Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Trump's Great Wall

Why is President Trump demanding congress approve funding a border wall which he promised Mexico would pay for?

This question, one would think, is top of mind for what's left of Trump's supporters after his latest gaffe-fest, this one at Tuesday's campaign rally in Phoenix.

I'm going to focus on this question because, if you're making a case to support the President, it's a vital one. Also, there's an overbundance from Trump's Tuesday speech to adequately address here.

There was his declaration that he went to better schools than people who identify as elites. He has a nicer apartment than them too and, oh by the way, he also sometimes lives in the White House.

As always, thanks to The Onion for nailing it. 
There was the fact that on a day when "some of the remains" of ten missing U.S. sailors were found after Monday's collision between a U.S. warship and an oil tanker near Singapore, the President didn't mention the tragedy once.

There was his total reimagining of his response following the maelstrom in Charlottesville, in which a white supremacist mowed through a crowd of protesters in his car, leaving one woman dead.

Then, not least of all, there was the tone-deaf absurdity of holding a campaign rally at a time when one might think a President would seek to unify a fractured nation.

None of the above facts seems to matter to the people who still support Trump.

But, building the wall – and getting Mexico to pay for it – matters.

It mattered throughout Trump's campaign when the two promises converged to form a central pillar of Trump's platform and, based on Tuesday night's campaign stop (really, let's call it what it was), it matters now.

"If we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall” Trump proclaimed in Phoenix. “The American people voted for immigration control. We’re going to get that wall."

Indeed, Trump voters wanted the wall. It was a rallying point, a physical manifestation of immigration concerns propped up by the act of handing the bill to Mexico – a taut middle finger to the country many Trump voters aim their blame for illegal immigration.

After all, any xenophobic, ethnocentrist can build a wall with taxpayer dollars. But getting Mexico to foot the bill? Now that's making them really "pay" and that's just the kind of anger Trump's tapping.

Indeed, Mexico paying for the wall is/was as important as the wall itself.

Trump knew it and that's why, at campaign event after campaign event, he claimed, "We're going to build a beautiful wall and Mexico's going to pay for it!" Trump made his two-part promise and people chanted, "Build the wall! Build the wall!"

Now, here we are six months into his presidency and to little surprise, Mexico is not paying for the wall. As leaked transcripts of conversations between he and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto revealed, Trump seemingly wanted the issue to go away just days after taking office.

Trump proffered the following solution to Peña Nieto and asked the Mexican President to play along: "I do not bring up the wall but when the press brings up the wall, I will say, 'let us see how it is going – let us see how it is working out with Mexico.' Because from an economic issue, it is the least important thing we were talking about, but psychologically, it means something, so let us just say “we will work it out.”

Naturally, Trump's tune changed last night in front of an audience comprised mostly of adoring supporters. The crowd wanted red meat and the President obliged with what little he has left to toss out. But today, questions remain for those trying to take the President at his word: why does Trump need congressional funding for a wall that's being paid for in pesos?

Did the President abandon the plan to have Mexico pay for the wall? When did he make this decision? Is he perhaps going to use U.S. taxpayer money and then send them a bill? Does he intend to make them pay for it by other means, perhaps hammered out in a new trade deal?

If you're a Trump supporter, the answer to these questions should lead you to another: what's left to support?

This is a Republican President with majorities in both branches of congress who has not even one modest legislative accomplishment and who has alienated Republicans throughout congress, including the Senate Majority Leader. 

He is a self-proclaimed deal maker who has failed to make a single deal.

He's never happier than when he's in front of a crowd. 
How does this President presume to ever build consensus to fund a wall when he can't build one to repeal Obamacare, legislation that his party has rabidly opposed since its inception seven years ago.

Critics of Trump, a population which now includes anyone objectively gauging his performance, know full well there will be no wall. This group has long since abandoned the application of anything approaching a realistic expectation of the President.

Supporters of Trump on the other hand have to wonder, what can he accomplish outside of making promises that he either abandons or just plain fail, often spectacularly? 

With apologies to Pink Floyd, Trump's building a wall alright, it's just not along the border — there's a brick for every lie, every failed promise, every sad trip to the trough to desperately lap up what's left of his support.

The wall is going up and he's on the other side, a dog licking his bowl clean.

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