Let’s Try to Get Past Trump

Posted January 5, 2018 8:41 p.m. EST

Ever since Donald Trump entered the White House, we have heard complaints that there’s too much talk about the presidential personality and not enough about the issues. That’s sort of true.

We wake up planning to think only about the federal budget, and then suddenly there’s a new book that claims Trump eats so much McDonald’s because he’s afraid of being poisoned.

But we’re good citizens, darn it. So what if he’s been bragging about the size of his “nuclear button”? Today, we’re doing policy. No presidential strangeness will distract us. Let’s try the border wall.

We have been hearing about this idea for a long time. When Trump announced he was running for president, he promised to “build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.” It brought down the house.

Have you ever wondered what the world would be like if Trump had lost his train of thought that day and instead gone off on a long riff about poor children in Africa and got the same kind of enthusiastic response? Could have happened, if the stories are true about the crowd being stuffed with people who were paid to just cheer and fill out the camera shots. And then maybe he’d have spent the next year hanging out with Pope Francis instead of Steve Bannon.

Anyhow, then it was on to the Republican primaries, during which Trump promised to deport all 11 million unauthorized residents in the country. (“We’re rounding them up in a very humane way, in a very nice way.”)

He appears to have given up on that one. Possibly because of his short attention span. We have been thinking of the attention span since Michael Wolff, whose Trump book is dominating the national conversation, claimed that the president’s habit of repeating himself every 30 minutes has now devolved to every 10 minutes.

No, no, not going there. Back to policy.

Right now, Congress is scrambling to try to keep the government running through the month, and the Democrats are ready to negotiate as long as the deal includes protection for the Dreamers. Those are the approximately 800,000 young immigrants who were brought to the country as minors and given protection under the Obama program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Trump rescinded it last year but included a six-month delay that was supposed to give Congress time to work out a new plan.

“If they can’t, I will revisit this issue!” he said.

Maybe he forgot. This is a man who twice tried to walk out of executive order signing ceremonies without signing the executive order. Who once testified that he couldn’t remember having told a reporter he had one of the world’s great memories.

It is stupendously important that Washington deal with DACA now. The nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute predicts that otherwise, beginning this spring, an average of 915 young people a day will lose protection from deportation.

On one bright evening last fall it appeared that Trump had worked out a deal with the Democratic leaders: fix the Dreamer problem and spend a lot more money on border patrols.

Do you think it was a good plan? The Border Patrol is already huge. And the agents have less and less to do. During the last fiscal year, they made 310,531 arrests, down 25 percent from the year before, and the lowest level since 1971.

How do you feel about hiring more of them?

A) What the hell, if it gets us through the problem.

B) No way, I’m a deficit hawk.

C) Do you think the president has dementia? I have read many convincing pieces on this subject recently.

Hey, C is off the table. Remember our plan.

The one thing the Democrats are not willing to negotiate is the wall, which they find offensive, wasteful and stupid. It would cost an estimated $21.6 billion, ruin farms, kill off wildlife and look like hell. Otherwise, no problem.

Trump has had eight prototypes of his dream barrier constructed just to show the country what it’s been missing. Some are gray, some are brown, some are kind of blue. Some are 30 feet tall. They’re right on the border near San Diego.

Scott Nichol of the Sierra Club borderlands team says they’ve actually become magnets for refugees seeking asylum from violence-torn countries in Central America. Because there tend to be a lot of witnesses there, Nichol said, it’s harder for border patrolmen to ignore a request for due process.

So that’s a plus. Maybe we could just keep the prototypes.

Many Republicans in Congress hate the wall idea, but Trump is obsessed. So where do we go from here?

A) Hold fast and hope he forgets he asked for it.

B) Tell him it’s built but it’s made of special new invisible bricks.

C) Steal his cellphone.

I vote for B. If everybody starts congratulating him on the great new transparent wall, he will totally believe he did it. This is a man who thinks he stopped planes from crashing last year.

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