Media critic Erik Wemple of the Washington Post accurately notes The networks interrupted their programming for the lamest rerun on television, Donald Trump’s racist white nationalist anti-immigrant fear mongering. Trump used the Oval Office to try to create a border crisis.
Trump’s frustrated sales pitch on the border wall reverted to his oldest political tactic: Fear. Trump’s real fear is the loss of his white nationalist political base who feed off the epistemic closure of the “conservative misinformation feedback loop” media bubble. Trump’s public case for his wall has collapsed entirely, and in Trump Nation, that’s the “national emergency.” The real national emergency is the threat of Trump’s collapse.
Media critics had urged networks to take precautions ahead of his speech. ‘This president lies daily’: Critics demand networks fact-check Trump’s live immigration speech.
Real-time analysis from on-air journalists followed Trump’s white nationalist propaganda. Anchors Scramble to Fact-Check Trump After Prime-Time Address:
NBC anchor Chuck Todd came on air with a blunt assessment. “He made a lot of dubious claims,” Mr. Todd informed millions of viewers after the network’s scheduled program had been pre-empted for a rare prime-time presidential appearance.
Shepard Smith on the Fox News network told viewers that contrary to Mr. Trump’s assertions, “statistics show there is less violent crime by the undocumented immigrant population than by the general population.”
And on ABC, the White House correspondent Cecilia Vega took issue with Mr. Trump’s depiction of a southern border in crisis. “Just because you say it’s a crisis,” Ms. Vega said, “doesn’t necessarily make it one.”
The post-speech fact checking has been brutal.
Here is just a sampling of today’s fact checking:
AP FACT CHECK: Trump and the disputed border crisis (A look at his Oval Office remarks Tuesday night).
FactCheck.org: Misleading Border Crime Statistic.
Washington Post: Fact-checking Trump’s immigration speech.
Washington Post: Trump paints a misleading, bleak picture of the border.
NewYork Times: Trump’s Speech to the Nation: Fact Checks and Background.
The real national crisis is that we have a pathological liar for president. Worse yet, he has surrounded himself with sycophant enablers who amplify his pathological lies, from Vice President Mike Pence, to the cabinet, to the White House communications office.
In my view, these enablers are far worse. They have a constitutional obligation to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove this clearly mentally and emotionally disabled president from office before he can do serious harm to the national security of the United States. Their cowardice and political opportunism is a national disgrace.
As the New York Times editorializes, The Crisis Is in the Oval Office:
How fitting is it that President Trump’s first Oval Office address, which he requested be televised live in prime time by every major network, was aimed at stirring up the American public about a crisis largely of his own making?
Not that the border crisis is one of Mr. Trump’s self-serving political fictions — like the deep state or widespread voter fraud. It may have started out that way, but the situation has, with the president’s nurturing, become something far more tragic.
Pursuing poorly thought-out and even more poorly executed policies on the pretext of battling a nonexistent national security crisis, Mr. Trump has helped create a pressing humanitarian one. Desperate migrant families being detained en masse at the border are overwhelming a system pushed beyond its limits by an administration that chose to ignore the implications of its actions — overcrowding, children falling gravely ill and, paradoxically, the haphazard release of throngs of detainees into border communities stretching from California to Texas.
Mr. Trump is now invoking the urgency of the situation as a justification for pursuing more wasteful, hard-line measures that most Americans do not support, chiefly the ludicrous border wall over which he has shut down critical pieces of the government. The president and his enablers have been busily knitting together inaccurate data, misleading anecdotes, exaggerations and other “alternative facts” about the flow of criminals, drugs and terrorists across the southern border. He seems to hope he can paint a dystopian landscape of security threats and human suffering so dire that the American people will rally to his side and pressure congressional Democrats to succumb to his demands for a towering wall — preferably concrete, but at this point, it seems, steel will suffice.
Failing that, Mr. Trump has also been floating the possibility of stiff-arming Congress altogether. With his advisers increasingly anxious that Republican lawmakers are poised to abandon them on the shutdown, the president has raised the threat of declaring a national emergency, which he thinks would allow him to command the Pentagon to build his wall.
Such a move would prompt a swift and furious legal challenge, if not a full-blown constitutional crisis, that could drag on indefinitely. It would, however, also give Mr. Trump a way to reach a wall-free funding deal with Congress without losing face, thus weaseling out of the shutdown box into which he has nailed himself.
The border wall began life as an applause line at Mr. Trump’s rallies, and it has endured as the rare — perhaps even sole — policy objective that actually matters to him. The substance of true border security may not interest him much, but this symbol sure does.
While Mr. Trump proved a wily campaigner and political street fighter, as president he has been painfully out of his element. Two years in, he remains ill suited to the complicated, thankless, often grinding work of leading the nation. Governance clearly bores him, as do policy details both foreign and domestic. He has proved a poor judge of talent. He prefers grandstanding to negotiating, and he continues to have trouble with the whole concept of checks and balances. While the Republican base remains enamored of him, most of the electorate has grown weary of his outrages and antics.
Which is why, with his wall on the line, Mr. Trump so desperately needs to convince the American people that they are facing an acute crisis — maybe even a bona fide emergency.
In times of trouble, an anxious public looks to its leaders, and the ability to telegraph strength, decisiveness and certitude assumes greater value than in periods of calm and prosperity. Circle-the-wagons patriotism, maybe even a little jingoism, becomes more appealing. People long to feel protected.
With his demagogy, Mr. Trump managed to fuel a sense of insecurity and unease throughout his campaign, along with the idea that he alone could Make America Great Again. In office, he has attempted to perpetuate that angst by proclaiming existential threats to the Republic, be they migrant caravans storming the border, Muslim terrorists flooding the airports or violent immigrants roaming the countryside. Shutting down the government is only the most recent effort at getting what he wants by traumatizing the nation he has sworn to serve.
Were Mr. Trump truly interested in securing the border, and easing the suffering his policies are making worse, there are immediate steps he could take. For starters, he could end this wretched shutdown so that the people responsible for protecting the border can get paid, immigration judges can return to processing asylum claims and, yes, the physical and virtual barriers already in place can be maintained and perhaps even improved.
Beyond that, he would need to ease up on the my-way-or-the-highway swagger and sit down for a real discussion with lawmakers about how to address the deep dysfunction of this nation’s immigration system.
None of which would be as sensational as grabbing some prime-time airtime.
It would, however, be a sign that the president is at last getting serious about immigration concerns he has thus far done nothing but exacerbate.
The government shutdown will end only when cowardly Republicans in Congress abandon Trump’s strategy of holding the country hostage in order to extort funding for his “big beautiful wall” on the Mexico border and vote for the funding bills already approved by the Senate unanimously on a voice vote in December, passed by the new Democratic House in January, and — more importantly — previously agreed to by President Trump before he reneged on the deal.
NB: If Trump really wants to fund his “big beautiful wall” on the Mexico border, I propose a “MAGA surtax” only on the 62,979,636 people who voted for him and his wall. If you want it so bad, you can all friggin’ pay for it yourselves. $6.5 billion divided by 62,979,636 works out to approximately $103.21 per Trump voter. I’m sure you all have already pissed away more than that amount buying Trump paraphernalia from what I have observed. Suck it up buttercups!