Trump boxed in by his own wall

Donald Trump © Getty images
Trump: determined to build the border wall

President Trump delivered a “forceful and fact-challenged” televised plea to the nation on Tuesday night for his long-promised border wall, declaring a “growing humanitarian and security crisis” at the southern border and blaming Democrats for the partial government shutdown that “he helped instigate three weeks ago”, say Philip Rucker and Felicia Sonmez in The Washington Post.

In the speech, Trump made no mention of terrorism – a key if “largely bogus” argument advanced in favour of the wall – but he made a number of other false claims. He said the wall would be paid for by the “great new trade deal we have made with Mexico”; a deal that has not been ratified by Congress, and which does not, in any case, necessarily translate into greater revenue for the federal government.

He also said 90% of the heroin sold in the US comes across the southern border, although nearly all of it is trafficked across legal border crossings. And he described the situation as a “crisis” even though the number of people apprehended peaked in 2000 and has been declining since.

What crisis there is is of his own making, says The New York Times. Mass detentions are overwhelming the system, causing overcrowding and illness and leading to “haphazard” releases of detainees. Trump has also been “floating the possibility of stiff-arming Congress altogether” by declaring a national emergency, a move that would prompt a swift legal challenge if not a constitutional crisis.

The wall, which Trump pledged to help him win the presidency, has “boxed him” into a corner, says David Charter in The Times. For two years, he appeared to let the project drift; now he is “convinced that it is the issue that will get him re-elected in 2020”. He also sees it as a “tangible legacy of his presidency”. Very true, agrees The New York Times. “The substance of border security may not interest him much,” but as a symbol it “sure does”.