What exactly is the White House’s current position on the state of the “wall” along the U.S./Mexico border? What should be an easy question to answer is clearly not.
To hear Donald Trump tell it, wall construction needs to happen, has already happened, is in the process of happening, and will definitely happen sometime soon. Which of those is true? I don’t think he knows for sure; it apparently varies by day.
Similarly, the president has told Americans that the border is secure, is completely unsecure, is partially secure, should be more secure, and is in the process of being secured.
It can get a little confusing. Blizzards of lies are, by design, disorienting.
Certain core truths are inescapable. We know, for example, that the original White House plan – a 1,000-mile concrete wall, to be paid for by Mexico – is dead. We know that before Trump took office, there were already 654 miles of barriers along the border, and as things stand, there are still 654 miles of barriers along the border. We know that the administration has replaced some old fencing with new fencing, which the president likes to pretend is proof of wall construction, despite (a) reality; and (b) his previous position that walls and fences are not the same thing.
And we know each of these pesky details is proving to be quite annoying for the man in the Oval Office. The Washington Post published this memorable paragraph earlier in the week:
The president has complained repeatedly about news coverage depicting the wall as not being built and has told his campaign and communications officials they have to convince people that more of the wall is being built.
In other words, news organizations keep pointing out the truth, which has led the president to believe his operation will need to take their lying to a new level.
With this in mind, Trump this week posted to Twitter a video of a construction project, alongside text that said his administration had “just built this powerful Wall in New Mexico.” He retweeted the same clip yesterday, adding in an all-caps missive, “The Wall Is Under Construction Right Now!”
No, actually, it’s not. For one thing, the video shows a fence, not a wall, going in. For another, the featured project also shows old fencing being replaced with new fencing, which is obviously at odds with Trump’s assurances about constructing new wall sections.
Complicating matters, the ABC affiliate in Albuquerque reported that the project featured in the video was actually completed months ago.
All of which suggests that Trump’s boast – “The wall is under construction right now” – is true only if we change the definition of “wall,” “construct,” and “now.”
What’s especially unfortunate is that the president, perhaps by accident, briefly told the truth last week. As a Washington Post analysis noted, Trump told reporters that Congress has permitted the administration to renovate old barriers, not build new wall.
And while that small bit of honesty was refreshing, it didn’t last.
Postscript: It’s worth noting for context that, in the coming weeks, the Trump administration will begin work on 14 miles of new fencing in the Rio Grande Valley. It’ll be the first barrier expansion of Trump’s presidency, and it’ll no doubt be the basis for many annoying tweets.
But it won’t be a wall, it won’t be paid for by Mexico, it won’t be concrete, it’ll be an exceedingly modest expansion, and it will bear little resemblance to the structure Trump promised to build.