The National Emergency
So President Doofus has issued a National Emergency to cover the barriers that constitute our border with Mexico. What is it he claims is the actual “emergency”? Apparently, he sees a porous border, along which anyone who wishes entry has an entirely open door. But arguably we doubtless have such an arrangement with Canada and no emergency appears imminent along that line. So, the “emergency” apparently is Mexicans (remember those rapists, murderers, drug smugglers and folks who traffic in women who they bring in while chained, with their mouths taped shut. He acknowledges a few are also probably nice people.
Oh, and then there are the caravans of thousands of druggies, rapists, murderers, et al, who also use that border to get into our fair land from places like Salvador, Venezuela, and southern Hades. Yeah, he said so, therefore truth is cancelled.
But what then is a “National Emergency”? It is interesting to note that, although there is cited a national Emergency Act of 1976, authorizing presidents to so designate an emergency situation, presidents have issued “national emergencies” since at least 1917, with President Wilson declaring a National Emergency in Water Transportation” in 1917. Indeed, in 1941, President Roosevelt declared a National Emergency to counter the coming threat from Nazi Germany, and Truman issued one in 1950 to counter communism, specifically in connection with the Korean War (remember that quaint War?).
President Carter issued such an emergency order in 1979 in connection with the Iran overthrow of its government by the Ayatollah. President Obama issued one in 2009 to counter an influenza pandemic. And so the list goes on and on.
But, even a cursory inspection of the declarations suggest that some immediate action was actually required to counter a real threat from outside the country. Most of the threats seemed immediately real and obvious to even casual observers, and they contained actual facts about the situation calling for such a declaration.
In contrast, our current president has issued a declaration simply because he is annoyed that Nancy Pelosi and the entire Congress refused to authorize funds to pay for his Wall, you know, the one that Mexico is going to pay for. So, the kids in Congress, said NO, and the 4-year old president went on an immediate temper tantrum, and issued his emergency declaration. And then, almost immediately thereafter, he told the press that "he really didn’t need to issue an emergency declaration" (because there is no emergency), but he wanted to speed things up a bit, so he is willing to abuse his powers, steal money from other potential uses, like military construction, and demonstrate to those nasty people in Congress that they are powerless to stop him.
According to one article I read recently, 59 emergencies have been declared; 27 have expired while 32 are currently in effect, each having been renewed annually by the president. Most of the national emergencies concern the blocking of property belonging to nations or individuals, or the blocking of transactions, for example transactions that might aid drug smugglers attempting to money launder. None, from what I can see were specifically intended to simply go around a Congressional budget authorization that failed to authorize funds the President wanted. Also, in most cases, the “emergency” under consideration seemed fairly obvious and potentially threatening to US interests, e.g., a potential war, or, in the case of many Middle Eastern emergencies, a region filled with violence in which our interests are involved. There seems no actual precedent for the kind of declaration Trump has issued.
The fundamental legal issue in his declaration is whether he has actually demonstrated the existence of an “emergency”, i.e., a threat to the people, its systems of governance, or some other factually verifiable issue. His problem, here as in most instances of Presidential “Fact-stating” is that his facts rarely stand up to scrutiny. He is claiming here a major “invasion” by drug smugglers, human traffickers, and other nefarious individuals (in the hundreds . . . thousands??). To be clear, to do what he is trying to do (subvert the Congressional budgetary authorization process) he would need a body of facts to substantiate that the Mexican border is indeed uncontrolled, and that specific numbers in the hundreds or thousands of people from Central and South America are pouring over the border. He also really needs to assert facts about the harm being done to America, and Americans—economic harm, injuries or deaths associated with this invasion, or some other actual damage to our National interests. He has done nothing like that. Instead, he did what he always does. He simply asserts that there is harm, and that there are harmful people crossing our borders in very large numbers, without providing the factual basis for his assertions.
Now, perhaps with another president, we might for a time be willing to accept his word about the harm, real or potential against which he is defending. But for this President, lying is his standard rhetorical device. So, it is the case that one can really not believe almost anything he tells us, where actual facts are involved. So, we need some second “truth-verifier” to weigh in on his stated assertions before we can believe him. Now, were his assertion something like the 911 attacks, those sources would be readily available in the form of actual video footage by actual journalists. Unhappily, for him, no such sources are available. To make his case, say in court (where this declaration will be adjudicated) he will need to assemble a body of externally verifiable data on each of his many assertions—how many illegals are entering, how much actual damage has been/is being done to American property or lives, and what is the economic case for his declaration, i.e., is the Wall cheaper or more expensive than his claimed damages?
I noted in an earlier piece that, because of his constant lying, it is difficult, if not impossible to hold any kind of a strategic planning discussion with Trump. For example, in any “meeting” intended to discuss a problem, or some issue, one makes progress by having someone lay out the basic principles of the issue. If it is a problem, then someone must first define the problem. Then someone must define what is known of the root causes of the problem. For example:
1. America experiences X thousand incidents annually of border-related problems
2. America’s Borders are not secure
a. X thousand miles of land borders have no barriers
b. Y thousand miles of sea borders have no functional barriers
c. Border staffing cannot cover the entire border
d. Non-personnel technology is inadequate to cover open border area
3. X thousand migrants are estimated to cross illegally into the US annually through the open areas
4. Y thousand incidents of damage to property or persons resident in the US are caused each year
In other words, to discuss something as complex as border security, one needs to break down the problem. You first state some factually verifiable statement of the overall problem. And the problem statement should define the harm done to the US by that problem. Then you divide that main problem into its main causes, with accompanying data on each main cause. Then for each sub-problem, you define likely solutions (and typically there might be several possible solutions for each type of problem). And it is highly useful to attach to each problem, and to each solution a cost factor. What is the cost to America of the problem (and the cost might be monetary, or it might be in some other category)? Then you examine the potential solutions to each of the problems, and define both their likely effects on the problem, and the likely costs of implementing the solutions. And the costs might be one-time capital costs, and/or annual maintenance costs. If one cannot even agree on the problem statement, then it is impossible to proceed to the solution stage.
And since Trump doesn’t actually know anything about the actual problem, it is not possible to hold strategic discussions about any large topic. And it isn’t only this border security issue. One cannot reasonably hold a strategic discussion with Trump on virtually any topic, because he doesn’t understand almost any nationally or globally important subject, and he will simply resort to his only approach—spitting out “pseudo-facts” intended for applause. But the other people in the room often know his pseudo-facts are not a reasonable definition of the issue, and so he himself causes the discussion to come to a close.
Therein lies the core of our national problem with Trump and with his recent declaration of Emergency about Border Security. We should not really care about how he yells at his crowd of adoring MAGAHeads, as in his El Paso speech, because none of that matters. But what does matter is his inability to actually hold substantive discussions with knowledgeable officials aimed at defining problems and agreeing on plausible solutions. On that, he is as useless as the proverbial “teats on a boar”. And there America is our problem.
Mainly, from some statements made regarding “the Wall”, it would seem that “the Wall” was invented as a rhetorical device to keep Trump on target in speaking of the broad subject of border security (which is likely more complex than Trump can grasp). By constantly speaking of “the Wall” he is given a rhetorical device that draws applause from a committed group. But the device was not ever intended to be a serious issue for technical discussions of potential solutions to whatever the perceived problem might be. It was simply a way to keep Trump from drifting off topic.
So, I see The Wall as simply one more, very large rhetorical device, aka A Big Lie, to help Trump get re-elected in 2020. It has virtually nothing to do with actual border security. And on that topic of The Big Lie, it is worthwhile to quote the past master, Adolph Hitler. He asserted:
“All this was inspired by the principle—which is quite true within itself—that in the there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.” Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. I, ch. X
And on that thought, I leave you to draw your own conclusions about Mr. Trump's Wall, and his absurd Emergency Declaration. Will he get away with it? It will be up to that third branch, the famous judicial branch, to have the last say. And that is also why Mr. Trump’s appointments have been and continue to be so vital to the future health of our Nation. He may win yet. If he does, it will be because we allowed him to win.