Early yesterday morning, apropos of nothing, Donald Trump suggested on Twitter that he's thinking about closing the U.S./Mexico border.
"Mexico is doing NOTHING to help stop the flow of illegal immigrants to our Country," the president wrote. "They are all talk and no action. Likewise, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have taken our money for years, and do Nothing. The Dems don't care, such BAD laws. May close the Southern Border!"
The point about the Central American countries contradicted Trump's own Homeland Security secretary -- Trump has similarly contradicted Vice President Mike Pence on the same assertion -- but it was the Republican's reference to closing the southern border that stood out as especially important.
Indeed, at a campaign rally in Michigan last night, Trump talked up the idea again. "I am telling you right now," he said, "we will close the damn border." The president added:
"[I]f we close the border, that means we're not taking those cars into our country. And what does that mean? That means you're gonna make more cars right here in the good old U.S.A."Very simple. It's all very simple. People try and make it too complicated. It's all very simple."
It's not all simple. Closing the border between the United States and Mexico would be extraordinarily complicated, and would have dramatic effects on trade and the economy.
Chances are, someone in the White House has told the president about this, which is why he complained about "people" who make this issue "too complicated" for him. In effect, Trump seems to like the idea of closing the border, and doesn't want to be bothered by pesky details.
And therein lies the larger problem: he never wants to be bothered with pesky details, which is why he thinks every challenge is "very simple."
Trump thinks trade wars "easy to win." He thinks building a border wall is "easy." He has no idea why the health care fight has to be so "complicated." The president doesn't know or care about governing, so he's convinced himself that every policy challenge can be resolved with little more than a bumper-sticker slogan.
Indeed, this has been his style for quite a while. As we discussed last year, as a candidate, Trump repeatedly assured voters that every challenge had a simple solution, and the only reason policymakers hadn’t yet implemented these easy solutions is that the nation was run by idiots. Elect Trump, he said, and he’d “make possible every dream you’ve ever dreamed.”
Implicit in the promise was the belief in child-like simplicity. ISIS? Trump would bomb the terrorists, they’d die, and that would be that. Corruption? He’d “drain the swamp.” Health care? He’d cover everyone, offering better insurance for less money.
If you had a complex problem, Trump had an easy solution that could fit on a bumper sticker. After all, “it’s all very simple.” Don't listen to those annoying people who make things "too complicated."
After the election, effectively nothing changed. Indeed, Trump continues to respond to deeply intricate challenges like he’s the blowhard at the end of the bar who’s convinced he knows the solution to every problem. Opiods? Let’s just execute drug dealers. Immigration? Let’s just built a wall.
At his White House discussion with senators last year about gun violence, Trump said about proposed solutions, “I don’t understand why this hasn’t happened. For the last 20 years, nothing’s happened.” I suspect he was being quite literal: the president really didn't understand, largely because he hasn’t followed the debate and didn't take the time to get up to speed on the basics.
The comments came soon after Trump argued that arming school teachers would prevent school shootings. “Problem solved,” he wrote on Twitter.
Except, responsible adults know that solving problems with overly simplified, knee-jerk ideas nearly always leads to failure. Our amateur president, however, continues to struggle with the complexities of his responsibilities, either unable or unwilling to recognize nuanced solutions.