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Trump offering to swap steel for concrete isn't a 'compromise'

President Donald Trump reviews border wall prototypes, Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in San Diego.
President Donald Trump reviews border wall prototypes, Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in San Diego.

Since his days as a Republican candidate, Donald Trump has told voters about his dream of building a giant concrete wall along the U.S./Mexico border. At this point, the president seems to recognize an unavoidable truth: that dream is effectively dead. He's now swapped it out, however, for a new dream: a giant steel wall along the U.S./Mexico border.

Trump unveiled his revised plan for a "beautiful" steel-slat border barrier the afternoon of Dec. 21 -- the day of the shutdown deadline -- to the confusion of nearly everyone. "That's not even in the conversation," Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) told NBC News. "That's not even in one of the designs the border patrol has proposed."

Nevertheless, it's apparently become the official White House position. On Friday afternoon, two weeks into his shutdown, the president declared, "I think we're probably talking about steel because I really feel the other side feels better about that, and I can understand what they're saying." He made similar comments over the weekend, telling reporters, "I informed my folks to say that we'll build a steel barrier." He added, in reference to Democrats, "They don't like concrete, so we'll give them steel."

In other words, in Trump's mind, congressional Democrats have raised anti-concrete objections, but they'll "feel better" about steel. In reality, literally zero Democrats have said anything along these lines.

But then the president also something just as notable:

"As far as concrete, I said I was going to build a wall. I never said, 'I'm going to build a concrete...' I said I'm going to build a wall."

There's no doubt that Trump was lying. He spent years promising to build a concrete wall.

To be sure, as presidential lies go, this hardly seems getting worked up about. That said, I think this is important for a few reasons.

First and foremost, the White House has quietly abandoned a key feature of Trump's signature domestic priority. Evidently, we're not supposed to notice, and we're apparently supposed to think it was Democrats' idea, but that's a pretty significant shift in posture.

Second, it's always notable when the president tries to gaslight the public. When Trump spends years promising a concrete wall, and then pretends he never vowed to build a concrete wall, it's plainly amazing -- and not in a good way.

But even putting those relevant details aside, it's important that no one see Trump's new offer as a "compromise." It's not.

Reuters reported over the weekend, "U.S. President Donald Trump pledged on Sunday not to bend in his demand for a wall along the southern border with Mexico but said the barrier could be made of steel instead of concrete as a potential compromise with Democrats who refuse to fund it."

Just so we're all clear: demanding a wall of one material, and then endorsing a wall of a different material, is not a "compromise" offer. Democratic objections have nothing to do with construction details. Rather, they, like the American mainstream, don't see the point of a taxpayer-financed medieval vanity project.

This isn't complicated: a genuine "compromise" offer would entail something other than a wall.