Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s pharaonic, mo­ronic wall

Cherokee County Herald - - VIEWPOINTS - By Cokie Roberts and Steven V. Roberts

Pres­i­dent Trump’s “Great Wall” along the Mex­i­can bor­der is a truly ter­ri­ble idea.

It would be hugely ex­pen­sive, cost­ing an es­ti­mated $21.6 bil­lion. It would not work. And it would sym­bol­ize to the whole world the dark­est in­stinct that sur­faces pe­ri­od­i­cally in the Amer­i­can char­ac­ter: xeno­pho­bic re­sent­ment of for­eign­ers.

The Statue of Lib­erty prom­ises, “I lift my lamp be­side the golden door.” The Great Wall threat­ens to slam that door and smother that lamp. A bar­rier of de­spair would re­place a bea­con of hope.

Trump loves to build mon­u­ments to him­self, and the Wash­ing­ton Post calls the Great Wall “a pharaonic ex­er­cise,” a pyra­mid­like folly with only one pur­pose: to ful­fill an ill-ad­vised cam­paign pledge that Trump made re­peat­edly — and cyn­i­cally — to whip his crowds into a fear­ful frenzy.

“My base def­i­nitely wants the bor­der wall,” the pres­i­dent told the As­so­ci­ated Press. “You’ve been to many of the ral­lies, OK, the thing they want more than any­thing is the wall.”

That’s true, and Trump’s base re­mains fiercely loyal. In the lat­est ABC News/Wash­ing­ton Post poll, only 2 per­cent of Trump vot­ers ex­pressed any re­grets at their de­ci­sion. Ninety-four per­cent viewed him fa­vor­ably.

Bud­get di­rec­tor Mick Mul­vaney told the Wall Street Jour­nal that since Trump won the elec­tion, he is “en­ti­tled to have some of his pri­or­i­ties funded” and that “the wall is one of his top, if not his top, pri­or­ity.”

But the pres­i­dent’s pan­der­ing to his base shows how badly he’s mis­read­ing the po­lit­i­cal cli­mate today. Win­ning does en­ti­tle a pres­i­dent to cer­tain priv­i­leges: sign­ing ex­ec­u­tive or­ders and mak­ing ap­point­ments and pro­pos­als. It does not en­ti­tle him to the “wins” Trump so des­per­ately craves.

To pass leg­is­la­tion, any pres­i­dent has to de­velop a con­sen­sus — to con­vince a ma­jor­ity, in Congress and around the coun­try, that his pro­pos­als are wor­thy. And Trump has ut­terly failed to do that.

Af­ter 100 days, Trump is still a mi­nor­ity pres­i­dent. He re­ceived 46 per­cent in the gen­eral elec­tion. In na­tional polls, his av­er­age rat­ing is 42 per­cent fa­vor­able, 53 per­cent un­fa­vor­able — by far the worst per­for­mance by any new pres­i­dent since modern polling be­gan dur­ing the Eisen­hower years.

While the pres­i­dent’s base re­mains solid, he has failed to ex­pand his ap- peal be­yond his core con­stituency. In the lat­est NBC/Wall Street Jour­nal poll, 54 per­cent of in­de­pen­dents dis­ap­prove of his per­for­mance and only 30 per­cent view him pos­i­tively. “He risks los­ing the na­tion’s po­lit­i­cal mid­dle ground,” as­serts the Jour­nal.

Trump’s prob­lems are even deeper when it comes to the Great Wall. Last Novem­ber, a Quin­nip­iac Univer­sity sur­vey found that 55 per­cent of vot­ers were op­posed to his project. Today, the neg­a­tives have shot up to 64 per­cent, with only one- third sup­port­ing the idea.

The Jour­nal re­ported recently that “not a sin­gle mem­ber of the House or Se­nate rep­re­sent­ing the (bor­der) re­gion,” whether Repub­li­can or Demo­crat, sup­ports Trump’s re­quest for fund­ing the wall. Even those who fa­vor greater bor­der se­cu­rity don’t think the wall will stop any­body, es­pe­cially the crim­i­nal or­ga­ni­za­tions that Trump al­leges are pol­lut­ing the coun­try with nar­cotics and vi­o­lence.

“They will go over, through or un­der phys­i­cal bar­ri­ers, some­times pretty quickly,” said Rep. Martha McSally, an Ari­zona Repub­li­can. Rep. Will Hurd, a Texas Repub­li­can, de­scribed the wall as “the most ex­pen­sive and least ef­fec­tive way to se­cure the bor­der.”

The op­po­si­tion doesn’t end there. A Wash­ing­ton Post re­port from Hurd’s district says “there are also fears that a phys­i­cal wall would vi­o­late the prop­erty rights that Tex­ans hold dear, and be a kick in the gut to a re­gional econ­omy heav­ily de­pen­dent on cross-bor­der trade.”

“It could se­ri­ously turn the bor­der into an­other Rust Belt if we do not take the eco­nomic is­sue more se­ri­ously,” says Al Arre­ola Jr., pres­i­dent of the South San An­to­nio Cham­ber of Com­merce.

This is why Democrats felt so free to stand up to Trump and forced him to back off de­mands to in­clude $1.4 bil­lion for the wall in this year’s bud­get. We both cov­ered Congress dur­ing the early days of Ron­ald Rea­gan’s pres­i­dency, and Demo­cratic lead­ers told us fre­quently: We can’t op­pose him; we have to work with him. He’s too pop­u­lar.

None of that feel­ing is present in Wash­ing­ton today. Democrats don’t fear or re­spect Pres­i­dent Trump. He still vows to build the wall even­tu­ally, but he will not gain the ven­er­a­tion or the vic­to­ries he hungers for by sup­port­ing a project that is not just pharaonic, but mo­ronic — a tawdry tes­ta­ment to his own ego and his worst im­pulses.

Steve and Cokie Roberts can be con­tacted by email at steve­

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