Trump Can’t Sell the Urgency of the Emergency
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- As expected, President Donald Trump announced that he’s declaring a national emergency so he can transfer money not appropriated by Congress to build a wall along the Mexico border.
He announced the measure in one of those bizarre statements that, prior to 2017, Americans probably thought were only delivered by cheezy strongmen in other nations. The classic spoof is from Woody Allen’s “Bananas,” when the fictional dictator of the nonexistent state of San Marcos declares the official language to be Swedish:
In his statement and his answers to follow-up questions from the press, Trump rambled on several different subjects before eventually getting to the topic at hand. He riffed on how great it was that China imposed the death penalty for drugs; repeated his fictional claim of having prevented a fictional Barack Obama war with North Korea; and undermined his own case for the purported “emergency” by saying that “I didn't need to do this, but I'd rather do it much faster.”
In addition, he used a kind of weird sing-songy speech pattern when discussing the likely judicial proceedings ahead over his emergency declaration.
He also, as usual, mischaracterized U.S. policy on legal immigration, and continued to relay stories about border crossings that experts have constantly debunked. A couple of reporters pressed him to say where he gets his information, given that he frequently says things that contradict facts that his own administration publishes. He couldn’t come close to giving any kind of coherent response.
Jamelle Bouie, a columnist for the New York Times, put it best on Twitter: “Today is one of those days when a straight description of the president’s behavior sounds partisan and bad faith.”
(That’s not even getting to Trump’s crass use of the families of people killed by undocumented citizens. Those stories are tragic, of course, but so are all murders. And, as reporters pointed out to the president, the evidence is that immigrants are less likely to commit these kind of crimes. )
To be sure: None of this changes where things stand. Congress will or won’t challenge him and the courts will or won’t uphold his authority in this area. And today’s event certainly won’t convince anyone who wasn’t already convinced by the last time that Trump made these arguments, or the time before that. It’s just remarkable that the president of the United States gives this kind of performance.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering politics and policy. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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