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The Real “State of Emergency” is Donald Trump

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The “president” hijacked airwaves Tuesday night to address the nation from the Oval Office, a forum traditionally reserved for serious and dire matters like national disasters and threats, major policy initiatives and resignations. Much to the disappointment of at least 52 percent of likely voters who disapprove of the job he’s doing, Trump did not use his eight minutes of fame to resign from office.

President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

So, what did the commander in chief convey in the first Oval Office address of his presidency? Was it the new information Kellyanne Conway promised earlier in the day? Was it an announcement that the government shutdown would soon come to an end? Nope. Instead, the speech was a well-edited reiteration of the same steaming heap of false claims he spews several times a day via Twitter. And therein lies the problem: Donald Trump is using fear-inducing rhetoric flavored with all sorts of blatant lies in order to paint the picture of national emergency that honestly does not exist any more today than it did a decade ago. Reality has not stopped him from teasing the idea of declaring a national emergency, which is what drew many reluctant viewers to stomach his address, and although he did not go so far Tuesday night, reports Wednesday insinuate that he is still considering the option if House Democrats don’t cave to his demands.

The government shutdown, now going on 19 days, is the result of a standoff between the president and nearly 60 percent of Americans who oppose building, and paying for, a big, imposing border wall. Trump refuses to acknowledge the general sentiment of his constituency and lays the blame on congressional Democrats (namely Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer).  He had two years with full control of both chambers to pass his prize legislation. He failed to do so with the support of his own party and so now, he’s turning it into an “emergency” situation in an attempt to save face.

Here’s a summary of the current situation and how we got here, in case you’ve chosen not follow the lurid details for the sake of your own sanity. The “wall” at the southern border was manufactured as a wedge issue in the very early days of the Trump campaign. According to Forbes, the concept was born from the minds of political consultants, Roger Stone and Sam Nunberg, as a “mnemonic device” in order to tap into “the power of illegal immigration to manipulate popular sentiment.” And it worked.

Southern border barrier already in place. Photo courtesy of Politico

It worked so well that supporters have willfully ignored statistics reflecting that illegal immigration is actually at a 45-year low and they believe that caravans of migrants are on the verge of invading the country to MS-13 all over us. Trump whipped his base up into such a frenzy that they actually believe a wall is the one and only answer to their Make America Great Again, citing misinformation the president himself has been serving up.

He and his administration have repeatedly lied to the public through key talking points with such flagrant disrespect for accuracy that even Fox News hosts have been forced to call them out. One particular false claim is that CBP has caught 4,000 terrorists at the border. The reality is that only six “terrorists” were apprehended at the border in the first half of 2018 – approximately 3,000 people from terrorist watch lists have been caught at airports, a fact that will not be helped by the presence of a wall. Another misleading claim is that we can stop the flow of drugs with the wall. Many outlets and experts have reported that drugs primarily come in by way of mail, are driven through at actual ports of entry and tunneled in under barriers already in place.

Trump has also gone to great lengths to criminalize illegal immigrants, claiming they are more likely to commit crimes than U.S. citizens and that many of those trying to cross are already criminals before they enter the country. The first point has been widely disproven – the second point is an inflated statistic that bends the meaning of the word “criminal.”

Migrants not welcome sign. Photo courtesy of The Economist

The New York Times published an article in January of 2017 about the Trump administration’s expansion of what constitutes a criminal for immigration purposes. The expanded meaning includes people charged with crimes, convicted or not, and just about any other type of criminal infraction. If we take into account that 4.7 percent of all illegal border crossers in 2018 were “criminals” of any sort and/or gang members, according to CPB, that percentage is grossly below the percentage of criminal U.S. citizens by similar standards. The FBI reported in June of 2017 that 73.5 million people in the U.S. had a criminal record, including felony charges that may or may not have resulted in conviction – that comes out to one in three citizens. By comparison, it does not appear that illegal immigrants pose any more criminal threat than U.S. citizens do. 

But facts be damned! This was never about facts – it’s about a campaign promise and the president’s desperation to keep his base happy and the country distracted during all that pesky investigation stuff. In ordinary times, we could just choose to ignore him and go about our days, trudging along until we get the chance to put someone else in his seat. But these are not ordinary times.

Donald Trump is digging in and he’s willing to take us all down with him. The $5.7 billion budget request to fund his wall is worth everything to him and just may cost us everything as the fight continues. The shutdown is impacting the lives and finances of nearly 800,000 federal employees who are either furloughed or being forced to work without pay in “essential” positions. The Democrats have stuck to the argument that the wall and the government shutdown should not be connected issues. They have prescribed a continuing resolution to reopen government, disconnecting discussion and debate of border security from the livelihoods of federal workers. Both sides agree that border security is needed but are at an impasse as to how that is best achieved – it’s a debate that can be continued within appropriate legislative bodies without holding the government functions hostage.

But that solution isn’t dramatic enough for the reality star-turned-president. Instead, he is opting to manifest a crisis where there really is none and continues to tease the idea of declaring a state of emergency, which would give him the power to do anything he wants, barring a court order to stop him. If he does follow through with the “national emergency” declaration, we as a country are susceptible to his crazed whims and dictator-like tendencies. As the Atlantic pointed out, the president would have the power to enact martial law, control the internet and all outlets of communication and could sanction U.S. citizens monetarily, among other things.

If his threat comes to fruition, the true emergency will not be migrants on the other side of a fence, it will be the mentally unstable, power hungry leader of the free world with unfettered military resources to do as he wishes. Chew on that one for a minute.

 

 

 

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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.