The real reason Trump wants a border wall

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Trump addressed the nation from the Oval Office for the first time as president on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump addressed the nation from the Oval Office, telling Americans there is a national security crisis on our southern border that only his wall – or fence, or barrier – can protect us from. The US federal government has been shut down for three weeks as Trump refuses to reopen it without funding for his project. Democrats have largely held firm, issuing a rebuke of Trump’s arguments and refusing to give him what he wants.

In his address, the president described the southern border as a warzone under constant attack by enemies of America. Trump connected America’s heroin epidemic with border crossings and ran down a short, cherry-picked list of Americans killed by undocumented immigrants to imply that none of them can be trusted. He blamed illegal immigration for job loss and stagnating wages.

Gang violence, drug abuse, and an economic slump are all real problems. It’s baffling, and a strong indicator of their racist attitude, that the right-wing believes these problems will be solved by walling off Mexico. The drugs Trump warned about are mostly smuggled in through official ports of entry, not by drug runners sneaking into America on foot. Virtually all immigrants arrested on terrorism charges were captured at airports, not at the border. There are myriad reasons for Americans’ economic struggles, but the simplest is that Trump’s friends in the business world – much like Trump himself – simply don’t want to pay good wages.

The wall isn’t actually intended to solve these problems. It has a very different purpose: to serve as a political victory for a flailing president, a monument to racist hatred, and physical proof of at least one real Trump accomplishment.

A little over a month ago, President Trump was prepared to sign a deal to keep government open that didn’t include funding for his wall. Then a chorus of voices representing his far-right base, most notably fascist siren Ann Coulter, called him out for reneging on his central campaign promise. Coulter’s column ruthlessly tore into Trump, casting him as a clownish Hollywood nincompoop who’s only in office because the base that elected him believed he would build a border wall.

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Having difficulty getting the funding and congressional approval he needs, Trump’s new vision for a border wall is steel slats.

With Robert Mueller closing in on him and a new Democratic House majority taking office, the president’s political prospects dim by the day. All he really has left are Coulter and the far-right. Doubling down on this moment is a gambit to preserve their faith in him. It’s not about protecting Americans or averting a humanitarian crisis. Even Coulter and the Trump Administration surely know a wall won’t stop what they claim it will stop.

Even granting that a wall can help prevent unauthorized border crossings, as it may have in San Diego, the best they can do is keep out those too poor to afford a plane ticket. Walls have no effect on people who enter the US legally and overstay their visa, who already significantly outnumber the people caught at the border. There’s no evidence a wall will keep out terrorists or have any impact on drug flow.

There is a crisis at the border, and it is largely of Trump’s own making. As newly elected congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said, “Right now what we are seeing is death, right now what we are seeing is the violation of human rights.” In December, two children died in the custody of US immigration officials. Thousands of children have been taken from their families with no reunification plan by the government. Children have been traumatized into rejecting their own parents.

Most of them, and most of the people trying to cross the border today, are refugees seeking asylum, which international law grants them the right to do. What’s needed are more social workers and judges to process their asylum cases, not a wall or a military presence. Trump’s wall likely would prevent many undocumented people from coming to America, but they’d be simple people seeking asylum, jobs, and reunification with their families – not terrorists looking to harm the United States.

For Trump and the far right, though, there’s very little difference between an asylum-seeking, parentless child and a hardened MS-13 criminal. They’re all a part of the feared “browning of America” that Coulter rails against so stridently. The wall doubles as a symbol of those racist hatreds and as a monument to Trump himself, who derives his self-worth from structures that bear his name.

Beyond being ineffective and unnecessary, there are other problems with the wall. Polling regularly shows some 60 percent of Americans oppose construction of a border wall. The wall will have a devastating impact on the surrounding environment and wildlife. It’s also a legal nightmare, as homeowners along the border prepare to battle the government’s eminent domain claims.

Trump’s border wall is nothing more than a costly, racist, ineffective ego boost for a desperate president, a campaign fairy tale from a crooked conman. Trump is obsessed with scoring a win on this issue, because it’s the most important issue to the far-right fanatics who are most dedicated to him. He needs to hold onto their support through the coming political firestorm of Robert Mueller and a Democratic House majority, and he’s petty and sociopathic enough to hold the entire United States government hostage in order to do it.

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Positives of the Trump presidency

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President Trump’s unabashed, unapologetic awfulness could have a few inadvertent positive consequences for American politics.

Every day brings new revelations about the extent of President Donald Trump’s crookedness, the corruption of his administration, and the damage he’s doing to our political system, foreign relations and the environment. The deluge of negative coverage has caused Trump and his supporters to accuse the media of a conspiracy against the president, but the truth is far simpler than that: Trump truly is that awful. In fact, in most ways, he’s even worse than the mainstream media portrays.

Still, it’s worth entertaining some potential positives that could emerge out of Trump’s presidency. None of them justify his presidency but, mostly indirectly and by accident, there are ways in which Trump’s complete lack of convention could lead to a positive jolt to the system. Most of these fall under one of three categories: blundering into a decent foreign policy move, breaking our staid expectations of what a politician should be, and accidental admission of the truth. Continue reading

With Saudi defense, Trump’s love of tyrants reaches dismal new low

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Trump stands with the infamous orb in Saudi Arabia on his first trip overseas as president in 2017.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of the most repressive, corrupt, and militaristic countries on earth. It is also a major ally of the United States, and current US President Donald Trump is a particularly big fan. Now that the Saudi government is believed to have murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, likely on orders from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, pressure is mounting on Trump to stand up for journalists and free speech. Instead, he’s standing up for Saudi Arabia. Continue reading

Donald Trump’s pipeline to Putin

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Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin shake hands at a summit in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16.

After his submissive appearance alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit in Helsinki last month, President Donald Trump faced some of the most severe and unanimous criticism of his chaotic political career. Members of Trump’s own party called the president “treasonous” and “disgraceful” while commentators speculated that Putin must have serious kompromat on Trump to make him behave so obsequiously. As the media and the FBI connect the dots of Putin and Trump’s relationship, their most obvious common interest in oil goes largely undiscussed. Continue reading

Reminder: Torture is not our only crime

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Gina Haspel, who oversaw a CIA black site in Thailand, is poised to become the agency’s new director.

The Senate is prepared to confirm Gina Haspel, a longtime CIA official, to replace Mike Pompeo as the agency’s director. During her confirmation hearings, Haspel’s role in overseeing CIA torture programs – or “enhanced interrogation” – was a focal point. Haspel made headlines when she refused to answer Senator Kamala Harris’s question of whether “the previous interrogation techniques were immoral.” Her record on torture led Republican Senator John McCain, famously a torture survivor himself, to announce his opposition to her appointment. Continue reading

Donald Trump accelerates likelihood of disaster with North Korea

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In an off-the-cuff remark in August, President Trump threatened North Korea with “fire and fury,” widely interpreted as a euphemism for nuclear war.

Long before he was elected president, the danger of America’s nuclear weapons falling into the hands of a short-tempered, ignorant vulgarian like Donald Trump was clear. With his finger on the button, the globe might be one childish slight away from nuclear war. Only eight months into his presidency, escalation between Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, the two most unstable nuclear-powered leaders on earth, is threatening to realize the worst of those fears. Continue reading

The real reason Trump banned trans people from the military

Transgender airman: ‘I would like to see them try to kick me out of my military’

After his commander-in-chief’s tweeted declaration, Logan Ireland, a trans member of the military, said, “I’d like to see them try to kick me out of my military.”

In a series of tweets Wednesday morning, President Donald Trump dictated a new policy for the US military: transgender people will not be allowed to serve. Reaction was swift, emphatic and hotly divided. Many citizens, celebrities and service members were dismayed and expressed support for trans troops. But on the far right, especially at outlets like Breitbart, the ban was enthusiastically applauded. While the ban seemed arbitrary and capricious, the divisive reaction to it may have been precisely the point. Continue reading

The Trump/Bannon Plan: Create more terrorists

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In a recent Associated Press interview, President Trump said he was 10-0 in predicting terror attacks.

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump campaigned to become a war criminal. He protested the Geneva Conventions, vowed to “bomb the shit” out of the Middle East, and insisted the US had to kill the family members of terrorists. Though he’s reneged on plenty of promises so far, he has stuck to these frighteningly well. But this is far from a legitimate strategy to fight terrorism. In fact, Trump’s presidency is sure to create more of it. Continue reading

Media reinforces Donald Trump’s most dangerous behavior

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Iraqi citizens gaze at the devastation in Mosul, where Trump-authorized airstrikes have killed hundreds of civilians.

For the first several weeks of his presidency, it looked as though mainstream media might hold Donald Trump at least partially accountable for his actions. Stories regularly aired that were critical of Trump’s brutal budget and discussed his pathological lying. All of it prompted Trump to label the media the “opposition party.” Then, late last week, Trump fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase. His fireworks show earned Trump bipartisan media and political praise.

Even before Trump launched the attack, Hillary Clinton called for it. Both the Democratic Senate and House Minority Leaders, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, praised the attack, as did prominent Republican critics of Trump like John McCain and Lindsey Graham. Liberal CNN commentator Fareed Zakaria declared Trump “became president of the United States” with the attack while NBC host Brian Williams described the bombing as “beautiful.” FAIR found that of 47 editorials published in major papers, only one was critical. Continue reading

Donald Trump is making bad foreign policy worse

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In the first international crisis of his presidency, Trump is failing as spectacularly as anyone might have guessed.

As many as 70 Syrian men, women and children were killed this week by what is believed to be sarin gas, and another 100 were seriously injured. The atrocity played out on news networks and social media feeds around the world. President Trump seized the opportunity to demonstrate just what kind of a leader he is and will continue to be – by blaming former President Obama. Continue reading