Re­view of shutdown stale­mate

The Oklahoman - - OPINION - Michael Barone [email protected] ex­am­ CRE­ATORS.COM

The tele­vised pres­i­den­tial ad­dress from the Oval Of­fice, a sta­ple of com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the chief ex­ec­u­tive and the peo­ple in the second half of 20th 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 one, just days short of com­plet­ing half his term.

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

Post-speech factcheck­ing was par­tic­u­larly far­ci­cal. The Washington Post said Trump’s claim that ICE of­fi­cers made “266,000 ar­rests of aliens with crim­i­nal records” in two years is ac­cu­rate but “mis­lead­ing” be­cause the num­ber in­cludes all crimes. Huh?

An­other com­plaint is that Trump claimed 1 in 3 women in mi­grant car­a­vans is sex­u­ally as­saulted. The com­plainer pointed to a study that says it is 60 to 80 per­cent of those women. Ob­vi­ously, no­body knows the ac­tual num­bers. But it is pretty ob­vi­ous what’s been hap­pen­ing on the south­ern bor­der.

At­tempted bor­der cross­ings were way down in 2017. 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.

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, voted in 2006 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 il­le­gals, though re­gret­table, are bear­able in a na­tion of 328 mil­lion.

Democrats un­der­stand­ably tend to shun these valid but hard-hearted ar­gu­ments. In­stead they in­sist ve­he­mently that a wall 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 with Al­ge­ria, India’s with Bangladesh, Hun­gary’s with Ser­bia and oth­ers have re­duced il­le­gal cross­ings to near zero. This year, Ru­bin reports that France, Iraq, Lithua­nia, Es­to­nia and Nor­way are putting up walls.

And why are walls im­moral? Demo­cratic Rep. Eric Swal­well 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. House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee Chair­man Adam Smith 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 was care­ful to stress that he is seeking bet­ter tech­nol­ogy, more per­sonal hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance and asy­lum law changes, as well as “a phys­i­cal bar­rier.” He says, “At the re­quest of Democrats, it will be a steel bar­rier rather than a con­crete wall.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi con­ceded, “we need to se­cure our bor­ders.” And 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 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 (three­quar­ters of gov­ern­ment is funded). Looks like a stale­mate.

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