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Walled Off Options: Donald Trump, Mexico and the Democrats

New year occasions, given the pleasant fiction it entails, are times to change. Resolutions are made by that delightful species Homo sapiens, hope packaged for quick delivery to those who promise change. The weak will become stronger; the strong will show humility. The venal, well, they just might change.

Human nature suggests the opposite, and 2019 has begun with an unsurprisingly consistent thud from the White House. The House Democrats have barricaded themselves on one side; President Donald Trump mans the opposing positions. A partial government shutdown has been in effect for almost three weeks. But the new year tidings have merely made the president more insistent. He demands $5.7 billion to construct a steel barrier as part of the border fortifications along the US-Mexico border, and reminds Democrats that they did, in 2006, vote for a physical barrier of 1,120 km. Overall, he insists this is small beer, as Mexico will fund the wall through a rejigged North American Free Trade Agreement. Mexican officials and politicians beg to differ, as they always have.

In his January 8 address, the president insisted on a “growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border” (growth of a crisis is a common Trump theme). That particular “southern border is a pipeline for vast quantities of illegal drugs, including meth, heroin, cocaine and fentanyl. Every week 300 of our citizens are killed by heroin alone, 90 percent of which floods across from our southern border.”

For Trump, selective culling and trimming is essential to any message that winds its way to the public sphere that can be dared called a forum. He edits texts, perceptions and accounts to oblivion, putting in place his distinct variation. Where there is something minor, there is bound to be a catastrophe. Where there is a calamity, it is bound to be distinctly minor.

This was his view on the use of emergency powers as described by Adam Smith, the sort he hopes to use in dealing with getting funds to resolve his Mexican problem, thereby ending the “humanitarian” and “security” crisis. Doing so would enable him to access sources otherwise frozen by the current shut down. “Congressman Adam Smith, the new Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, just stated, ‘Yes, there is a provision in law that says a president can declare an emergency. It’s been done a number of times.’”

That tweet is, as is the Trump method, right and wrong, and even he hopes to make sure that the work is best done through Congress. Smith did tell ABC News’s This Week that emergency powers were available to be invoked. But, as ever, the qualifying statement follows. “In this case, I think the president would be wide open to a court challenge saying, ‘Where is the emergency?’ You have to establish that in order to do this.’” Those words to George Stephanopoulos have managed to make their way into the ether of forgetting, as is the Trump way.

Political emergencies tend to be confections and propagations, puffed realities advanced by demagogues and figures of desperation. The issue of a Mexican emergency on the border has always been far-fetched, but last Friday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was insisting that there were 4,000 suspected or known terrorists who had been caught attempting to enter freedom’s land, with Mexico being the “most vulnerable point of entry”. Such a statement implied that Mexico was playing its own irresponsible part in ensuing this vulnerability to prosper. A qualifier was subsequently made by White House adviser Kellyanne Conway: the figures used in rather cavalier fashion by Sanders had been from 2017 for the whole set of attempted entrants.

Trump has some latitude in redirecting military funds by a declaration of a formal emergency under the National Emergencies Act of 1976. The threshold is surprisingly low, a more than generous nod towards executive flexibility in determining what might constitute a state of sufficient disturbance. What matters from Trump’s perspective is showing how the border wall would fit into the category of a military fortification. While his judgement might well be challenged in court, the issue of standing for any opponents will be problematic.

Trump has been attempting to make his own crusted resolutions, which seem very much like those made in 2018. For man quick to disturb and disrupt, he remains painfully, and sometime ineffectively, consistent. Even he found the issue of giving his January 8 address a bit of a bore, and did his boring best to remind us why he feels the Democrats should throw their lot in to assist the wall project.

Opponents should now know that the way through the man’s heart is to anticipate the proffering of a promise that can only be made by giving the impression that his wishes will be satisfied, only to then adjust the outcome. Pretend, and let the rest go. But politics in the Trump era remains, for the moment, ruled by a classic misapprehension: that the tweet is not only the message, but the whole message, to be attacked for its facts, presumed or otherwise. Treat it seriously at your own peril. As things stand after the January 8 speech, the words of Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan are as accurate as any: “Nobody convinced anybody.”

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  1. Graham

    If he wants money for the wall how come his advisors have not suggested a GoFundMe appeal to his base?

  2. New England Cocky

    Hmmm ….. “Opponents should now know that the way through the man’s heart is to anticipate the proffering of a promise that can only be made by giving the impression that his wishes will be satisfied, only to then adjust the outcome.”

    Remember Czechoslovakia in 1937?? These tactics look very like the very same tactics used by Hitler to bluff compliant British and other European governments scared of Communist takeover by the workers and loss of upper class privileges and property before, entering the Spanish Civil War and ultimately, the misjudged Polish Invasion of 1939.

    Dictators do not change their tactics, they only change the name to cause history to be written again.

  3. Diannaart


    Too socialist?

    You know how independent these Americans are, anything that smacks of cooperation is the evil path to communism.

    Perhaps, Trump should demonstrate his independence and build the effing wall himself. Oh, I jest, Trump wouldn’t know one end of a shovel even if smashed over his head. And I am not suggesting violence to the POTUS.

  4. Michael Taylor

    Graham, I think there is one. Crazy, isn’t it? Talk about “appealing” to your base. 😳

  5. mark delmege

    Obama was deporting 400,000 a year. If you dont think the USofA has a southern border problem you are not paying attention. Play your partisan games all you want but when the Democrats were talking about a wall no one paid much attention.

  6. Ill fares the land

    This post reminds me of my customary view of New Year – that folly by which we convince ourselves that the mere arrival of a calendar date can effect sweeping change. The obese can become svelte; the dedicated smoker can restore their long lost lung function; the world will be a better place – all by some weird magic. Sadly, the truth is far more prosaic, if not plain frightening. The world is going to hell. I see lots of article trumpeting how graphs show that the world is a far better place that it has been in the past. Facts are undeniable, but the decline in the world is a more subtle phenomenon.

    We have less big conflicts, but more simmering conflicts and more countries racked by intenral conflict, often promoted by fossil fuel interests and corruption on a massive scale.

    Materialism continues to grip the western world. Sure, millions in China have been lifted out of poverty, but how does that explain how there are still too many kids in urban Australia go to school each day without a decent breakfast? Where pensioners have to wait years to see a specliaist in the Australian public health system, but those same specilialists are, typically, multi-millionaires.

    We have allowed our politics to diminish – in a 24/7 world where communication is dominated by drivel and, gulp, opinion dominates fact, our politicians have adapted to become sloganeers. But this means two things – one is that every act of every politicians is now made public and that turns politicis into a deadly reality TV show. Trump is the finest exponent, but only because his ego is so vast and his neediness simply unbounded. The second is that the calibre of election politicians has declined. It was never high, but how can an inarticulate, jibbering fool like Hanson get a public voice – and line her pockets at taxpayer expense because of the (past) vagaries of the electoral funding system. How do we tolerate the Duttons? How did we allow a fool who was a failed pre-selection candidate (until the other candidate was emeshed in scandal) and a weasel-word talking dolt to gain the office of PM – one for which he is patently unsuited and so obviously out of his depth?

    How do we complain about fuel prices and then overwhelmingly choose to buy ever bigger cars and how do we fall for the advertising of cars that festers our need to be looked at, admired and envied. We want bigger houses and scream about higher house prices.
    We scream about electricity prices but buy more and more appliances and bigger TV’s and fridges. The latest ad for the Toyota Kluger proclaims the car is “made to be looked at”. The latest ad for a Holden SUV says “don’t just turn up … arrive”. Be special, promote your personal brand, your opinion matters, your utter specialness requires unique products so the world can look rapturously at you and want to be like you.

    This doesn’t point me to a world that isn’t being subsumed by greed, selfishness and self-obsession – and Trump is at the vanguard of this deluded and needy movement and the “great big wall” embodies all that is flawed about Trump and much of the world.

  7. Ian Joyner

    The “Mexican problem” is that Mexico is there and really Texas, New MEXICO, Arizona, and California are part of Mexico. That problem will always be there – wall or no wall.

  8. Terence Mills

    Mark Delmege

    The Democrats are talking about border security in the broader sense. That includes border patrols [land and air], border crossing security upgrade and importantly coastal surveillance AND beefing up the wall.

    The Dems want to separate the two issues of the five billion for the wall from the general appropriations that run government services : Trump wants a fight, he has said so.

  9. mark delmege

    I’ll give you points Terrance for acknowledging there is a problem which is more than most here will do but you still fall into the same trap.

  10. Chris P Bacon

    Report yourself as illegal and Immigration will send a bus to take all the rellies back to Mexico for a wedding. (Cheech and Chong, Up In Smoke if memory serves me correctly).

  11. wam

    Not a wall. graham!
    But he could mobilise a mob of shovellers(some kind of 45 to top up numbers7??) to do a moat?
    Fill it with green dye so the wetbacks can be identified?
    Problemo, finito????

  12. Kerry

    I think the timing of the “wall emergency” is too suspiciously close to the fake Syria withdrawal announcement.

    Generally when American domestic politics is occupied with something super dumb, which is almost always, you can bet they are dropping more bombs from drones in some part of the Middle east. The wall and the war withdrawal are two fake election promises that Trump has to be seen to be trying to deliver. Its pointless reading any more into it.

    And feel free to substitute Obama, Clinton, Bush …it makes zero difference who is the mouthpiece: the US military keeps growing and killing exponentially.

    it is a sad thing to see that the US government is forcing people to work for free during the shutdown while increasing and funding an even bigger military to fight its endless wars. The US is in late stage Orwellian reality hence the ultimate doublespeak president.

    Trump was chosen for this exact reason and if you pay attention to the US congress voting record you will find that Dems routinely and almost unanimously vote for all things military including illegal invasions, no fly zones, sanctions and increasing the military budget, including Bernie and Elizabeth Warren. There is no “left” in America only one united War Party.

    Sadly this pattern is repeated here in Australia and I fear that we are not too far behind the US in our willingness to turn a blind eye. Already we have a booming arms industry. How did peace loving Australia get to here?

    How can we call ourselves free when we allow our governments to kill millions of nameless people overseas for secret political reasons? The end result will be that eventually governments will have permission to turn on their own citizens. Its already happening via the police force.

    Orwell was so accurate in predicting our fate because it was already happening in his own time.

    “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength”.

  13. Kyran

    Ah, Trump, the denialist extraordinaire, l’enfant terrible. Didn’t he start by promising to build a wall using other people’s money? A mere progression of his tried and failed business model, where he successfully took his obscene inheritance and whittled it away through various bankruptcies, propped up decreasingly by his ‘art of the deal’ idiocy.
    When the Mexican’s said ‘No’, he said ‘Well we’ll build it and send you the bill’. Then he said it won’t be a wall, but a segmented steel fence. In Scummo style, he will likely build one section and photoshop it to inflate its presence. What they will probably get is a picket fence, or a series of sand bags.
    Like most of the planet at the moment, the people of America suffer for the inanity of their ‘leaders’. They too rely on crowd funding to paper over their own governments inadequacy.

    “If Instagram is where Americans construct a fantasy version of their lives, GoFundMe is where reality reasserts itself. For many of the 800,000 federal employees who have either been furloughed or forced to work without pay since 22 December, their reality is increasingly one of desperation. Those workers have missed out on $1.4bn in wages each week of the shutdown, according to an analysis by the Washington Post, pushing those who live paycheck to paycheck to the brink of disaster.”

    The success of the pages is limited, possibly due to the number of them. One would be entitled to ask why this fool hasn’t tried a ‘gofundme’ page to get his white picket fence built, a fund he could contribute to. Oh, that’s right. They have a gofundme page, to which neither he nor his unemployed rusted on supporters (still waiting for the promised return of their manufacturing jobs) have contributed. Well, they have a start, anyway.

    “… a viral GoFundMe page established by air force veteran and motivational speaker Brian Kolfage in late December, is approaching $20m (of a stated goal of $1bn) from more than 330,000 donations. The constantly updating ticker of small-dollar donations on the GoFundMe page reveals the dedication of the minority of Americans who continue to support Donald Trump’s vision of a wall on the US-Mexico border.”

    The existential clear and present danger, the national emergency, does exist in America. As many have noted, it occupies the White House, secure behind its very own steel fence. That it is the corruption and excesses of the governments on both sides of the border fuelling the problem is left ignored.
    Maybe Kim Jong-un could toss in a few bob. Or Putin.
    Yep, making America grate!
    Thank you Dr Kampmark and commenters. Take care.

  14. helvityni

    Ill fares the land
    January 10, 2019 at 12:37 pm

    Excellent post, agree with you whole-heartedly…

  15. Paul Davis

    Ill fares the land

    Good reads… Yep, our depressing but inevitable slide into an Orwellian feudalism.

    By all means let’s vote in Shorty’s Centre Right Party ‘cos that gang will be less vicious and destructive than the LNP mobsters. But dont pretend we will save the environment, slow down the murderous military machine or restrain corporate rapaciousness. Apart from an airbrushing and some spackfiller it will be business as usual…. and we all know it.

  16. mark delmege

    Obama deported nearly 3,000,000. The southern Border is a real problem and the Democrats are just playing politics. 5 billion is nothing and if it helped solved the problem it would be a very cheap solution. Of course 5 billion won’t cover it. Trump campaigned on the issue and wants to be seen doing something ie to have a win. The Democrats don’t want that and they will do almost anything – like falsely blaming Russia or in this case mocking the sort of wall that has been built elsewhere to solve a problem. Like so much of modern politics it is no more than political theatre.

  17. Diannaart

    Mark Delmege

    You know what planes can do?

    More people arrive by plane and overstay visas than arrive via trekking across southern border.

  18. DrakeN

    @ Diannaart

    All along same thing Australia! (‘cept it’s boats)

    Border Force?

    Bluddy Farce is more like it.

    “We’ll all be rooned” said Hanrahan.

    Seriously, though, this whole migration issue is descending into a tragicofarce, created to distract from more serious matters of malfaesance and misgovernment – of which there is and endless supply, it seems.

  19. Diannaart


    Let us not forget this entire safety of our borders beat up, is part of the justification for spending on defence weaponry soon to become redundant by the time the subs, jet fighters and other big boys’ toys arrive on site, at taxpayers expense.

  20. helvityni

    What’s the latest on Hakeem Al Araibi, still in Thailand…?

  21. Matters Not

    Now in Canada. Welcomed at the Airport by the Foreign Affairs Minister(?).

    Those Canadians know how to make decisions. Now if she wanted to be an au pair … too easy.

  22. helvityni

    MN, I know Rahaf Al Quinn was snapped up by Trudeau, I was referring to the footballer, Hakeem al Araibi…( we like sports people)…..

  23. Matters Not

    Sorry helvityni soccer players fly well under my radar. Why was a political refugee so silly as to go to Thailand for a trip? Corruption from top to bottom. Not a nice place to be in very overcrowded jails. Overstayed once – but escaped with a fine. Never again. The Land of Smiles – except when they don’t.

  24. Paul Davis

    What’s the latest on Hakeem Al Araibi, still in Thailand…?

    Last i heard was our Minister for Keeping Foreigners in Their Place Malice Pain was during the rounds of Bangkok restaurant kitchens on a best curry quest for her Dear Leader.

    Hakeem was informed that his football skills weren’t of a Socceroo level so he won’t be offered citizenship of Ozstraya. His lawyers have advised him to confess to a drug importation charge. The media, book and film deals will support his family and he can look forward to a comfortable life in a Thai prison. Everyone’s a winner.

  25. helvityni

    MN et Paul, serious subject matters, but you two have me laughing out loud…many thanks, I needed that..

  26. Matters Not

    Confused about the wall. Then this WON’T help.

    More positions than the Kama Sutra.

  27. Paul Davis

    Is it really true that Mr al Araibi was detained by Thai police on a tip off from Australian Feral Police who advised them that a redflagged bad boy was in transit?

  28. DrakeN

    Diannaart, 10:44.

    There is a niff about the military expenditures which has a similar odour to the Murray/Darling at the moment.

    “Game of Mates” writ loud.

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