Trump Revs Up Crisis Machine

Returning from weekend meeting with White House staff at Camp David


Prime Time Oval Office Message To The Public About “The Wall” Set For Tonight

After sitting around the Oval Office moping for most of the Christmas and New Year’s holidays (as he himself described in several Tweets), the President has suddenly decided to spring into action with a huge push and sales pitch to the American public for his long-promised border wall. (Denial of funding for that recently triggered him to force a government shutdown.) Or he may just bypass all that and declare a national emergency to build it. The New York Times has a good explanation of how that would work: it mostly involves reallocating funds and resources from the military.

Either way, Trump will make a prime time pitch to the American public tonight. He’s asked all the major networks to carry it, and right now looks like they will. Even as he calls the news divisions of these same networks “the real Opposition Party” and “truly the Enemy of the People!”. Just now.

BTW, it’s not automatic anymore for networks to cut into prime time programming for a President. In 2014 most networks did not carry an address—also about immigration—by President Obama, saying it was “overtly political”, and leaving it to the news channels.

Then he’ll go to someplace along the Southern Border, probably Texas.

Will it work? It could. It’s kind of what got him elected. Though at the same time “the wall” hasn’t proven to be as big a crowd pleaser as it appears to be at his rallies. And a Republican controlled House and Senate didn’t make too much of an effort to fund it over the last 2 years.

But even though it didn’t create the “red wave” he predicted, Trump was pretty effective turning the “caravan” of Central American migrants into a massive existential threat in the days leading up to last year’s elections. Now he and others in the White House are throwing around a number of 4000 “known or suspected terrorists” entering the U.S. last year, implying most of their incursions were at the Southern Border. They weren’t. According to NBC News it was actually only 6 of the 4,000. Almost all of the others were stopped at airports after flying into the country. And it’s even misleading to call them “known or suspected terrorists”. They are classified as “special interest aliens” meaning they come from countries that have produced terrorists, not that they themselves are known terrorists.

That was explained by Fox News’ Chris Wallace during this exchange with White House Spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders. It’s awfully instructive (click on the photo to watch):


Trump’s folks are also emphasizing the word “crisis” to describe the current border situation. Trump’s using it too, on Twitter.

Meanwhile, they are figuring out ways to open more of the government, in bits and pieces. Announcing for instance that the I.R.S. will start issuing tax refunds again, and some employees would be made available to answer phone inquiries (although they won’t get paid as long as the government is shut down). That’s good. Although at the same time, if the White House keeps moving to mitigate the impact of the shutdown, then what’s the point of the shutdown? For both sides?

And don’t forget…Trump will have another opportunity to speak unquestioned to the public before the end of the month when he gives his State of the Union address in just a couple of weeks.

How are Democrats likely to counter? They’ll probably get a chance to give a response to whatever Trump says tonight…but who ever really watches that? Also, Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland is proposing a counter-move: refuse to vote on any legislation until the Senate votes on reopening the government. Problem right now is Senators are only just heading back into town after the holidays so it may take a day or two to get that organized. What good will it do since Trump won’t sign it? First, it’ll bring Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—who’s been conspicuously absent—into the process. Second, if the Senate votes to reopen the government (the House already has), it’ll force Trump to veto the measure, formally taking ownership of the federal shutdown.