Malheur County residents sound off on Trump

By Pat Caldwell

The Enterprise

VALE – Local supporters of President Trump like what he’s doing so far but they have one bit of advice for him: Stay off social media.

Trump regularly resorts to Twitter to address his critics, push his policies and react to the day’s news.

Malheur County went for Trump in a big way in November. He got 69 percent of the votes for president, while statewide he got 39 percent.

Trump secured 7,194 votes to Hillary Clinton’s 2,246 in the Malheur County. He did best in precincts in rural Nyssa, rural Vale and the area around the fairgrounds and Ontario Heights.

In rural Nyssa, for example, Trump collected 625 votes to Clinton’s 88.

In northern rural Vale, Trump amassed 566 votes while Clinton collected 86.

“I wish he could get off public media sources and go about governing,” said Tom Butler, a former five-term Republican state representative.

John Gaskill, Malheur County Republican Central Committee chairman, agreed.

“He should tone down the tweets and tone down the direction of his rhetoric,” Gaskill said.

Linda Simmons, chair of the Malheur County Democratic Party, said President Trump’s preference for utilizing Twitter sends the wrong message.

“I get very upset at his mean tweets,” said Simmons, who emphasized her comments were her own and not that of the party.

Malheur County Commissioner Don Hodge said he hope in the future the president will carefully ponder what he must say.

“My one piece of advice would be to tell him when someone asks you a question, you need to take 30 seconds and think about it before anything comes out of your mouth,” Hodge said.

Simmons observed that while Trump’s first few weeks as president have been rocky, he also has been decisive.

“You can’t say he doesn’t get things done,” she said.

Butler said while isn’t a big fan of Trump’s Twitter campaign, he believes the real estate tycoon is on the right track overall.

“I think that he has done, by and large, many of the things he said he would do,” Butler said.

Butler said Trump’s ascendency to the nation’s top political slot is a rare chance for the nation to switch gears and move down a different, more prosperous path. One of the president’s strengths, Butler said, is his outlier status.

“Here is a unique opportunity. This man does not owe anything to the Republican machinery or the media and certainly doesn’t owe anything to liberals. What a unique opportunity for him to get in and make a difference,” Butler said.

Hodge said the president’s speech to Congress on Feb. 28 changed his perception.

“The first three or four weeks I thought he was kind of a bull in a China cabinet. The speech I thought was excellent. He toned it down. I think he came off really good,” Hodge said.

Nyssa resident Mark Stringer ran an unsuccessful campaign on the Democratic ticket against state Sen. Ted Ferrioli in November. He subsequently switched his party registration to Republican. He believes Trump should stay away from social media and sees him as a catalyst to boost the economy.

“That is why I like him,” he said.

Stringer said he isn’t pleased with Trump’s focus on building up American’s military.

“I am a pacifist and he scares me a little bit,” he said.

He also agreed with Hodge that Trump should choose his words carefully.

“I worry about when he mentions stupid stuff off the cuff,” Stringer said.

Cheryl Curson, secretary of the Malheur County Republican Central Committee sees a Trump presidency as a path toward reinvigorating the nation.

“We will be getting back to our values. I am all for him,” she said.

Her one key piece of advice for the president?

“Keep listening to God for guidance,” Cruson said.

Cruson, Hodge, Gaskill and Simmons all noted they believe the president needs to do more to unite the nation. Hodge said he thinks the president recognizes that.

“His whole thing in the speech was we have to work together. It has to be a joint effort on everybody’s part,” Hodge said.

Simmons said the president isn’t doing enough to create an inclusive political environment.

“I would like to see him take extra steps to bring people together,” Simmons said.

Gaskill said the political chasm across America is a problem that must be addressed, not only by Trump but all political leaders.

“I am hopeful we can, maybe over time, reduce the divisive rhetoric and work toward solving our problems instead of constantly fighting over stuff,” he said.

Cruson agreed.

“I think, hopefully, within time, we can have the country united again. We are so divided right now,” she said.

Many, though, agreed the president has not been treated well by the national press. For Butler, the emphasis of the media on what is wrong – instead of what can or should be done – is frustrating.

“We’ve had so many news people become the news instead of reporting the news. I don’t believe he has got a fair shake from the media. I think he is being partially vilified,” he said.

Hodge said, though, the president needs to work with the press instead of picking fights that distract from the larger political picture.

“Some of it (press coverage) is good, some of it bad and I think what is bad he has brought on himself. He needs to realize he needs those people,” Hodge said.

Butler said immigration and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act are the two big challenges he would like to see Trump tackle.

“The entitlement program (Affordable Care Act) is going to be a tough nut to crack. I don’t think he had any idea that he was going to get himself into that difficult of a situation,” Butler said.

Butler said the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, will be hard to modify because many people use the program.

“I am concerned because so many feel entitled and that it is going to be difficult to wean those people who believe it is some kind of insurance. But it is not. It is an entitlement,” Butler said.

Hodge said resolving the nation’s immigration challenge will be important but isn’t sure which method – tougher laws or a wall – will work best.

“You have got to secure those borders. But is building a wall going to do it?” he said.

One of the items Trump touched on in his speech to Congress was a plan to inject trillions into infrastructure – roads, bridges and more — but Vale City Manager Lynn Findley said he will adopt a wait-and-see attitude.

“We talk about this infrastructure package but it needs to be paid for,” he said.