By Angelo Lynn
Just 16 hours after Trump’s prime-time speech from the Oval Office urging support for his border wall fell flat Tuesday night, news organizations reported he slammed his hand down on the table and walked out of a Wednesday afternoon meeting with Democratic congressional leaders declaring angrily that trying to negotiate was a “waste of time.”
The failure to resolve the government shutdown on Wednesday followed the president’s poor performance on Tuesday that was panned largely because he failed to justify why the wall was needed, or why it was not a colossal waste of money — despite the predicted misleading statements and outright lies he made in trying to champion the hair-brained idea.
Nor did Trump put his heart and soul into selling the proposal. He admitted to members of the press corps beforehand that he was only doing the speech because his handlers told him it would help, though he personally didn’t think it would. That’s partly because the first part of his brief speech was so obviously off-message for him.
In his opening remarks, he attempted to act like a reasonable president appealing to the “humanitarian” crises on the nation’s border with Mexico.
The public didn’t bite. Trump, after all, chastised immigrants throughout his campaign, and from his first day in office has made them America’s Number One enemy and scapegoat. For him to suddenly suggest he is concerned about their wellbeing just didn’t pass the smell-test for even the staunchest Trump supporter.
He regained a bit of his mojo toward the end of the 9-minute speech when he attacked the immigrants seeking asylum into the country in the racist, bigoted terms he finds far more appealing, calling them “rapists,” murderers” and “drug smugglers” and stoking fear and anger within his base.
But the facts are too well known for his lies to take hold outside his shrinking base.
• Fact: Border crossings are down from their peak in the early 2000s, and they are relatively steady over the past several years. There is an increase in families (mainly women and children) seeking political asylum into the country, but most are applying through a legal process. His wrong-headed policies have largely created the humanitarian crisis he now laments — or rather uses as a political foil to distract attention away from the Mueller investigation and the growing likelihood that it has found grounds for collusion with Russia to sway the 2016 election; a stock market that lost 6 percent or more in 2018; disastrous news on the climate front as carbon dioxide emissions leapt 3.5 percent over the past year — the highest yearly gain in several years; a government shutdown that is becoming increasingly unpopular; and that’s to just to name a few of the issues plaguing Trump and a reeling GOP.
• Fact: While Trump labels illegal immigrants as dangerous to the country and responsible for thousands of criminal acts, he uses numbers that have no time frame (could be 100 years) and are therefore meaningless. Studies have shown that the migrant population, including illegal immigrants, is actually less likely to commit criminal violence or crimes against others than the average population is.
• Fact: He tried to pin the blame for the government shutdown on Democrats, a statement that contradicts his own boast just last month when he said: “I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck [Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer], because the people of this country don’t want criminals and people that have lots of problems and drugs pouring into our country. So I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it.”
• Fact: Contrary to Trump’s claim, Democrats have advocated for increased funding for border security, including some measures that Trump supported in Tuesday’s speech. Democrats have advocated spending $1.7 billion in the upcoming budget on increased measures that would prevent the flow of drugs and illegal immigrants at the legal points of entry — where the largest flow of illegal drugs happens. They would also increase drug agents, immigration judges to speed the legal process, and medical and humanitarian support for those seeking asylum, and other measures that would lessen the humanitarian crisis along the border; points they have long advocated.
• Fact: The wall would not stop or even reduce to any significant degree the amount of illegal drugs flowing into the country, human trafficking, or terrorists trying to illegally enter the country. As for terrorists coming across the border, Nicholas Rasmussen, the former director of the federal National Counterterrorism Center, said there is “no wave of terrorist operatives waiting to cross overland into the United States. It simply isn’t true.”
• Fact: What is true is that the Department of Homeland Security ranks cyberattacks against utilities, communications systems and markets as the top threat to the nation, yet Trump’s government shutdown has furloughed nearly half of the work force of the nation’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which is the nation’s first line of defense against network attacks. After cyberattacks, the nation’s top security experts say, according to the Washington Post, the top threats to the country include “the rise of smaller, more deadly nuclear and biological weapons; terrorist attacks by the Islamic State and Al Qaeda; and Russian-style influence campaigns and threats to the nation’s space assets.” Increased border security doesn’t merit a priority ranking because current measures are working well enough in terms of national security.
• Fact: Trump has changed his tune on who will be paying for the wall. During the campaign, Trump alleged Mexico would pay 100 percent of the wall. Today, he is trying to suggest that Mexico would pay indirectly through the trade agreement he has yet to forge with Mexico and perhaps Canada. It’s a bogus claim, as is his claim that the reduction in drug addiction costs ($500 billion, an exaggeration that is closer to $188 billion) would somehow be attributable to a wall that experts agree would not significantly reduce the flow of drugs across the border.
• Fact: For those concerned about national security, consider this: As part of the government shutdown, 41,000 federal law enforcement and correctional officers are working without pay, including 13,709 FBI agents, 3,600 deputy U.S. Marshals; and 4,399 Drug Enforcement Agency officers. Plus, up to 88 percent of Department of Homeland Security employees are working without pay, including 54,000 Customs and Border Protection agents and customs officers. Also, more than 380,000 federal employees have been furloughed (laid off without pay), including 96 percent of NASA (16,700 staff); 10,261 staff from the State Department; more than 80 percent of the National Park Service and 33 percent of the Forest Service, and 45,500 Internal Revenue Service staff, plus thousands of other federal employees helping everyone from senior citizens to providing food for hungry children to farmers seeking federal aid.
In short, Trump’s government shutdown puts many aspects of the nation’s security and well being at risk, while he vainly tries to sell the nation on a nonsensical campaign promise. And to declare Wednesday that negotiating with Congressional leaders of the majority party is a waste of time, is fitting for a president who still doesn’t understand he’s not king.
Angelo Lynn is the publisher of the Mountain Times’ sister publication, the Addison County Independent.