It may be the defining moment of his administration: a five-week shutdown that ends with him raving about the merits of something he failed to get. The make-believe nature of his presidency has never been more evident.
But from the beginning, everything about the proposal was phony. No study was done to confirm that the wall would be the most cost-effective approach to illegal immigration. It would be impractical and most likely impossible to erect a tall concrete barrier from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. He was the only person who took the notion seriously.
Not a single House member from a district on the border is in favor of Trump’s wall. His first secretary of homeland security, John Kelly, said the barrier was “unlikely.” His first interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, expressed puzzlement on where to place it: “We’re probably not going to put it in the middle of the river.”
But Trump found the wall too effective as proof of his fierce resolve. So he shackled himself to it.
It’s possible to forget now that one key to its appeal was what he promised: “I will have Mexico pay for that wall.” It was about as plausible as expecting the Red Sox to cover the Yankees’ payroll.
So overtly absurd was this vow that when he met with President Enrique Pena Nieto during the campaign, Trump didn’t even raise the issue. “We didn’t discuss payment of the wall,” he said. Pena, however, said he began the meeting by telling Trump that Mexico would not pay for it.
Even many Trump supporters knew it was a ruse. A September 2016 ABC News/SSRS poll found that only 13 percent of voters thought he would be able to get the money from Mexico.
It’s also a fantasy as an answer to illegal immigration. In recent years, according to the Center for Migration Studies of New York, most of the new undocumented foreigners have arrived with valid papers and then overstayed their visas. A wall would be as much an impediment to them as it would be to a flock of geese.
Trump’s most recent fiction came in a tweet: “Build a wall & crime will fall!” Oh? El Paso’s violent crime rate plunged between 1992 and 2007, before a 57-mile, 18-foot-high fence went up on the border. At that point, the violent crime rate began rising.
Steve Chapman blogs at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman. Follow him on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.