James Fallows: “3 Simple Facts About the Shutdown”

wall street

James Fallows boils it down at The Atlantic:

  • Reality one: As recently as three weeks ago, Donald Trump was perfectly willing to keep the government open and defer funding for his wall— until a right-wing chorus made fun of him for looking “weak.”
  • Reality two: Trump and his Congressional party never bestirred themselves to fund this wall back when they had unquestioned power to do so, during the era of Republican control of the Congress in 2017 and 2018.
  • Reality three: the U.S.-Mexico border has come under more control in recent years, not less. It’s been controlled by fences and walls in the busiest areas — as has been the practice for decades. The “crisis” is the politics of the issue, not its underlying realities.

Read the rest here.

Trump Will Give a Speech Tomorrow Night. It Will Probably be Based on Lies and Other Assorted Falsehoods

trump at wall

Donald Trump will be speaking to the nation tomorrow night about the government shutdown and his border wall.

Trump will probably say that immigrants are coming across the border and trying to kill American citizens.  Yes, there have been people killed at the hands of undocumented immigrants.  This is a tragedy and the loss of a human life should never be taken lightly.

But, as I wrote in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trumpthe chance that an American will die at the hands of a refugee terrorist is about one in 10.9 million per year. One is more likely to die from walking across a railroad track or having one’s clothes spontaneously catch fire.  Yet Trump has managed to convince some Americans that Mexican immigrants are imminent threats to their safety.  This is the foundation of his immigration policy and his commitment to the border wall.  And one could argue that the wall is at the heart of his political brand.  It is based on fear.

If Trump wants to build a domestic policy around protecting the lives of everyday Americans, he should be spending billions on cancer research, heart disease research, diabetes research, the opiod crisis, Alzheimer’s research, safer systems of transportation, and suicide prevention. These are the largest causes of death in the United States.  Or how about spending money on long-term issues that will save lives–the protection of the environment, the reduction of the number of abortions in the United States, and affordable health care?

Do we need border security?  Yes.  Do we have an immigration problem that needs to be fixed?  Yes.  But if Trump really wants to keep more Americans alive he can spend that 5 billion in more fruitful ways.

More specifically, Trump will probably appeal to the so-called “4000 known or suspected terrorists” coming into our country illegally.  On Sunday, Chris Wallace debunked this claim in dramatic fashion before a national audience:

By the way, Chris Wallace works for Fox News.

Trump may try to declare a “National Emergency” based on this false information.  He will also accuse the Democrats in Congress that they do not care about the safety of our country.  But there is no national emergency.  I recently heard CNN Phil Mudd wonder when the last time a President of the United States had to go before the American people to persuade them that we were in the midst of a national emergency?  Aren’t national emergencies pretty obvious?  And don’t they usually get bipartisan support?  Maybe some of my presidential historian friends can help me with that one.

And finally, Trump may say that most of the American people support his decision to shut-down the government in order to get a wall.  This is another lie.  One recent poll found that 78% of Americans approve of some kind of compromise on border security.

Trump recently told the press that he “can relate” to the hundreds of thousands of people who are not receiving paychecks because of the government shut down. Really?  He added: “I’m sure the people who are on the receiving end will make adjustments; they always do.” I’ve seen this before.  Trump seems to be making some kind 18th-century appeal to political virtue. In other words, he believes the federal workers will be willing to give up some of their own self-interest (in this case their paychecks) in order to support a greater good (security through a border wall).  The Founding Fathers tried appeals to virtue in the 1770s and 1780s and they did not work very well.  They do not seem to be working very well today either.

Is There Anyone Left for Pundits to Compare to the Republican Party?

Michael Schaffer, writing at The New Republic, has come up with a list of “novel comparisons for the GOP ultras” who he believes started the whole government standoff.  Here is the list:

Colonel Walter E. Kurtz from Apocalypse Now  (Ross Douthat, New York Times)

V.I. Lenin (Jonathan Chait, New York)
Leon Trotsky (Richard McGregor, Financial Times)
The Weather Underground (David Horsey, Los Angeles Times)
Maoists (Michael Hirsh, National Journal)
The Know-Nothing Party (Paul Rosenberg, Salon)
Sonny Corleone from The Godfather (Kathleen Parker, The Washington Post)
Osama Bin Laden (Kathleen Parker, The Washington Post).
The Jacobins (David Corn, Mother Jones)
The John Birch Society (Christopher Parker, The Monkey Cage)
Joe McCarthy (Carl Bernstein, Morning Joe)
Occupy Wall Street (Michael Gerson, The Washington Post)
Poujadists (John Cassidy, The New Yorkers)
Conservative American Republicans (Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker)
Major T.J. “King” Kong from Dr. Strangelove (Jason Cherkis, Huffington Post)
Wow!  I think there is a lesson in here somewhere about the dangers of pursuing a “useable past.”

Some Guy Is Mowing the Lawn Around the Lincoln Memorial


Find out more at National Public Radio.  Here is a taste:

Because of the partial government shutdown, most of the monumental core in Washington, D.C. is not being maintained.
That means that icons like the Lincoln Memorial and its Reflecting Pool look a little less majestic.
But, today, a South Carolina man, took matters into his own hands and made news by doing what the government won’t do.
As The Washington Post reports, Chris Cox, 45, bought an old lawn mower and a leaf blower from a local mower parts dealer and got to work, making sure the lawn was nice and kept and some fallen tree limbs were moved out of the way. His selfless act was even mentioned in a lawn care magazine called the Weed Eaters Central.
“These are our memorials. Do they think that we’re just going to let them go to hell? No,” Coxtold All-News 99.1. “If they shut down our memorials, we’re still going to take the trash out, we’re going to clean the windows, we’re going to cut the grass, we’re going to pull the weeds, we’re going to do the tree work.”
Cox told the Post that he was not taking a political position by keeping up public lands.