Thursday, August 24, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He tried, via his press secretary, to walk back his admission from earlier in the week that American taxpayers alone would pay for his proposed Mexico border wall.

During his Phoenix rally, Trump threatened to shut down the government if the short-term spending bill necessary to keep it open did not include funding--American funding--for the wall. Regarding that new emphasis on American taxpayer funding for the wall, this exchange took place during today's White House press briefing:
CECILIA VEGA (ABC NEWS): On this threat of the government shutdown if Congress doesn't secure funding for this wall, how is that not a concession from this WH that Mexico isn't actually going to pay for this wall and American taxpayers will?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: Again this is something the president's committed to, he's committed to protecting American lives, and doing that through the border wall is something that's important it's a priority and we're moving forward with it
VEGA: But he's not saying that Mexico is going to pay for it–
SANDERS: He hasn't said they're not, either.
In fact, he has--to Mexico. In August, when a transcript of a January phone call between Trump and Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto was leaked, Trump's unwillingness to pressure Mexico on this issue became public. On that call, Trump quickly retreated from his campaign stance--calling the wall "the least important thing"--and merely asked Peña Nieto to refrain from publicly repeating Mexico's refusal to pay.
PEÑA NIETO: I have recognized the right of any government to protect its borders as it deems necessary and convenient. But my position has been and will continue to be very firm saying that Mexico cannot pay for that wall. 
TRUMP: But you cannot say that to the press. The press is going to go with that and I cannot live with that. You cannot say that to the press because I cannot negotiate under those circumstances. 
PEÑA NIETO: I understand you well, Mr. President. I understand this critical point and I understand the critical political position that this constitutes for your country and for you, Mr. President. Let us look for a creative way to jump over this obstacle. ... Let us for now stop talking about the wall. 
TRUMP: Okay, Enrique, that is fine and I think it is fair. I do not bring up the wall but when the press brings up the wall, I will say, “let us see how it is going – let us see how it is working out with Mexico.”

Why is this a bad thing? 

  • Presidents should not lie, and having been caught doing so, they should not allow their press secretaries to repeat those lies.
  • Voters who heard candidate Trump lead them in chants about Mexico paying for the wall may have believed that he meant for Mexico to pay for the wall.
  • It remains absurd and dangerous to have a President of the United States root for a costly and embarrassing failure of his own government to function.