Last night on “The Booth” we discussed the ongoing government shutdown and President Trump’s border wall demands. Our discussion included predictions for his Oval Office address shortly following our show. Unfortunately, we were right, and Trump utterly failed to make his case. Historically and with little exception Presidents have requested time from the networks and news media outlets to address the nation from the Oval Office in order to address a bona fide crisis or critical issue of national importance. They get the air time and the American people tune in because they trust their leaders when they say they need to speak to them. These are not opportunities to speak to a small base of support, deliver purely partisan speeches, denigrate our political processes, or try to manipulate the American people if not outright lie to them. But that is what he did.
President Trump again failed to make his case or to uphold the standards, expectations, and decency of his office. His address was incredibly sparse on fact and offered nothing new. It was full of his continuing lies and deceptions going back two years. Ever since he announced his campaign, Trump has been working diligently to manufacture a border crisis to use to manipulate voters, fomenting fear, mistrust, anger, and hatred. The American people should never allow such a blatantly political stunt to succeed and thankfully most do not. Trump’s support is steadily declining, especially so for his wall, phony crisis, and continuing unprofessional antics.
If there was such a crisis, why has it taken two years into Trump’s Presidency to contemplate such a declaration or to demand wall funding to solve it? Trump had complete Republican control over Congress for two years, but never made this a funding priority. Senate Republicans justifiably refused to approve such wasteful spending and now with a Democratic House, Trump can use his favorite tactic – creating an enemy on which to focus attention. The government announced today that the annual deficit for this year broke one trillion dollars, for this year alone, which it did last year as well. The Trump Administration has added over two trillion dollars to our national debt in two years. That is the actual crisis, not the phony border situation.
The Administration repeatedly claimed that 4,000 suspected terrorists were stopped at the southern border over the last year. They know this to be false because their own data shows only 6 were stopped at the southern border in the first half of the year. They are concealing the numbers for the second half (which clearly do not come anywhere close to 4,000). Whereas only 6 were stopped at the southern border, 41 were stopped at the northern border. The remaining almost entirety of the 4,000 were apprehended at airports. They also falsely claim that those trying to cross the border are comprised of young men affiliated with criminal enterprises such as MS13. They want to fool people into believing the migrants are violent criminals threatening our society. Approximately 70% of those attempting to enter at the southern border are families with children. In fact, they are fleeing MS 13. They are not sneaking across the border illegally but rather filing for asylum in accordance with law and procedure. Another lie involved all the illegal narcotics coming across the border. While this continues to be a huge law enforcement challenge, the drugs are not sneaking across the border that a wall would prevent. They are being smuggled in vehicles at normal border crossings and in shipping containers at ports of entry.
Therefore, the crisis at the southern border is not a security crisis but rather humanitarian. A concrete wall would be ineffective against these important challenges. This is about resources. Improved technology to conduct screenings at ports of entry is crucial. Additional agents are necessary to respond to the increasing volume of people and goods entering the country. Most important in the short term are the abysmal and often inhumane conditions at border entry points for those seeking asylum. Regardless of the merits of their claims, the law allows them to apply and there is a process to evaluate the applications. Most facilities were constructed to hold single men and are grossly inefficient for the children and families being held there. We cannot have children living in cages and families living in squalor while detained. That is not America.
As the facts demonstrate the Trump Administration made up a phony crisis to justify his extravagant wall, the Trump shutdown cannot truly be able getting funding for the wall. It is all related to a shameful political stunt to whip up fervor within his shrinking base, especially as the end of the Mueller Investigation looms near and as Democrats in the House prepare to conduct their Constitutionally required government oversight. There is no fundamental disagreement in Congress between Democrats and Republicans over the importance of border security. There is real consensus on overall security measures and even for comprehensive immigration reform, which is truly the heart of the matter. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is blocking votes on opening government and immigration reform despite strong majorities poised to pass both pieces of legislation. His political theater is working to the detriment of the country. Senators and the public must pressure him to allow votes. Country first, Mitch!
The shutdown is not an appropriate tactic to influence policy debate. Perhaps it could be justified in times of true national crisis, but even if Trump’s false claims were true it would not be sufficient to shut down the government. Over 800,000 federal employees are furloughed. These innocent, dedicated, hard-working professionals are forced to remain home and do not receive pay during the shutdown. Most are struggling to make mortgage or rent payments, tuition payments, utilities payments, medical payments, or even to buy groceries. What is happening to them is reprehensible. Thousands of federal employees, including air traffic controllers, TSA, law enforcement, and other essential personnel are outrageously forced to work without pay during shutdowns. The IRS is not able to process tax returns and refunds. The Department of Agriculture is not able to process farm loans and assistance. Individuals risk not receiving their social security, food stamp, and housing benefits on which they rely for survive. Thousands of foreign and domestic tourists, who have spent money they saved for months or years are turned away by “closed due to shutdown” signs at national parks, monuments, museums, etc. It is a total disgrace. And none of it is necessary!
Congress needs to pass legislation to open the government immediately. If the President callously vetoes the legislation, they need to override his veto or otherwise maintain pressure on him to reopen government. Congress may, and should, refuse to act on anything else of importance to Trump until he reopens the government. For example, no more judges or administration confirmations until government is open. The real crisis is one of Trump’s own making and he can end it today.