It wasn’t Demosthenean or Ciceronian, and we could have done without the sonic evidence that the president was inhaling normally, but it was a preemptive knockout blow of the robotic tandem that followed. The president was clear, factually unchallengeable, and credible, and Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer looked and sounded like a waxworks animated illustration of the embalmer’s art and her ventriloquist, the bearer of the broadest forehead since Pericles. The president spoke of a national-security, economic, and humanitarian crisis, and they spoke of the federal employees who are about to miss a paycheck. After Tuesday night’s eight-minute speech by the president from the Oval Office, the satisfactory resolution of the impasse over the government shutdown is fairly obvious. The president cannot abandon the border-security issue now, and the Democrats think they have him in a corner. The Democrats entered into this contest for the public’s support believing that as soon as the first paycheck is skipped, the lackey national media will be in 24–7 interviews with the sick wives, children, and relatives of the 800,000 unpaid federal employees. Public opinion will heave, the Republican senators will collapse, and the president will be splendidly humiliated.
Everyone with the slightest familiarity with the issue as it has arisen has seen the Democrats go from semi-zealots of border security to vapid opportunists laser-focused on the simplest aspect of unpaid federal employees. The president reminded the country of the proportions of the illegal-immigration issue — of the humanitarian tragedy, of the drug crisis, and of the crimes of an appreciable number of the illegal immigrants. The tactical problem of the Democrats is that they are so cynical they think no one will notice that they have come down steadily from $1.3 billion for border security to zero, in their conviction that they can put the unpaid federal employees’ problems ahead of what is an immense national crisis. They evidently believe that the endlessly repeated mantra of “the wall” as immoral, like 19th-century elocution students learning to spell by repeating such triumphalist expressions of literacy as “W-A-L-L spells wall,” will distract the country from the real problem. Their proposition to “open the government” (by Trump’s total capitulation and we will go back to interminable fruitless negotiation about the real problem) won’t fly. It is indicative of the serene complacency of the Democrats that they expect their control of the national political media to remain so airtight that no appreciable share of the public will dissent from their strategy, which is to give lip service to “border security” while portraying the president as peddling, as one of their lesser spokesmen put it last week, “a medieval fifth-century solution for a 21st-century problem.” The fact that he missed the middle ages by several hundred years is a rounding error for the Democrats, as they point to the Washington Post’s claim that the president has uttered 7,600 lies since he was inaugurated.
The president must know that the media are preparing the three-hanky tear-jerking interviews now, in the tradition of Pelosi’s comparisons of quite habitable recreation centers for detained minors at the southern border with Hitler’s death camps, on the (high) heels of her references to the tax bill that has produced a full employment, non-inflationary economy as “crumbs” and “doggie-doo with a cherry on top.” Some measure should be produced now by the administration to provide partial relief for the unpaid federal civil servants: government-guaranteed credit at banks for 60 percent of their normal pay; or emergency advances for some of their normal income, the balance to be made up later; or some such device to cut the ground out from under the Democratic leadership and leave them nakedly exposed to the implications of their stance. Once the paradisiacal Democratic dream of just flaying the president for starving federal workers instead of “opening up government” has been laid to rest, and the country understands that the president who was elected largely on the issue of stopping the flood of illegal entries (now a cumulative total of 22 million people) intends to do that, the spirit of compromise will miraculously return to them.
There is no question that the country, when the issues are presented fairly, wants nothing to do with a policy of unlimited access for anyone who wishes to enter and remain in the United States, and is offended by the apparent view in much of Latin America that everyone in the hemisphere has a right to enter the United States and remain permanently — without even giving their name at the border, but with a full civic right to U.S. education and welfare benefits thereafter. The majority of Americans is appalled by the influx of violent criminal gang members and the shocking quantities of the most dangerous drugs that flow in across the southern border. The country wants a million legal immigrants a year, it wants merit-based immigration, and it wants secure borders and adequate court and detention center facilities and personnel to prevent these floods of unauthorized intruders and to prevent distressing humanitarian dramas. The last thing the country wants is the abolition of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). Nor does the American public, when the question is posed properly, approve of “sanctuary cities” whose mayors and city councils instruct the police not to honor federal immigration laws. When the time is ripe, those responsible for this outright insurrection will have to be slapped down. Unfortunately, it is too late to hang this impudence on Rahm Emmanuel, the failed ex-mayor of Chicago, who, having declared his city a Trump-free zone, fled on foot from Chicago City Hall, that greatest of all Democratic sinecures. (This year marks 90 consecutive years that the Democratic party has had its front feet in the trough in Chicago and Cook County.)
On Tuesday night Pelosi and Schumer, in their ludicrous talking duet — one glared purposefully while the other spoke vapidly — took the plunge: an interruption in the pay of 800,000 federal workers is more important than an oceanic flood of Central American farmers and families, or an influx of drug traffickers carrying with them the hard drugs that kill many thousands of Americans every year. And once the federal employees are back at work, the congressional Democratic party that has opposed and sabotaged every measure to deal with the greatest problem that has faced the nation since World War II will go back to talking about it (and doing nothing). The most irritating aspect of the problem, apart from its great gravity, is the smug self-assurance of the Democrats that they can completely humiliate the president, their false and defamatory effort to convict him of illegal collusion with a foreign power to win the election having fizzled. If the president undercuts the federal employees’ sob story, thinking on this issue will clarify and the Democrats will be hung out to dry as facilitators of what President Trump is historically correct to call an “invasion.”
This torrent of illegal migrants is not the sort of immigration that is justly celebrated at Ellis Island or the Statue of Liberty, of responsible people soberly determining to make their way to a new country, to enter it legally and become civic-minded contributors to their new nationality. It more closely resembles the movement of large masses of people, en bloc, ahead of the barbarians and into the territory of the Roman Empire in the third to fifth centuries a.d. They had no interest in Rome, but were terrified by the Asiatic hordes driving them westwards. Of course, this is not exactly what we have on the southern border of the United States now, though the effluxion of millions of refugees from the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa into Europe in the last decade more closely approximates that than it does conventional immigration.
For decades, Democratic politicians have ignored the effective takeover of sections of many cities by illegal immigrants, and largely Republican employers have taken advantage of the ability to engage a work force beneath the minimum wage. It has been a convenience for some Democrats also: Every few months, for years, there has been some new revelation of Hollywood socialists exploiting migrant labor to mow their lawns and roll their tennis courts. This is a perfect Trump issue: The Democratic political hacks, Hollywood hypocrites, and Republican country-club fat cats have put their own interests ahead of the country’s, and now the United States has almost as many illegal residents as comprise the entire legitimate population of the Commonwealth of Australia. As long as the administration offers something to mitigate the hardship of the unjustly furloughed or unpaid federal employees, the president can hold the Democrats’ (cloven) feet to the fire and finally get a serious reform of immigration, including a secure border. Drones and cameras can’t stop anyone from crossing a line with no obstacle on it.
The painful truth is that the American government has failed to deal with immigration, health care, infrastructure, and even abortion, though it at least managed to fumble that into the lap of the courts. It is a shambles, and the Democrats have tried to prevent Trump from dealing with any of it with this mendacious idiocy about collusion with Russia, and the nasty fantasy of removal from office by impeachment. Ultimately, the country will reward this president for getting the country’s government to function usefully, even as many regret that those elected to rule in difficult times are not always those that would be selected by typecasting studios.