Trump's border wall rhetoric is increasingly divorced from reality

A section of the border fence ends along Avilia, off Military Highway, between Brownsville and McAllen, Texas. (Photo by Bryan Schutmaat for MSNBC)
A section of the border fence ends along Avilia, off Military Highway, between Brownsville and McAllen, Texas.

A week ago today, Donald Trump announced that he'd secured funding for his proposed border wall and construction would begin "immediately." This wasn't even remotely true.

Two days ago, the president boasted about a White House briefing on the project -- whether that briefing occurred in reality is a subject of some debate -- and released photographs he said were proof that his border wall was initiative getting underway. This wasn't true, either.

All of which led to yesterday, and Trump's speech in Ohio on infrastructure, which included increasingly bizarre rhetoric about the project. From the transcript:

"We started building our wall, I'm so proud of it. We have $1.6 billion. And we've already started, You saw the pictures yesterday, I said, 'What a thing of beauty.' [...]"You think that's easy? People said, 'Oh, has he given up on the' -- no, I never give up. We have $1.6 billion toward the wall. And we've done the planning, and you saw those beautiful pictures. And the wall looks good. It's properly designed."That's what I do, is I build. I was always very good at building. It was always my best thing. I think better than being president, I was maybe good at building. [...]"We've done prototypes all over and we have something special happening."

The president's audience seemed impressed, which is a shame, because Trump's rhetoric was wrong to the point of delusion.

The omnibus spending package included funds for border security, but it didn't include so much as a penny for Trump's plan for a wall. As NBC News reported, the spending bill sets aside $1.6 billion, but the money "can be used only to repair and build previously approved fencing,"

A Washington Post  report added:

“The bill provides $1.6 billion for barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, but with some serious strings attached. Of the total, $251 million is earmarked specifically for “secondary fencing” near San Diego, where fencing is already in place; $445 million is for no more than 25 miles of “levee fencing”; $196 million is for “primary pedestrian fencing” in the Rio Grande Valley; $445 million is for the replacement of existing fencing in that area; and the rest is for planning, design and technology – not for wall construction“The biggest catch is this: The barriers authorized to be built under the act must be “operationally effective designs” already deployed as of last March, meaning none of President Trump’s big, beautiful wall prototypes can be built.”

And as a result, effectively everything the president said about the subject was demonstrably ridiculous. "We started building our wall"? Not in this reality he hasn't. "We have $1.6 billion toward the wall"? No, he doesn't.

"We've done prototypes all over and we have something special happening"? Again, Trump's wall project isn't being built, at least not anytime soon. Period. Full Stop.

The trouble is, Trump's lying about border wall construction is so over the top, I'm starting to think he actually believes his own patently untrue claims. I'm not sure which is worse: the idea that the president is engaged in a deliberate public gaslighting, or the idea that Trump can no longer tell the difference between fact and fiction.