The New York Times couched the proposals of Democrats in Congress in ways to placate the base and attempt to deny President Trump what will be a significant political victory for keeping the boarder wall, his signature campaign promise.
Kellyanne Conway has called the discussion over what terms to use “a silly semantic argument.” Trump has said he doesn’t care if the wall is called “peaches” as long as it is built.
But as Glenn Thrush of the Times wrote in “He Says ‘Wall,’ They Say ‘Border Security’: A Glossary of the Border Debate,” the semantics “are anything but trivial.”
As if to acknowledge semantics mean more than border security to Democrats, Thrush explained: “If they White House and House Democrats are to reach a deal to avert another government shutdown by the Feb. 15 deadline, they must first reach a rough détente over what they are talking about – in particular, the definition of Mr. Trump’s “wall,” and of “border security,” the Democrats’ catchall description of their own approach.”
Jeh Johnson, President Obama’s final Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, told Thrush, “There’s no magic glossary telling you the difference between a fence and wall or a barrier. They are kind of interchangeable. There is a distinction between governing and political rhetoric, and people should not get trapped in the binary. The moment when we reach a compromise on the vocabulary is the moment we reach a compromise on the policy.”
Trump first tweeted about a wall in August 2014, and his “definition of ‘wall’ has been a moving target since.
“It started its rhetorical life at 35 or 40 feet high in early 2016, peaked at 50 feet midcampaign, then fell back to 32 feet in January 2018,” Thrush wrote.
Regardless of what Trump means by a wall – or what Democrats are willing to accept as a definition of something he will agree is enough of a wall to secure the border – they don’t work anyway, wrote Thrush, who was caught during the 2016 campaign submitting stories to the Hillary Clinton camp for approval before publication.
“Soon after taking office, the president commissioned eight prototypes of wall designs, four made of concrete and the remainder fabricated from steel and other materials. They ranged in height from 18 to 30 feet.
“The models were tested last year, and the results were inconclusive, according to leaked documents showing that all of them could be breached with a determined effort and the right tools. But Trump administration officials say that the testing provided them with valuable information, and lessons learned were incorporated into an already built section of slatted 30-foot-high ‘bollard’ fence near Calexico, Calif.”
Democrats instead talk about “border security,” Thrush wrote. That phrase is “meant to describe a comprehensive approach that includes improvements in technology, new surveillance programs and increases in Border Patrol staffing.”
They even were prepared to spend $46 billion – nearly nine times President Trump’s current request – on legislation that included amnesty for millions here illegally and expansion of the Border Patrol, a vote the president regularly reminds Democrats of in the current debate.
“But Mr. Trump’s political weaponization of the wall is now making such a compromise increasingly untenable for Democrats,” Thrush wrote. “’We’re not doing a wall,” he quotes House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying. “’Does anyone have any doubt that we’re not doing a wall?”
He then quotes a Democratic pollster laying bare his party’s claim to have negotiated in good faith. Democrats, the consultant said, “’are more than willing to have a granular conversation about what is common sense and effective border security, but it’s not going to be a conversation about a wall in any sense that Trump has used that word.’”