Donald Trump is once more very pleased with himself. Today, he tweeted, ‘I am pleased to inform you that I will Address the Nation on the Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern Border. Tuesday night at 9:00 P.M. Eastern.’ His address, however, is likely to displease anyone but the already converted to his apocalyptic view of the border. If there is a crisis, it is one that Trump has artificially created by shuttering a good chunk of the federal government.
Trump intends to visit the border on Thursday and probably believes that an address by him announcing that he’s invoking emergency powers, or intends to within a few days unless congressional Democrats capitulate, will boost his ratings. It is likely to do the opposite. Trump is an inspired speaker in front of what Burke liked to call the swinish multitude. In a formal setting such as the Oval Office, he is bound to look and sound uncomfortable. His arguments about terrorists and drug dealers swarming over the border are so threadbare that they would make a moth-eaten carpet look resplendent.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders thus lurched through an interview on Sunday about terrorists and immigration with Chris Wallace of Fox News. She claimed, ‘nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists come into our country illegally’ through the southern border. Wallace had the temerity to point out that the State Department’s own statistics refute the nonsense being disseminated by her and other Trump flunkeys. Meanwhile, Democrats are hatching a plan to prevent any Senate business from being transacted until majority leader Mitch McConnell agrees to a vote on House-approved appropriations bills. They’re also counting on the fact that any delay in IRS tax refunds will put intolerable pressure upon GOP legislators.
If Trump has bungled the government shutdown, he’s also created another national security mess in Syria. His national security adviser John Bolton has almost singlehandedly done what former defense secretary James N. Mattis could not: reverse engineer the Syria pullout. As Ishaan Tahoor notes in the Washington Post, ‘it’s now far from clear when — or even if — the panic-inducing drawdown will take place. Trump seemed chastened by the backlash in Washington and extended his initial 30-day deadline for the pullout to four months. Administration officials have since muddied the waters further, briefing reporters that there is no timeline for withdrawal whatsoever.’
Indeed, the conditions that Bolton, who has been meeting with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reassure him that the administration will not abandon Syria, laid out are so sweeping as to be a mandate for endless warfare in the Middle East. Bolton’s victory will embolden him to search for a casus belli to keep pressuring Iran until an actual conflict breaks out between Tehran and Washington. Trump himself is pretending that none of it is happening. In a tweet, he declared that the news media was misreporting what’s occurring in the Middle East: ‘With all of the success that our Country is having, including the just released jobs numbers which are off the charts, the Fake News & totally dishonest Media concerning me and my presidency has never been worse. Many have become crazed lunatics who have given up on the TRUTH!’ He would know.