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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.

2

Comment of the Day

From the New York Times online, by Ed Connor of Camp Springs, MD, responding to an opinion piece written by Ross Douthat:

“Or, as was noted long before the advent of Trump, the greatest predictor of a county voting democratic was the presence of a college in that county. For republican counties, it was the presence of a Cracker Barrel restaurant.”

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5

Trump’s Firm Grasp of Civics and Other Myths

From Politico, by Trump regarding the caravan of migrants:

“Now we’re starting to find out — and I won’t say it 100 percent, I’ll put it a little tiny question mark on the end, but we’re not going to get it, but we have the fake news back there, fake news — a lot of money has been passing through people to try to get to the border by Election Day, because they think that is a negative for us,” the president told the crowd. “Number one, they are being stopped and number two, regardless, that’s our issue.”

At the rally, the president added that Democrats figured “everybody coming in” was going to vote for their candidates — though he did not mention that only legal citizens can participate in elections, and that attaining nationality and registering to vote is a process that can’t be completed before Nov. 6.

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1

Trump Blames the Victim. Putin Gets a Pass.

From Politico:

“The DNC should be ashamed of themselves for allowing themselves to be hacked. They had bad defenses, and they were able to be hacked,” Trump said in a CBS News interview with Jeff Glor, aired Sunday on “Face the Nation.” “I heard they were trying to hack the Republicans, too. But, and this may be wrong, but they had much stronger defenses.”

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Trump: “There, there, Vlady. It’s those darn Dem’s fault, not yours.”

0

Oh, Snap!

From Politico:

President Donald Trump asserted Monday that the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller is unconstitutional and insisted that he has “the absolute right” to pardon himself, a declaration that follows the publication of a letter from the president’s legal team making the same assertion.

In his own retort, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) cited a Justice Department office of legal counsel published in 1974, four days before the resignation of former President Richard Nixon, that reads “under the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case, the President cannot pardon himself.”

“I know you have attention span problems, but it’s the first sentence,” Markey wrote, sharing a link to the Justice Department document.

 

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