The real reason Trump wants a border wall


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.

steel slats

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.


Positives of the Trump presidency


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

Brett Kavanaugh’s personal record is bad – but so is his judicial record


Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before Congress.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a vote on President Trump’s second Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, for Friday, September 28 at 9 a.m. Republicans are anxious to hold the vote on Kavanaugh because each day seems to bring new allegations and scrutiny against the 53-year-old, whose appointment would be for life. Over the last two weeks, three women have come forward with allegations of sexual assault at the hands of Kavanaugh in high school and college. Continue reading

A compendium of Donald Trump’s criminality


Left to right: Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, plead guilty to eight counts; Trump; and Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, who was convicted of eight more charges.

Within minutes of one another, two former high-level associates of President Donald Trump were found guilty of felonies last week. Paul Manafort, the chairman of Trump’s presidential campaign throughout the pivotal summer of 2016, was convicted on eight charges, including tax fraud and bank fraud. Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal attorney, pleaded guilty to eight charges, including tax evasion and making an excessive campaign contribution at the request of a candidate – the hush money paid to one of Trump’s mistresses.

Five of Trump’s former close associates have already been indicted in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Manafort and Cohen join Michael Flynn, Trump’s former National Security Adviser; George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign; and campaign aid Rick Gates. Dozens of others have also been indicted. The president has thus far managed to stay just beyond reach, but the indictments and convictions underscore Trump’s lifelong adjacency to criminal activity. Continue reading

Donald Trump’s pipeline to Putin


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

Republicans plead for civility


Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant, an incident that became a flashpoint in the culture war.

For three years, Donald Trump has dominated America’s cultural conversation. In that time, he has accused Mexico of sending rapists and drug dealers over the border, mocked a disabled reporter’s handicap, encouraged his crowds to physically assault protesters, and labeled journalists the “enemy of the people.” As President, he has done all he can to shred America’s life-saving social safety net, banned Muslims from entering America, and held migrant children hostage in cages. Now, Trump and his enablers are asking for one thing: civility. Continue reading

Trump Administration dehumanizes victims to justify border atrocities

child prison

After being separated from their parents at the border, the children of migrants are held in chain-link pens at military bases and prisons around the southern border.

By far the biggest story in national headlines this week was the Trump Administration’s policy of splitting up families crossing the southern border without authorization. Following a zero-tolerance policy enacted in April by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, detained parents have been sent to one facility and their children have been sent to another. Photos and videos of those children – confused, crying, and locked in cages – drew intense domestic and international condemnation. United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, said, “The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable.” Continue reading

Trump’s dictator flirtations reflect his Big Business past

Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un

Trump met with North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, one of the worst human rights violators on earth today, and came away feeling very charmed.

On June 12, President Donald Trump and Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un made history in the first-ever summit between an American and North Korean head of state. The two met in Singapore to discuss the North Korean nuclear weapons program and, according to President Trump’s account, got along splendidly.

Reactions to the meeting were mixed, but even many of Trump’s harshest critics acknowledged an air of cautious optimism following the summit. Getting along with another country, even one as brutal and oppressive as North Korea, is undeniably preferable to a global nuclear war. Yet there’s a big line between reaching a détente with North Korea and propping their dictatorial cult state up as a model for the world. Trump crossed that line repeatedly in statements he made after the meeting. Continue reading

Donald Trump and the right-wing presumption of innocence

trump and friends

Right-wing media is universally friendly to Trump, taking his innocence for granted and echoing his conspiracy theories about the investigation into his shady world.

President Donald Trump has escalated his attacks on the special counsel investigating his campaign’s alleged ties to Russian election interference. Last week Trump unleashed a torrent of tweets in an attempt to undermine the investigation’s credibility. Even as a deluge of shady new information about Trump associates pours in daily, from his personal attorney to his own children and son-in-law, conservative talking heads have dug in their heels behind the president more defiantly than ever. Continue reading

Reminder: Torture is not our only crime


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