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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

When President Donald Trump ran on building a massive border wall in 2016, anyone informed about politics could tell his claim that Mexico would pay for it was a shameful, empty promise. And now that Trump is actually trying to build the wall while running for re-election, his grab for wall funds is making him vulnerable to a potentially devastating attack line:

“Mexico isn’t paying for the wall — Wisconsin is.”

That was the gist of a tweet from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Ben Wikler, who wrote Monday:

And it’s substantially true. Trump couldn’t get Congress to agree to pass funding for his wall — even when Republicans had complete control of both chambers — so he has resorted to an executive power grab to get it built. He’s trying to seize $3.8 billion in Pentagon funds and redirect it toward building the wall.

As Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin explained in a statement, the plan includes taking $101 million that was appropriated by Congress to build heavy-wheeled defense vehicles for the military from Wisconsin company Oshkosh Defense. Her office said she helped secure this funding “to support hundreds of jobs in small and medium-sized businesses across the Midwest and is crucial to our national and economic security.” Trump’s budget also reportedly reallocates $650 million from a project to build the America-class Amphibious Navy Ship, which uses an engine that would also be built in Wisconsin. Baldwin said this funding supports “more than 100 jobs” in the state.

“President Trump promised the people of Wisconsin that Mexico would pay for his border wall and now he is making American taxpayers fund it,” Baldwin explained. “Wisconsin manufacturers strengthen our national defense and create jobs, but Trump is taking funding away from our economy and the workers that build it.”

John Nichols, a columnist in the Wisconsin paper Daily Citizen, shared Baldwin’s sentiment.

“When the Trump administration and its cronies tear up budgets that have been approved by Congress in order to find billions for the border wall, they abandon fiscal responsibility,” Nichols said wrote. “They also abandon workers, in communities such as Oshkosh.”

In some ways, this backlash represents exactly what is so frustrating about American politics. Place-based representation and the nature of the Senate and electoral college mean that small-scale projects that might not actually serve the national good can develop powerful constituencies that are politically risky for politicians to abandon. And the U.S. military budget is already bloated beyond belief, in part because it’s been a useful mechanism for influential lawmakers to direct the federal government’s largess toward their own constituents.

But politics plays out in the institutions and structures that we have, not those we’d like to have. So if Trump makes himself vulnerable by coming into conflict with a state like Wisconsin — a key state he won by a slim margin that was central in his 2016 win, and which could be necessary for his re-election — then he can expect that Democrats will exploit that decision. This is especially true if the issue also highlights some of his genuine faults, such as his disregard for the separation of powers and his broken promises.

If Boss Trump is headed for defeat, he's getting his revenge early. His revenge upon his deluded supporters and the people they love, that is. Trump's re-election campaign now consists mainly of what epidemiologists call "super-spreader" events: large-scale rallies of unmasked, non-socially distanced Trumpists yelling in each other's faces while the Big Man emits a non-stop barrage of falsehoods, exaggerations, and barefaced lies.

Let me put it this way: If, say, the Rolling Stones decided to put on free concerts at airports around the country, they'd likely end up being taken into custody and deported as undesirable aliens. Of course, they'd also draw far bigger crowds than Trump, but that's not the point. The point is that Trump's actions are reckless and immoral; the peacetime equivalent of war crimes.

"Covid, covid, covid, covid, covid," he hollers. Trump claims that the United States is "turning the corner" on the pandemic, and that the accursed news media will quit reporting Covid-19 fatalities come November 4. He claims that health officials are motivated by greed because "doctors get more money and hospitals get more money" if they report that the virus was the cause of death.

Surveys have shown that more than a thousand physicians and nurses have died fighting the disease nationwide.

As ever, what he accuses others of doing is an excellent guide to the question: What would Trump do? Answer: he'd steal the silver dollars off a Covid victim's eyes and demand an investigation of Joe Biden

According to the Washington Post, the Trump campaign organization signed an agreement with officials in Duluth, Minnesota to limit attendance at a September 30 fly-in rally, in accordance with public health guidelines. Hours before the event, it became clear that no effort was being made to honor the agreement; some 2500 Trump supporters bunched up without masks on the tarmac, ten times the agreed limit.

Health Department officials' protests were simply ignored. Three days later, Trump himself was taken to Walter Reed Hospital by helicopter. Three weeks after that, the following headline appeared in the Duluth News-Tribune: "St. Louis County sees another record-breaking week of COVID-19 cases."

Any questions?

The Trump Circus subsequently performed in Janesville and Waukesha, Wisconsin in the midst of a record-setting pandemic outbreak there. "It took us 7 and a half months to reach our first 100,000 cases, & only 36 days to reach our second," the Wisconsin Department of Health tweeted. "In just two short months, the 7-day average of new confirmed cases has risen 405%."

But the show must go on. Trump regaled his Janesville audience with a veritable torrent of lies. The New York Times did a thorough fact-check of his October 17 speech. Reporters documented 130 false statements during Trump's 87 minutes onstage. Nearly three-quarters of his factual claims were untrue. The most egregious concerned Covid-19, probably because the disease represents his single greatest failure and most damaging political liability.

Another question: Does Trump count upon his supporters' invincible ignorance or simply share it? I fear it's a little of both. In Janesville, Trump made this absurd claim two minutes into his harangue: "When you look at our numbers compared to what's going on in Europe and other places," he said "we're doing well."

Any regular newspaper reader knows that this is simply nonsense. As the Times reports, "America has more cases and deaths per capita than any major country in Europe but Spain and Belgium. The United States has just 4 percent of the world's population but accounts for almost a quarter of the global deaths from Covid-19."

Germany, to choose the most striking comparison, has suffered only 122 deaths per million of its population, according to Johns Hopkins University. The United States has recorded more than five times as many: 686 per million. Neighboring Canada, meanwhile, is at 264 per million. Several Asian countries, have handled the pandemic even better.

It's a matter of capable leadership and public cooperation.

No wonder Trump appears to have succumbed to a case of dictator envy. "COVID, COVID, COVID is being used by [the 'Fake News' media] in total coordination" he tweeted the other day "in order to change our great early election numbers. Should be an election law violation!"

Yeah, well they all report the same World Series scores too. Furthermore, if Trump had good election numbers, he wouldn't whine so much. Has there ever been a bigger crybaby in the White House?

(In related news, Vladimir Putin has issued a mandatory mask mandate after a surge in Russian Covid infections. Go figure.)

Meanwhile, the rallies go on; a bizarre spectacle people treat as if it's normal. Trump has become Covid-19's Typhoid Mary, an Irish cook who unwittingly infected 53 people back in 1906.

But unlike Mary, he should know better. If anybody should be locked up, as his rapt admirers chant, it's the Super-Spreader in Chief.