The Arizona-Mexico border fence near Naco, Arizona, March 29, 2013.
Samantha Sais/Reuters

Trump pretends he’s winning the fight over the border wall

Donald Trump and his team recently sent a shot across Congress’ bow: the White House expects lawmakers to approve money, right now, for the president’s proposed border wall. Indeed, Trump’s budget director said just two weeks ago that that “elections have consequences” and “we want wall funding” as part of the pending spending bill.

Five days later, after Democrats said that funding was a non-starter, the White House retreated. The bill that Congress agreed to doesn’t spend a dime on Trump’s wall.

And yet, there was the president in the Rose Garden yesterday, presenting the Commander-in-Chief Trophy to the U.S. Air Force Academy, making the case that he’s actually getting what he wants. Referring to the budget agreement that he’ll sign this week, Trump said:
“[W]e achieved the single largest increase in border security funding in 10 years. So we have more money now for the border than we’ve gotten in 10 years. The Democrats didn’t tell you that. They forgot. In their notes, they forgot to tell you that. With enough money to make a down payment on the border wall… And make no mistake, we are beginning to build the wall….”
The remarks really were inappropriate given the audience. Trump, instead of focusing on the Air Force Academy and its trophy, complained about Democrats, went after “Obamacare,” and bragged about his perceived victories in the budget fight. When presidents speak to the military, they’re supposed to be non-partisan and non-political, but it appears Trump’s impulse control failed him again.

Even looking past this, though, the idea that Trump just received a “down payment on the border wall” isn’t true. There was money in the spending bill for border security – Democrats didn’t put up much of a fight over this – but as the president should understand, that money can’t go towards his beloved wall idea.

So why did Trump say otherwise? In part because he’s trying to spin his defeat in the budget talks, and in part because he seems eager to reassure his base that the administration’s commitment to a border wall hasn’t faded.
If that means relying on misleading rhetoric, so be it.

Trump may need to get ready for a whole lot more dissembling. After nearly two years of vowing to build a massive wall along the U.S./Mexico border, the president said on Friday his plan would be to not have a wall in “certain areas” along the border, where “you have certain big rivers.”

As the Dallas Morning News noted, “The ‘certain big rivers’ would include the Rio Grande that follows Texas’ 1,254 miles of border with Mexico.”

Donald Trump

Trump pretends he's winning the fight over the border wall