In a 1963 speech, President Kennedy uttered these immortal words: “Ich bin ein Berliner.” It was a key Cold War moment — and a morale boost for West Berliners who lived in East Germany and feared occupation.
The subject was the concrete Berlin Wall, erected to keep East Germans from escaping to freedom in the West. Armed with machine guns, guards created a “death zone” to discourage flight.
Twenty-four years later, in 1987, President Ronald Reagan invoked JKF’s legacy at the Brandenburg Gate, when he told Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev: “Tear down this wall!”
Reagan added: “We welcome change and openness; for we believe freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace.”
(Republicans pretend to worship Reagan; one wonders how the Gipper would have responded to Trump’s contempt for American law enforcement.)
By contrast, President Trump has said: “I never worked for Russia.” That may go down in history alongside Richard Nixon’s “I am not a crook.” As a historic moment, the Russia denial was unprecedented. It put the importance of moral leadership and patriotism front and center.
As a TV moment, it was disgraceful. In the middle of the longest (and avoidable) government shutdown, a U.S. president had to deny what no previous president has ever been asked: Are you a Russian operative?
And then there is the wall. Which Mexico would pay for.
As numerous security experts have noted, there already is a partial wall. Eminent domain and treacherous geography make a continuous edifice impossible. A wall will not address the issue of illegal immigrants. That problem is due to visa overstays. The number of people crossing the border illegally from Mexico is at historic lows, per U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Yes, border security is real — and both sides want it. There are many ways to improve it, including more border agents and high tech, including cameras, fixed towers and aerial and underground sensors. Investing in state-of-the-art detection technologies and strengthening the CBP’s Container Security Initiative can mitigate illicit trafficking.
Even if Trump did get his $5.6 billion, it would cover approximately 250 miles and take thousands of workers and years to build. If it’s a crisis, why didn't the obsequious GOP pass legislation when it ruled Congress?
Further, reports from The Department of Homeland Security say Trump’s proposed steel slats can be sawed through with rudimentary tools. How can he demand “border security” without checking quality control?
Enough division: All Americans care about border security. Let’s do it smartly and effectively. Let’s not conflate issues, which is dangerous.
Trump says 4,000 terrorists enter the country. True. But they came primarily through airports. Only six were caught at the U.S.-Mexico border in the first half of 2018. By contrast, the CBP encountered 91 people at the U.S.-Canada border whose names were on a federal list of known or suspected terrorists, with 41 non-U.S. citizens or residents.
Trump also said the majority of illicit narcotics enter the United States via our Mexican border. Fact: Most drugs enter via our legal ports of entry, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Another disturbing fact: Thanks to the shutdown, border patrol is working without pay. So are the Coast Guard and a reduced TSA (Transportation Security Administration). One in 10 TSA workers called out Sunday, January 20. Call-outs have meant security checkpoint shutdowns at Baltimore, Houston, Miami and Atlanta airports. TSA security workers, along with air traffic controllers, worry that decreased personnel compromises our safety and security.
If there was ever a signal to America’s enemies that we’re vulnerable, Trump’s shutdown is it. Even John Podhoretz, editor of the conservative Commentary magazine, admits it’s a disaster of Trump’s own making. Bottom line: Shutdowns are painful. Innocent people caught in the political crossfire suffer. Key scientific and health initiatives stop. It’s bad for business. It’s bad for America.
It’s time for the reality-show president to have, like his predecessors, a real TV moment. No cheap theatrics. No name-calling. He needs to dig deep and join them in standing up for the collective values that define a great nation.