A top Trump campaign pledge is poised for the dumpster. Who woulda thought?
Remember how Trump wowed his naifs with his vision of “a big beautiful wall” that would extend 2,200 miles along the full length of the U.S.-Mexico border? So much for that con. In Senate testimony yesterday, Homeland Security chief John Kelly conceded: “It’s unlikely that we will build a wall or a physical barrier from sea to shining sea.”
And remember how Trump vowed that his wall “will go up so fast, your head will spin”? And that it will be built “very inexpensively,” because “nobody builds walls better than me”? So much for those cons, too.
According to the best official estimates, even a partial wall wouldn’t be finished until well into Trump’s second term (if he lasts that long). An MIT study puts the taxpayer tab at $38 billion, which strikes me as expensive, at least when you consider what else $38 billion can buy. And however much Trump touts himself as a great wall-builder, the reality is that he’d still need to partner with Congress. Which is reluctant to spend that kind of money.
John Kelly’s wall concession was largely overlooked yesterday, lost in the latest roundelay of Trumplandian noise. (I won’t bother to list everything that happened yesterday, because it would hurt your brain, and mine.) But the wall “issue” is worth an extra glance, if only to demonstrate, yet again, that fantasy has a short shelf life when it collides headlong with reality. Big talk is not the same as governance.
Any Trump fan with a passably cognitive intellect should’ve been able to spot the fantasy’s flaws. Ranchers and farmers at the border, and Native Americans whose lands extend for 75 miles at the border, would fight in court to keep their turf, and those cases would likely linger for years. Indeed, Kelly said yesterday that the Native Americans “would be unwilling, unlikely” to OK the wall. As for the ranchers and farmers, Kelly delicately said that “there are some eminent domain issues.”
And something else Trump fans never thought about (because the wall is all about feelings): Where do we build a physical wall when the border is actually a river? Trump’s Interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, addressed this dilemma in remarks late last month. He said, “The border is complicated. The Rio Grande, what side of the river are you going to put the wall? We’re not going to put it on our side and cede the river to Mexico. And we’re probably not going to put it in the middle of the river.”
So .. .what? We’ll put it on the Mexican side?! With Mexico’s OK?!
I’m waiting for Trump to say, “Nobody knew the wall could be so complicated.”
But the biggest problem is that most Americans don’t even want the wall. Turns out – and I know this comes as a shock – that the enthusiasm for walling us off from Mexico was largely confined to the subset of citizens who flocked to Trump’s rallies. Turns out that when it comes to wall spending, most of us are actually fiscal conservatives.
Trump’s proposed budget calls for a $1.5-billion down payment on the wall. According to a new national poll released today, only 28 percent of Americans like the idea. And 58 percent do not. Democrats are adamantly refusing to support a budget with wall spending, and the ruling congressional Republicans are so tepid about the wall that they’re reportedly “putting the brakes” on Trump’s initial request. A funding bill is needed, by April 28, to keep the government open through the current fiscal year – and Republicans have already decided that wall money won’t be in it.
So much for a wall built so fast that it will make our heads spin.
Trump’s apologists have already been reduced to lame spin. Senator John Cornyn said last week that when Trump promised a big beautiful physical wall across the entire southern border, he was only speaking “metaphorically.” Trump’s fans – the 35 percent of Americans who still feel the love – are fine with that. I even suspect that many of them doubt the wall will ever be built. Governing is slow and boring; they loved the wall rhetoric for its sheer visceral thrill.
As Trump once wrote (courtesy of his ghostwriter), “I play to people’s fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do.”
There’s good news on several fronts:
1. House Republicans took another stab at a bill to replace Obamacare with Trumpcare – and it collapsed yet again. There isn’t enough popcorn on the shelves to sate this ongoing entertainment.
2. I mentioned on Tuesday that Jon Ossoff, the young Democratic candidate in the imminent Georgia congressional race, had racked up $4 million in small donations nationwide, from Democrats hungry for a Trump rebuke. That was an astounding amount for an off-season special election – but now we have an update. His tally now exceeds $8 million.
3. Trump waterboy Devin Nunes is out as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Apparently his efforts to sabotage the Trump-Russia investigation were too transparent to succeeed. His removal is supposedly “temporary,” but that fig leaf is too small to cover his credibility crash.
4. Steve Bannon, the in-house Trump loon, was yanked – against his will – from the National Security Council. His next stop should be a park bench with Michael Flynn, where they can share a great newspaper as a blanket.