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A shutdown stalemate as Trump goes factual, Democrats illogical

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 1/10/2019 Michael Barone
Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Donald Trump are posing for a picture © Provided by MediaDC: Washington Newspaper Publishing Company, Inc.

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

The televised presidential address from the Oval Office, a staple of communication between the chief executive and the people in the second half of twentieth century, has recently been in desuetude. Former President Barack Obama delivered only three such addresses in his eight years in office. President Trump this week delivered his first, just days short of completing half a term.

It was a sober address, short but touching some emotive chords. It was also carefully based on actual facts and proposals — contrary to the Democrats’ meme that it would be based on fears, not facts.

Post-speech fact-checking was particularly farcical. The Washington Post said Trump’s claims of “266,000 arrests of aliens with criminal records” in two years was “accurate but misleading,” because it included all crimes. Huh?

Another complaint was that Trump’s claim that one in three women in caravans were sexually assaulted; the complainer pointed to a study that said it was actually 60 to 80 percent of them. Trump had understated the case. Obviously nobody knows the actual numbers; a good guess might be “a lot.”

But it is pretty obvious what’s been happening on the southern border. Attempted border crossings were way down in 2017, presumably for fear of tough Trump enforcement. They rose in 2018, as many Central Americans started arriving with children, hoping to gain entry into the United States by exploiting court-created loopholes in American asylum law. Few had legitimate claims of political persecution or on other traditional grounds for asylum; many complained of high local crime rates for which, so far as I know, no nation has ever granted asylum.

It may be objected that the number of illegal southern border crossings was much higher 15 and 20 years ago. That’s why Congress, including Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in 2006 voted for more border protection.

And it’s possible to argue that in the current hot labor market illegals have little depressing effect on wages, and that the numbers of violent crimes by illegal immigrants, though regrettable, are bearable in a nation of 327 million.

Democrats understandably tend to shun these valid but hard-hearted arguments. Instead they insist vehemently that a wall, which many supported a dozen years ago, will inevitably be ineffective and must be regarded as “immoral.”

This first argument flies in the face of evidence. As American Enterprise institute’s Michael Rubin pointed out in 2017, Israel’s wall with the West Bank, Morocco’s wall with Algeria, India’s with Bangladesh, Hungary’s with Serbia and others have reduced illegal crossings to near zero. To the point that this year, Rubin reports France, Iraq, Lithuania, Estonia and Norway are putting up walls. “It is simply counterfactual to suggest that walls won’t work,” he writes, "willful subordination of facts to the politics of the day.”

And why are walls immoral? Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., recognizes the “Berlin Wall was to keep people in” argument, but insists a wall to keep people out is “medieval” and “a symbol of ‘us and not us.’” Well, yes—U.S. citizens and not U.S. citizens.

Likewise, House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., says Trump’s call for the wall is rooted in “xenophobia and racism.” To say that it is impermissible or racist to distinguish between American citizens and others is to make a case for open borders. Even in the days of Ellis Island, health restrictions blocked some would-be immigrants and deterred perhaps millions of others.

Trump made the argument more gracefully, pointing out that wealthy politicians build walls, fences and gates around their property not “because they hate the people on the outside, but because they love the people on the inside.” A backyard fence is not prison wall.

In his speech, Trump was careful to stress that he was seeking better technology, more personal, humanitarian assistance, and asylum law changes, as well as “a physical barrier—at the request of Democrats it will be a steel barrier rather than a concrete wall.”

In her response, Nancy Pelosi conceded that “we need to secure our borders,” and Chuck Schumer said, “Democrats and the president both want stronger border security.” You might see these words as pointing toward a deal. I don’t.

Pelosi and Schumer insisted, without citing evidence, that a wall is “ineffective” and “unnecessary.” Their party seems emotionally fixated on blocking a wall and impervious to argument, even as Trump, perhaps surprisingly, made a dignified and factual case that it’s needed to “protect our country.”

Government shutdowns, formerly headline news, seem less painful these days (three-quarters of government is funded). Looks like stalemate.


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