Just Because The President Is Less Blustery, And Neatly Summarizes His Position Doesn’t Make His Demand More Compelling
Here’s what we felt was the crux of the speech:
No. Democrats will fund border security. Probably a lot of it right now. Just not the wall.
No. Democrats are perfectly willing to compromise. They’re not, however, willing to cave to Trump’s demand for a wall or nothing else.
In case you missed it and want to watch the rest, here’s a link to the entire speech. And here it is well-analyzed by Peter Baker in the New York Times. And here’s a link to the Democrats’ response.
Also of note: the President did not threaten to handle the problem unilaterally by invoking emergency powers (although that remains a card he can still play.)
And even though the tone was softer, a full 2 minutes of Trump’s 8 minute speech (from 6:55-8:55 if you want to find it), so about 25% of his time was fully devoted to grisly, detailed tales of heinous individual crimes perpetrated on Americans by people in the country illegally. Which after all has been a hallmark of Trump’s messaging from day one of his campaign.
And Trump reiterated what’s become one of his favorite arguments: that rich people put up walls around their homes, so why shouldn’t rich countries?
What continues to puzzle us is why the President is asking far more of Democrats than he ever asked of Republicans during the previous 2 years when they controlled the House and Senate. Perhaps he was more willing to do his fellow Republicans a favor by signing their budget bill that also didn’t contain wall funding. And he was getting the increases in military spending that he wanted. But now that’s done. And fact is, he could’ve done a wall deal back then: he had one on the table with Democratic leader Chuck Schumer–“DACA for wall”–that would’ve given him far more wall funding than he’s asking for now. But Trump himself then blew that deal up. (Which we predicted at the time would become one of his greatest regrets.)
And he’s still in a position to get a lot of his “asks” from Democrats on immigration and border security if he’d just be willing to back away from the symbol of “the wall”. But of course that won’t happen not only because it was a central campaign promise, but more importantly the wall is so important to Trump because it’s to be his visible lasting legacy as President.
As Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in his generally uninspired, platitude-filled response: “The symbol of America should be the Statue of Liberty, not a 30 foot wall”. (We do wish Schumer would be a little more fiery and a little less enamored with coming up with clever turns of phrase.)
Trump did mention plans to sit down with Democratic leaders today. And before that he’ll meet with a group of Republicans.