Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Manchild Who Cried Wolf


For once I agree with Donald Trump. The border shutdown is a crisis of the heart and soul. It's a crisis manufactured by a heartless and soulless president who needed a wedge issue to gin up his base. When he couldn't get Democrats to agree to fund a wall no reasonable person believes will work, he shut down the government. Then when he discovered that the majority of Americans were blaming him for the shutdown, he used the backdrop of the Oval Office to deliver a speech to the nation that was riddled with lies and misleading statistics.

It was a desperate and pathetic stunt from a desperate and pathetic administration that ended up backfiring. Not only didn't Trump make a credible case for his ridiculous wall, he may even have lost support within his own party. The great negotiator has negotiated himself right into a ditch. When Fox News is the network fact checking your lies, you know your goose is cooked.

But it wasn't just Fox News who called him out. From David Frum to Peter Beinart to Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic to Rick Wilson in The Daily Beast to Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post to Ross Douthat in The New York Times, the list of conservative op-ed writers who are skewering this president over his conduct in office is both refreshing and telling. These are not closet liberals touting the virtues of single-payer health care or tax increases on the rich. And they are definitely not fans of Bernie Sanders or Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. What they are, though, are disaffected conservatives who have had it up to here with what has happened to their party and, by extension, the country. And you thought tigers were the only ones who ate their young.

The fact is Trump has told so many lies, it's impossible to keep track of them. He's worse than the boy who cried wolf, because no one seriously believes there will come a point where this president - like the fabled boy - will actually tell the truth. The only redeeming thing about Tuesday night's speech was that it was relatively short and free from the usual bombast we've come to expect from him. Perhaps if his staff had piped in some of the crowd noise from one of his rallies, he would've looked less stiff. Thank God for small favors.

Sadly, fact checking Trump has become something of a full-time vocation for journalists over the last three years. Calling him a compulsive liar would be akin to calling the ocean wet. And that's his problem in a nutshell. Because he has such an aversion to the truth, Trump doesn't get the benefit of doubt most presidents would get in a televised address.

Illegal immigration and drugs are serious problems for the United States, and they demand serious solutions, not the hokum Trump is peddling. A wall isn't going to stop migrants seeking asylum into the country, because most of them are intercepted at legal ports of entry; nor would it stop terrorists like the 9/11 hijackers, because they enter the country legally through temporary visas, then overstay their welcome. A wall also isn't going to prevent the billions of dollars of heroine and cocaine that make their way onto our streets, because more than 90 percent of it is flown into airports like LAX and JFK, or hidden in the cargo holds of ships that dock at ports like Miami. The other 10 percent is in trucks and vans that cross the border at legal points of entry like San Diego. Even a total lockdown of the border would not alleviate these and other problems.

What would alleviate them, or at least begin the process of dealing with them, is a comprehensive plan that includes appointing more immigration judges to tend to the backlog of asylum applications, fixing the guest worker visa program which everyone agrees is broken, deploying enhanced technology at the border to detect illegal crossings, hiring more border patrol agents who could respond in a timely fashion to incursions, building more boats for the DEA to track and apprehend ships attempting to smuggle drugs into ports of call, employing tougher screening at airports to stop illegal drugs before they leave the terminal, purchasing enough scanners for border agents so they can thoroughly check every single vehicle crossing the border. And if there is any existing fencing at the border that needs to be replaced, replace it. The total cost for these improvements and others like them will probably cost more than the $5.7 billion Trump is demanding, but it will be considerably more effective.

But the word effective isn't in Trump's vocabulary. The truth is Trump isn't interested in problem solving. If he were, he wouldn't be dry humping a concept as ineffective and ancient as a wall. He also wouldn't have waited until Democrats took control of the House to declare we have a national crisis. Think about it: He had a whole two years to secure the funding for a wall he made the central theme of his campaign. Indeed, he could've had the $25 billion Democrats were offering him last year in exchange for letting the dreamers stay in the country.

There's only one reason Trump turned down such a generous offer. He never had any intention of building a wall. All he wanted was a campaign issue to run on. Deep down what Trump wants is division and distraction. It's the secret to his success. The wall is a symbol for him. It further divides a country already on a razor's edge and it distracts the media from the thing he doesn't want them talking about: namely the Mueller investigation.

Did you read about the latest revelation regarding Paul Manafort? If not, that's because you were probably "distracted" by Trump's fake crisis at the border just like the master planned it. Well it seems Manafort's legal team accidentally released an unredacted filing in which Manafort admitted to sharing polling data with a Russian agent. And that, my friends, is what they call collusion.

That's why Trump is behaving even more like a child than he normally does. That's why he stormed out of a meeting with Congressional leaders that he, himself, called. That mean, old Nancy Pelosi said "no" to his wall so he threw a temper tantrum. The big baby didn't get what he wanted so he took his ball and went home.

But there is always a rhyme and a reason for everything in Trumpland. While we were all fixating on a grown man who acts more like a toddler, Rod Rosenstein announced he will be stepping down in February, just as the new attorney general - William Barr - is being confirmed. The same William Barr, mind you, who wrote a memo critical of the whole Russia investigation. See where I'm going?

Mark my words, people: never underestimate this president's ability to deflect from the underlying issue he doesn't want to talk about, and never overestimate the media's ability to navigate through his bullshit.

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