Donald Trump was given a gift on Tuesday evening that was denied to President Obama—the opportunity to speak across all networks—and he used it to do exactly what he said he would not do: blame Democrats for the government shutdown he created.
Trump spent almost all of his nine-minute speech trying to create a sense of crisis. He first jabbed at economic issues, saying that immigration was bad “for African Americans and Hispanic Americans.” Then he flipped around to call it “a humanitarian crisis. a crisis of the heart, a crisis of the soul” while pointing up the horrors created by his own separation policies. Finally, Trump resorted to tales of violence by immigrants, looking across the nation and back through several years to surface three instances of crimes he could blame on immigrants.
Then Trump got down to the real business of his speech—making demands. Trump insisted that he needs more money for more agents, more judges, and more space at his border detention camps. He advocated that children at the border be “humanely and safely” returned home, without mentioning that the reason those children left home was often because of threats and violence, and the parents that risked everything to give them a better life would be left behind in a detention camp. Trump also repeatedly insisted that “coyotes” smuggle children across the border, or use children as an excuse to get into the country—a claim that has never been supported by any data.
Trump placed the blame for the wall on “law enforcement professionals,” saying that “experts” in DHS have “requested a physical barrier.” Then Trump made his most amazing claim of the night.
Trump: At the request of Democrats, it will be a steel barrier rather than a concrete wall.
No Democrat has requested, or even suggested, that they would support a steel wall more than a concrete wall. This is entirely a figment of Trump’s imagination. Trump also said that Chuck Schumer had other Democrats “has repeatedly supported a physical barrier at many times in the past,” purposely conflating limited fences with his border wall. Trump also launched into a suggestion that “politicians” put fences around their homes as proof that walls are good things.
But at the end, Donald Trump stopped short of declaring a national emergency. Instead, he stated that he will ask Democrats to join him for another meeting at the White House, though he gave no sense that there was anything at all to negotiate.
There is no crisis at the border. Or at least, there is no crisis at the border generated by immigrants. As the Washington Post reports, immigrants crossing the border without documentation peaked in 2000 and has been steadily declining ever since. The number of people apprehended crossing the border in 2017 was actually the lowest in 45 years. There’s certainly no crisis generated by border-crossing terrorists, who do not exist.
The idea that there is some national emergency at the southern border, one that went unrecognized by President Obama, by Bush, by Clinton, by Bush, by Reagan, by Carter, by Ford and by Nixon … is utterly ludicrous. Undocumented immigration has not been this low since 1972.
If there is a crisis, it’s one of Trump’s own making, and that crisis isn’t just at the border, it’s in the White House.
At the end of his speech, Trump blamed the shutdown on “those who refuse to compromise in the name of border security.” I can think of one.