Steve tuned in for the President’s prime time remarks last night largely for the entertainment value of watching Trump face off with the English language on a teleprompter. Trump, however, had no problem reeling off his greatest hits of hateful venom against immigrants. But, uh, what was the point again?
Geez, the only thing that Donald Trump was supposedly good at is hosting a prime time television show in which he gets to sit in a big fancy chair and render wholly subjective, unchallenged judgments to a captive audience. Man, he can’t even do that.
Last night, with the ability to commandeer the viewing attention of pretty much the entire nation, Donald Trump tried to sell his border wall to the American people with a peculiar tactic.
He barely mentioned it.
Further, Trump had the opportunity to justify why he had boldly asserted only a few short weeks ago that he would “proudly take on the mantle” of shutting down the government in order to fund that wall.
Oh, he barely mentioned the government shut-down, either.
So the speech that was supposed to be about why Trump insisted on shutting down the government in order to secure funding for his wall hardly touched on either topic.
Rather, Donald Trump re-enacted his famous journey down the escalator, packing his brief remarks from the Oval Office with a blistering assault on all immigrants as violent, lawless, brutal killers, drug smugglers and rapists. By the time his fifteen minutes of defamation was complete, Trump had pretty much tarred every immigrant in the country as part of a subclass of filthy marauders that had raped and pillaged their way across the southern border in a D-Day style invasion.
It was raw, vintage Trump. Paint a gruesome picture of the worst of all mankind, label it “all immigrants,” and announce that anyone who does not agree with him is an elite liberal sissy who is weak on crime, weak on border security, weak on defense, and loves foreigners more than the good old U.S.A.
No good statistics to back up his arguments? No need. Trump simply recounted isolated tales of an MS13 murder here and a violent death there, hoping that his prime time audience would do the quick math and project his four or five vignettes onto the entire population of twelve million undocumented aliens living in the United States today.
If you were a Trump enthusiast who was eagerly waiting for Trump to rip into his signature 2016 promise -- “We are going to build a big, beautiful 50 foot concrete wall from sea to shining sea, and Mexico is going to pay for it-- ” you came to the wrong stadium show.
No, if you’ve tuned in during the last few weeks, the wall is now steel, or steel slats (whatever that means), and Mexico apparently is no longer in the wall funding business. Last night, we learned that this miraculous wall is going to “pay for itself.” Well played, Mr. President. Demand that a non-existent wall pay for itself, and at least it will not – like former president of Mexico Vicente Fox – announce in public that “I’m not paying for that fucking wall.”
Trump was not selling his wall, which he may well now see as a lost cause and an albatross on his presidency. Rather, he awkwardly attempted to re-frame the issue, trying to tar Democrats for failing to support his supposedly comprehensive approach to the catastrophic humanitarian crisis at our southern border.
Yes, Mr. President. It is a humanitarian crisis. It is the one you started when you implemented the policy of ripping babies from their mothers, locking children in cages, separating families, and failing to anticipate the huge infrastructure needs your cruel policies required.
But, wait – weren’t we here to talk about a wall? And the need to shut down the government so we could get the wall?
If anyone did linger after Trump’s remarks long enough to watch the rebuttal provided by Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, they did finally see the correct issue, correctly framed. We all support border security and the need for comprehensive immigration reform. We disagree on the best ways to achieve this. All the Democrats want to do is separate those issues from shutting down the government. That’s why the Democrats want to pass legislation immediately to re-open government while continuing to debate the best path to immigration reform and border security.
As with so many things related to the Trump White House, nothing is likely to have changed based on Trump’s performance last night.
Sure, his base probably got aroused pretty close to climax just by hearing Trump savagely rip into our population of undocumented aliens.
But the most notable absence in the entire spectacle was the lack of consequence.
At no point did Trump do what a strong and serious leader would have done: issue a grand challenge, put a big new idea on the table, or even go out on a ledge and issue a demand, a threat, or an ultimatum. Perhaps he could have thundered, “Democrats, bring me your sweeping legislation that solves DACA for you and builds a wall for me.” Nope. Trump even cowered from the legally risky but undoubtedly ballsy declaration of a national emergency. “Give me my wall money or I am going to declare a national emergency and deflect funds from the military… make no mistake: one way or another, I am going to build that wall.”
No, he chickened out.
No answers. No new ideas. Just the same old bitter racist and xenophobic litany of lies, revealing the weakness of his hand, and the even greater weakness in his character.
He realized that he was playing Russian Roulette (à propos) with a pistol that held five bullets rather than that game’s conventional one. He may have realized, probably after he announced that prime time speech, that he was essentially about to go on national television – Howard Beale style -- and shoot himself in something more consequential than his foot.
In the end, all Trump seemed to have accomplished is to apply the final touches of paint in his lonely corner. He will now wait for the paint to dry while hoping that someone else figures out an answer that enables him to declare victory.
Hey, he’s probably thinking that this is the perfect time to fire Mueller. He’s been saving that big, final diversionary tactic for when he finally dug himself into a shithole he couldn’t escape from.
And now, there he is, painted into that corner… waiting, perhaps for dear old daddy, to bail him out of another intractable mess of his own creation.
Yes, there he is, folks… the President of the United States of America.
Just a big toasted Wall Nut, pompously blabbering on national television, but this time there is no way to get out by screaming “you’re fired."
Now that’s our job.
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