
parents and seeks further to harm innocent people. We must of course
control entry to the United States. Americans are known throughout
the world as decent people. We must also be considerate in handling
entry requests and when we must turn away those not eligible to join
our great nation.
|And the fact is: President Trump must stop holding the American
people hostage, must stop manufacturing a crisis, and must reopen
||Good triple. Little change needed. A
slight reorder may help.
The fact is that President Trump is pretending there is a crisis
in order to fulfil a foolish promise. He clearly cares little for
the 800,000 Americans whose lives he is ruining. He must reopen
government and let your elected representatives get on with doing
the jobs you have asked us to do.
|Thank you, Speaker Pelosi.
|My fellow Americans, we address you tonight for one reason only:
the president of the United States – having failed to get Mexico to
pay for his ineffective, unnecessary border wall, and unable to
convince the Congress or the American people to foot the bill – has
shut down the government.
||Presidential opening. 'one reason only'
gives clear focus. Splitting the key point with '- having failed ...
foot the bill -' reduces clarity.
My fellow Americans. We address you tonight for one reason only:
The president of these United States has shut down the government.
He wants an incredibly expensive wall that won't work. He tried to
get Mexico to pay for it and failed. He tried to get Republicans to
pay for it and failed. He is now hurting you in a desperate attempt
to get his money. He will fail in this too.
|American democracy doesn’t work that way. We don’t govern by
temper tantrum. No president should pound the table and demand he
gets his way or else the government shuts down, hurting millions of
Americans who are treated as leverage.
||Good point, well said. No change.
|Tonight – and throughout this debate and his presidency –
President Trump has appealed to fear, not facts. Division, not
||Another split sentence. Would be better
with a triple point.
Tonight, President Trump is putting money before people. He seeks
fear and abuses facts. He wants to divide us, not unite us.
Make no mistake: Democrats and the president both want stronger
border security. However, we sharply disagree with the president
about the most effective way to do it.
|'Make no mistake' is assertive.
Mentioning Democrats says 'us' especially in relation to border
security. Trump is framing Democrats as not wanting border security
so this should be strongly asserted. Overall, this says 'we agree
about security but not how we achieve it', yet this is not presented
There is opportunity here to reframe
Trump's views (and even intent) as not only wasteful but also
Make no mistake: Democrats want strong border security. We all
want strong border security. Yet the president wants to waste money
on less effective methods. Spending $5.7bn on a wall means less
government money for things like fighting crime and drugs. He wants
to weaken us, not make us stronger!
So, how do we untangle this mess?
|'mess' is clear. 'untangle' slightly
confuses it (by implying tangling, which is not clear).
This is a mess. And we know how to straighten it out.
|There is an obvious solution: separate the shutdown from the
arguments over border security. There is bipartisan legislation –
supported by Democrats and Republicans – to reopen government while
allowing debate over border security to continue.
||Avoid 'solution' (corporate speak).
Another split sentence.
To get our country going again, we must separate funding of
government from border security. We have worked with Republicans on
legislation for this. All we need is for president Trump to go along
with everyone and sign this now.
|There is no excuse for hurting millions of Americans over a
policy difference. Federal workers are about to miss a paycheck.
Some families can’t get a mortgage to buy a new home. Farmers and
small businesses won’t get loans they desperately need.
||'policy difference' is weak. Better to
connect strongly with Trump's actions.
Millions of Americans are hurting because the president doesn't
care enough about them. Federal workers are about to miss a paycheck.
Some families can’t get a mortgage to buy a new home. Farmers and
small businesses won’t get loans they desperately need.
|Most presidents have used Oval Office addresses for noble
purposes. This president just used the backdrop of the Oval Office
to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear, and divert attention from the
turmoil in his administration.
||Effective connection with past, but has
weak points (like 'most'). It can be stronger by making it more
direct, harsher and simpler.
Past presidents have used Oval Office addresses for noble
purpose. This president is corrupting our great traditions for
personal gain. He is creating a crisis by fanning the flames of
divisive fear in order to distract you from the truth of his deeply
flawed and failing administration.
|My fellow Americans, there is no challenge so great that our
nation cannot rise to meet it. We can reopen the government AND
continue to work through disagreements about policy. We can secure
our border without an expensive, ineffective wall. And we can
welcome legal immigrants and refugees without compromising safety
||Reprise of beginning ('my fellow
Americans') and positive cultural affirmation signals move to
closure. Affirmation of
Not much change:
My fellow Americans, there is no challenge so great that our
nation cannot rise to meet it. We can reopen the government AND work
on disagreements. We can secure our border without an expensive wall
that won't work. And we can
welcome LEGAL immigrants and refugees without compromising safety
and security, as we have always done.
|The symbol of America should be the Statue of Liberty, not a
||Affirming American values. Reminder of
No suggested change.
|So our suggestion is a simple one: Mr President, reopen the
government and we can work to resolve our differences over border
security. But end this shutdown now.
||'suggestion' is weak. Make it a
The answer is simple, Mr President. Respect the millions of
people you are hurting. Reopen the government. And let's sit down
together and build the even better security that we all want.