Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.
It was his number one promise and his number one lie.
He said he was going to build a massive wall — 1,000 miles long — out of concrete. Its height varied in his descriptions, but it was supposed to be at maybe 35 feet tall. Perhaps has high as 65 feet. It was going to have a “big, very beautiful door.” It was going to pay for itself — and also Mexico was going to pay for it. And it definitely, definitely, wasn’t a fence.
That it was all a lie can’t be much of a surprise. All his critics knew it was a lie. All his supporters heard his critics say it was a lie, insist it was a lie, explain why it was a lie, so often that even if they still trusted him, in the back of their minds, they surely had remaining doubts.
That it’s being exposed by as a lie isn’t a surprise either. But like a sunrise, the spectacular downfall of a con man’s promise doesn’t have to be surprising to be captivating.
“To be honest, it’s not a wall,” outgoing Chief of Staff John Kelly told the Los Angeles Times in a Sunday interview.
“To be honest” would have been a better approach from the start.
But now, even Trump knows it’s a he’s lost the narrative, and he’s giving his supporters not-so-subtle hints in hopes that they won’t be so disillusioned by 2020 that they won’t show up to vote at all when they realize the wall will be as “see-through” as Trump’s promises.
“The Democrats, are saying loud and clear that they do not want to build a Concrete Wall – but we are not building a Concrete Wall, we are building artistically designed steel slats, so that you can easily see through it,” Trump said in a Dec. 18 tweet.
Not a “concrete wall” but “slats.” Sounds like… a fence. As someone once told me, “there’s a BIG difference.”
And if Trump’s wall turns out to just be more fencing, then his promise never made sense at all. He constantly claims that right now, we have a policy of “open borders” without the wall. And yet we already have hundreds of miles of fencing on U.S-Mexico border, in the places where officials have thought it was needed. If existing fencing is so useless, as Trump has repeatedly claimed, why would more fencing solve the problem?
But don’t tell Trump he’s changed his mind. “The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it,” Trump said on Twitter last January.
On Sunday, though, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said the president’s words don’t matter.
“It is a silly semantic argument,” she said. “Because people who just want to say ‘wall, wall, wall’ want it to be a four-letter word and not respect what Customs and Border Patrol and ICE tell us what they need, which is enhancements at the border.”
Of course, Democrats have repeatedly agreed that they want to fund border security. They don’t want to fund a “wall.” It was Trump who decided to force the government to shut down because he cares about the semantics of a “wall.”
“The Democrats OBSTRUCTION of the desperately needed Wall, where they almost all recently agreed it should be built, is exceeded only by their OBSTRUCTION of 350 great people wanting & expecting to come into Government after being delayed for more than two years, a U.S. record!” Trump wrote on Dec. 27.
And of course, even asking Congress to fund the wall betrays Trump’s fundamental promise for the wall that Mexico would pay for it.
“I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall,” Trump said in June 2015. “Mark my words.”
On Sunday, though, Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said, “Well, I’m not asking Mexico to pay for it, I’m asking the American people to pay.”
“But he did!” said CNN’s Dana Bash. Graham said Trump would claim (falsely) that the new NAFTA would essentially pay for the wall.
“But I’m not talking about what he said back during the campaign,” Graham said.
It’s not clear yet how the government shutdown will end. Democrats may eventually agree to some more funding for border security — something they’ve always believed in and voted for. Trump will certainly try to claim victory, regardless, and he may slap the word “wall” on whatever he wants.
But it is clear he’s not getting his wall. He was never going to get his wall. The idea was a bad, pointless, testament to bigotry. And like every so many other cons before, it’s proved to be nothing more than an empty promise.