Donald Trump has been a political escape artist since the beginnings of his shady, scummy, shiftless life. From his spurious (see what I did there?) evasion of the Vietnam War draft to his serial bankruptcies and business failures, his wrecked marriages, and his current reign of misrule, Donald Trump’s ability to detonate a media IED to distract from his troubles has always served him well. Whenever there’s trouble from some Trump outrage, he never apologizes, never corrects his behavior and never, ever goes forth and sins no more. Instead, he deliberately creates some larger outrage, tossing red meat to a media always eager to chase it.
That was the Trump shutdown from the beginning, and the reason for his manic insistence on “The Wall” scam as its justification.
On Tuesday night, Trump’s flaming dumpster train of distractions, lies, cons, and empty political promises flew off the rails and plunged into a mountain of burning tires in one of his worst public speeches.
After 17 days of a government-shutdown temper tantrum, Trump needed a game-changing home run of a speech to change the political climate in D.C. He failed.
This speech wasn’t about saving his utterly fake wall. The $5.7 billion he’s demanded as his vig for ending the shutdown isn’t even close to being seriously considered, and this speech was an overt admission he’s out of airspeed, altitude, and ideas. The crisis he proudly created will end without a wall, and he knows it.
This speech was supposed to be about forcing the national dialogue to stay on the border wall. No such luck. He reeked of defeat, clearly didn’t want to be there, and it showed.
Trump looked exhausted, squinty, and bored, reading in a near-monotone from the Teleprompter. It went over like a wet fart.
The hysterical Know-Nothing show that flooded America’s airwaves on Tuesday evening was Trumpian boilerplate: Scary immigrants are coming to kill you! Drugs are coming over the border!
The man who gleefully put kids in cages tried to briefly pretend he gives a damn about migrant children in the least convincing humanitarian performance since the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
The dark warning of the dangerous brown tide coming across the border feeds the Breitbart/Fox News base with the same messages they’re getting every day, but it lacked the showmanship and agenda-changing power Trump hoped it would. Even if it had, just keeping the base’s amygdalas stoked doesn’t come close to solving his multiple political problems.
The speech can most accurately be seen as the death twitch of The Wall cult. Trump can’t deliver a product, so he’s looking to sell something different.
He said it tonight; the idea of a glorious concrete wall from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico is deader than that lemur he glues on his head every morning. It will, at most, be a fence. This is not what Trump’s supporters voted for. They voted for his sales pitch of a 30-foot concrete wall with laser moats, robot alligators, and minefields, all paid for by Mexico.
Donald Trump, as even the slowest members of the class have now noticed, is a lying liar who lies.
He is a gushing Niagara of lies, a torrential waterfall of deceptions, exaggerations, statistical manglings, and dumbfuck agitprop that insults the intelligence of Americans outside his base. He lies when the truth would suffice. He lies to cover up his own failings and inadequacies (“No, really. Your ruler must be wrong. That’s clearly 9 inches.”) and those lies drag his political supporters and the “conservative” commentariat into increasingly strained and elaborate defenses. Tonight didn’t disappoint when it came to lies of every flavor and scale.
As if readers of The Daily Beast needed reminding, there is no crisis on the border except the one in Donald Trump’s head. The number of immigrants is at an all-time low.
There is no brown wave of thousands of murderous MS-13 killers descending into every big city and small town in the United States. Armies of terrorists do not cross our border with Mexico every week. Drugs like fentanyl come from Mexico in limited amounts, but the vast majority comes from China. These problems exist, but not at a scale to justify either the Wall, Trump’s immigration positions, or creating a constitutional crisis and a government shutdown.
The fevered limbic imaginings of Ann Coulter, Mickey Kaus, Stephen Miller, Rep. Steve King, and the rest of the “we’re totally not racist xenophobes except when it comes to people darker than a Venti triple foam latte” may exist on the pages of Trumpbart and the screens of Fox, but facts are stubborn things, and almost every one of Trump’s “facts” about immigration springs from the minds of people like Coulter and Miller, not reality.
Trump’s speech contained more lies per second than any presidential speech in history, including William Howard Taft’s “I did not devour an entire roast lamb and drink a magnum of gravy to wash it down” speech, or Bill Clinton’s “I was at the gym. That’s just sweat.” classic.
But it notably did not include the declaration of emergency that Trump’s enablers and cheerleaders spent the day preparing to defend.
On the timeline where Trump pulled the trigger on the emergency declaration, we would have seen the nation consumed for weeks or months on litigation at every level, bitter fights of land seizure, a new level of authoritarian madness, and distractions from the economic chaos, and the rising heat in the Mueller investigation. For now, that party is off.
Sure, declaring a national emergency would be seen as a truly dangerous precedent, a big, risky gamble by a crazed political day trader willing to play Russian roulette with wild expansions of executive and federal power to feed the overtly racist elements of his base. In the era of Trump, you’re never off base to bet on the darkest motivations and most evil explanations for his behavior.
Somehow, though, the White House staff and congressional voices convinced Trump at the last minute to step back from the brink; that the political costs of the emergency declaration were too great even for this raging dumpster fire of an administration. You could see the disappointment in Trump’s face. He was unhappy with the speech, and evidently cranky to be told he couldn’t have his way. Curses! Cucked by the Establishment, again!
President Veruca Salt demanded his Wall and bet his most fundamental campaign promise on it. He walked himself into a political box canyon of a foolish government shutdown, an untenable demand, and Democrats motivated to hold the line. The speech wasn’t the usual trick escape play for the man accustomed to getting away with damn near everything; it was the exact opposite.
The Wall is dead. The shutdown will end. Donald Trump blew it, bigly.