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Coming Soon to an Airport Near You

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The U.S. Doesn’t Have a Border Crisis. Trump’s Campaign Does.

From New York Magazine, by Jonathan Chait:

In a short, uncharacteristically non-meandering speech to the nation from the Oval Office punctuated by loud sniffing, [emphasis mine, TTPT] President Trump depicted illegal immigration as an urgent crisis. In place of cogent policy arguments, Trump substituted his familiar anecdotes about immigrants rampaging the countryside to commit a series of grisly crimes against law-abiding Americans.

A more realistic assessment was provided by administration officials, who told the Washington Post (as the Post reporter put it), “Trump believes forcing a drastic reckoning by executive action may be necessary given the Democratic resistance and the wall’s symbolic power for his core voters.”

Two words in that sentence, symbolic power, tell you everything you need to know about Trump’s motivation. A symbolic goal is the opposite of a crisis.

The lack of a wall is a crisis for Trump, of course, because it is his most famous policy goal — for many of his voters, probably the only one that springs to mind. Failure to fulfill it may hurt him badly in 2020. It is not rationally connected to either illegal immigration nor to crime. The administration recently claimed 4,000 suspected terrorists crossed the southern border in the first half of last year. The actual number is six.

Amazingly, it is not even a goal Trump himself has pursued with any urgency until this last December. He devoted almost no effort to securing wall funds during the two years when his party enjoyed full control of government (during which he might have leveraged Republican desperation for corporate tax cuts to force them to fund his wall). His 2019 budget proposed to spend just $1.6 billion more on border security — which is to say, he is now demanding Congress give him three times as much as he asked for in his own blue-sky plan. As recently as December 19, he told Congress he would sign a clean bill to continue government funding with no additional fencing.

Trump shut the government down in an impulsive fit, failing to anticipate either the pain the shutdown would create nor any strategy for escaping it. Typically, shutdowns create a political backlash against either the party that is refusing to reopen government absent some political demand (because they’re the ones who won’t simply restore the status quo ante) or the president (because Americans tend to hold presidents accountable). In this case, those are both the same person. Indeed, Trump closed off any chance of winning the debate at the outset by claiming responsibility for the shutdown and even promising not to blame it on his opponents.

In lieu of any leverage, Trump could only assert, “I have invited congressional leadership to the White House to get this done.” He repeated the last three words slowly for emphasis, but it will only serve to underscore his own impotence.

The apparent logic of his speech was that the force of presidential rhetoric would rally the public to his side. But Trump could not even maintain the appearance of believing such a fanciful story. In an astonishing comment to reporters beforehand, the president confessed he didn’t want to give the speech or take a planned trip to the border. “It’s not going to change a damn thing, but I’m still doing it,” he said, adding that “these people behind you” — pointing to his communications staffers — “say it’s worth it.”

It’s unlikely even a highly articulate, popular president could escape the mess Trump has created for himself. Trump is none of these things.

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Wait…I Thought “The Media” Was “The Enemy of the People”

From The New York Times:

President Trump wants to address the nation about the government shutdown on Tuesday night, and later in the week plans to travel to the southern border as part of his effort to persuade Americans of the need for a border wall — the sticking point in negotiations with Democrats who are eager to reopen shuttered agencies.

The White House did not immediately respond to questions about a request to television networks to carve out time for an Oval Office address. A person familiar with the request said the White House had asked to interrupt prime time programming on Tuesday.

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…Says the Man Who Stiffed His Contractors…Part 2

From The Hill:

Asked if he could relate to “the pain of federal workers who can’t pay their bills” after they were furloughed, Trump said he could.

And I’m sure that the people that are on the receiving end will make adjustments,” he said. “They always do. And they’ll make adjustments. People understand exactly what’s going on. But many of those people that won’t be receiving a paycheck, many of those people agree 100 percent with what I’m doing.”

 

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…Says the Man Who’s Known for Stiffing His Contractors

From Politico:

When asked whether there would be any safety net for federal employees who don’t get paid because of the shutdown, Trump said: “Well, the safety net is going to be having a strong border because we’re going to be safe.”

“This really does have a higher purpose than next week’s pay,” Trump said during a news conference.

Of landlords expecting rent from federal employees, he said he’d “encourage them to be nice and easy” on their tenants.

 

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And on the Seventh Day, He Rested…Um, Nope

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — On the seventh day of a partial government shutdown, President Trump threatened on Friday to close the southern border and cut off aid to Central America if Congress refuses to fund a wall.

“We will be forced to close the Southern Border entirely if the Obstructionist Democrats do not give us the money to finish the Wall & also change the ridiculous immigration laws that our Country is saddled with,” Mr. Trump tweeted Friday. “Hard to believe there was a Congress & President who would approve!”

It looks like not being able to go to his beloved Mar-a-Lago is getting on his nerves.

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Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

From The Hill:

“First of all, the fact … that he says, ‘We’re going to build a wall with cement, and Mexico’s going to pay for it’ while he’s already backed off of the cement — now he’s down to, I think, a beaded curtain or something, I’m not sure where he is,” Pelosi said in an interview with USA Today published Tuesday.

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…Says the Man Who Has Received $870,000 in Tax Payer Funded Salary Over 5 Years

From The Hill and the Washington Post:

Asked if Republicans are comfortable shutting down the government — a move which would force thousands of federal employees to work without pay, including Secret Service, Transit Security and Border Patrol agents — Meadows said that risk is simply part of the job. 

“It’s actually part of what you do when you sign up for any public service position,” Meadows told reporters in the Capitol.  

On the other hand, if the government does shut down, Meadows, unlike more than 800,000 federal workers, would still receive his pay on time. In past years, lawmakers in the Senate and the House have introduced “No Budget, No Pay” legislation, which would withhold lawmakers’ salary if they didn’t get a budget resolution and all 12 appropriations bills finished on time.

It was never brought up for a vote.

 

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Charter Members of the “I Got Mine, Too Bad For You” Club