On Dec. 22, the government shut down for the third time this past year. The shutdown has affected one-fourth of the federal government, which represents over 800,000 federal workers. This shutdown was caused entirely by President Donald Trump’s insistence upon more appropriations for a border wall, his marquee campaign promise. Wanting to make his case to the public, the president, for the first time, gave an oval office address to the nation on this very issue last week on Jan. 8. This speech was rife with falsehoods and the speech was nothing less than a gaslighting of Americans on a fabricated crisis on our southern border with Mexico, utilizing racial division, misleading statistics on drug trafficking and an outright lie regarding how the wall would be financed.
The very first assertion that he thought was necessary to bring up was this statement, “...all Americans are hurt by uncontrolled, illegal migration. It strains public resources and drives down jobs and wages. Among those hardest hit are African Americans and Hispanic Americans.” How can someone who refused to condemn any kind of supremacism in his tenure in office, most notably the Charlottesville episode in 2017, be so suddenly concerned for the welfare of those same people? This rhetoric in his speech is directly contradictory to his own troubled racial views at best. This is evidence of that because while he would tout falling unemployment numbers for black Americans, like in his State of the Union address in 2018, he has made comments denigrating migrants in the past, describing there being s***hole countries in an Oval Office meeting early last year, calling migrants, “animals”, and decrying Mexicans four years ago in his first speech as a candidate talking about “the scourge of drugs and crime coming into our country”. This speech, then, is not different in any way, matter or form from any speech on immigration he gave within the last four years, especially regarding this issue of race.
The second assertion Trump made, which is far less charged than his comments involving race and racism, stated, “every week 300 of our citizens are killed by heroin alone, 90 percent of which floods across from our southern border. More Americans will die from drugs this year than [those who] were killed in the entire Vietnam War.” This rhetoric is also untrue. The assumption behind this commentary is that these drugs are coming across a border that is porous and unguarded. This assertion is untrue in this sense — these drugs are mostly flowing through legal ports of entry, not through territory that has no wall, according to his own government on the National Drug Threat Assessment. And while it may be empirically true that drugs are harming Americans, it is untrue that they are somehow being smuggled in through vast sections of unprotected border.
Finally, there was this dubious and eminently untrue assertion that the newly signed United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) will “very quickly pay for [the wall],” which therefore fulfills his campaign promise to make Mexico pay for the border wall. This claim is eminently untrue for this key reason: trade deals do not bring in more tax receipts from a foreign country, and this kind of a deal will only affect private transactions, so therefore, this trade deal will not pay for the border wall, unlike his assertion during his address. Therefore, this speech represents a breaking of that fundamental promise he made to the voters, which is that Mexico, and not the American taxpayer, will finance the wall.
This speech was by all accounts, a complete and total waste of time from a president that seems to always be in rally mode with his partisan base rather than doing the thing he claimed to want to do, which was to unite this country. This speech will be recorded in the annals of history as more of a campaign rally speech for the base, rather than offering new and inventive solutions to break the impasse that is leaving 25 percent of government unfunded in the longest shutdown in U.S. history. Of all the viewership of this speech, according to recent polling, around only two percent of voters said this speech changed their minds. Another lasting point to make is that the border wall is polling at around the same amount as his own approval rating, at 44 percent. This is clearly yet another divisive play from a divisive president. For a president wanting to be president by delivering such an address of such magnitude, maybe the real presidential thing to do is to do his job, and reopen the government.