It amazes me that we have a president who will essentially blackmail his own people to get his way on what is little more than an extension of a campaign stunt. Blackmail innocent people — and an entire nation. The wall fiasco is this. Blackmail America in exchange for a campaign-promised wall. A $5.6-billion fist-pump to the Trump base — and little else.
We could of course, continue to fund regular government while this wall thing is debated and worked out. That would be easy. In a functional government, we could debate the pros and cons of a wall – along with all our pressing issues – while the wheels of government spin. Instead, an entire nation is blackmailed into an artificial crisis over something that is otherwise just one more political issue in a much larger pantheon of American concerns.
Let’s not call it a “shutdown.” Let’s call it what is: Presidential blackmail against America itself.
Suddenly, America is being pitched to believe there’s an existential threat at the border — forefront of all other issues, where no such pressing concern existed just weeks previously. As early as this past December, while Republicans held all levers of government, Trump was denied his border wall money and was poised to sign off on the budget and keep the wheels of government turning.
But conservative pundits pushed hard, and Trump changed course. “To agree to discourse over perceived decisive action would be seen as weak, a betrayal of the base.” Indeed, just before Christmas it was decided Trump must make a stand — must show America who’s the real boss. It was time to kick the china all over in America’s china shop. And in doing so, time to make political pawns out of innocent middle-class hard-working Americans.
And, with political clocks ticking, it was time to hand the manufactured crisis off to the new, incoming House of Representatives. A House that had nothing to do with the stand-off to begin with. This wall “crisis” is Trump’s trick gift to the new Democratic House — which now has to wrestle Trump and this idiocy of government blackmail back to civility.
The rub to America in whole is this shutdown blackmail is completely disassociated from any particular urgency. Trump’s wall-cheerleading has been a feature at his rallies for nearly three years now. That “big, beautiful, concrete wall” has been a rallying call, a pep-up-the-crowd line, right there with the other fake pump-ups, like, “Lock her up, lock her up.” Just empty-rhetoric, red meat for a hungry, angry, scared crowd.
Now, two years into his suspect presidency, and facing a new Congress, Trump risked becoming irrelevant, risked being left to the side, behind Nancy Pelosi – risked becoming an essential lame duck, but with two years left, if he’s lucky. Facing a new Congress, Trump faces oversight, accountability, ethics inquiries… and a Robert Mueller who increasingly cannot be brushed off or shoved out. Rule of Law returned to Washington and Trump feels the pressing heat.
What to do? Go full Trump! Push and shove everyone and everything. Bully yourself back into the spotlight. Grab the mic and start screaming, “Fire in the theater!” Disrupt, distract and distract!
Distract an entire nation from the urgent issues of our time. Distract an entire nation from the crushing burden of corruption, indictments and guilt bearing down on the presidency. And distract from reality by whatever means necessary and at whatever cost to whoever – as long as Trump is protected.
Few things in our time have been this cynical and this abusive of working Americans and of American governmental process.
“I won’t sign a budget until I get my way on an unpopular and unproven-to-be-effective wall.” Nearly a million workers not paid. National parks closed and decaying. National security compromised as everything from the Coast Guard to TSA is impaired.
The stature of America is again compromised in front of the entire world, as we’re made to look ungovernable. Trump again has made America to look a laughingstock. Imagine: A president of a nation intentionally trashing his own country and hurting his own people.
So, here’s our new “national emergency.” A crisis requiring immediate action – or else. Maybe a presidential commandeering of the military budget to fund his campaign promise. Perhaps a constitutional crisis. All, when Trump could have instead signed off on a budget and taken his wall-pitch directly to the public and moved the needle with persuasion instead of blackmail.
All other news has faded away to the background. There’s little heard about Mueller or Russia or campaign funds violations, or Trump’s various corrupt cronies.
Mission accomplished, Mr. Trump.
This whole brouhaha and in-your-face blackmail made-up crisis is but a diversion. Trump is back in the spotlight, back on the attack, in full distract mode. If we really cared about immigration, we’d staff up immigration courts. We’d craft real immigration reform. We’d build a valid work-visa program. We’d get to root causes and fix the underlying social issues.
The “once a wall but now metal slats” isn’t a wall protecting us from the Southern Front. It’s a wall dividing America against itself. It’s a political ploy. A con.
And judging from the extremely heated emotions on both sides of America’s “metal slat and nearly a civil war” – the con is working. America is more than ever, an intentionally divided nation. And a nation divided cannot stand.
Trump has built a wall between Americans to weaken us – and to protect himself.
Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared on Wednesdays in The Signal since 2006.