February 13, 2019

Border Wall Compromise

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

“Congressional negotiators reached agreement Monday night to prevent a government shutdown and finance construction of new barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.” The deal includes just under $1.4 billion to construct 55 miles of fencing. AP News

See past issues

From the Left

The left supports the deal while criticizing many of Trump’s demands.

“The compromise, to be clear, is a mixed bag for progressives. But on balance, based on what we are learning now, it’s plainly more of a victory than not.”
Washington Post

“[Trump’s] comprehensive proposal to overhaul the legal and illegal immigration systems didn’t even have enough support among Republicans alone to pass the House last year. The wall has gone unfunded repeatedly. And the last major Department of Homeland Security spending bill, passed in March 2018, didn’t meet Trump’s demands for additional border patrol officers and reduced ICE detention beds. Nothing — not even shutting down the government for more than a month — has moved Trump closer to getting his funding demands in Congress…

It’s increasingly looking like Trump has no choice but to accept a bipartisan border security proposal that his most hardline allies see as pathetic.”
Vox

Some posit that “the whip count that matters here is not really what legislators on Capitol Hill think. It is probably — and we recognize the bizarreness of this sentence — more important what conservative commentators and Fox News presenters think of the deal than it is what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) thinks… Predicting where Trump falls after checking in with prominent members of the conservative media world is tricky. As of writing, though, signs are good for passage.”
Washington Post

Many are condemning Trump’s inaccurate claims when talking about the border wall. “Trump’s comments on Monday night echoed what he said about El Paso during his State of the Union speech last week — that fencing along its border with Ciudad Juárez installed during 2008 and 2009 directly reduced violent crime, even though data from the FBI says otherwise… There’s just one problem: Trump’s claim is false. Like many other American cities, violent crime in El Paso has been falling steadily for about 25 years, and actually went up slightly after border fencing was installed.”
Vox

Worth noting: “Starting in 2006, when Congress passed the Secure Fence Act, the federal government used eminent domain to seize… plots and put up barriers, as high as 18 feet… The cost has been staggering. The most recent 33 miles in the valley have set back taxpayers $641 million, or $19.4 million a mile, for a hodgepodge of fences, vehicle barriers, and some bollard fencing—with lots of gaps. And no one can really say, definitively, whether this project is worthwhile. To date, no federal agency has systematically audited what all the barriers cost and what, if any, effect they’ve had.”
The Atlantic

“Trump’s defenders will say this evidence is all circumstantial. But circumstantial evidence is not weak evidence: it’s simply evidence based on the circumstances in which an act of wrongdoing is committed — such as the license plate of a car that speeds away from a bank just after that bank is robbed. Criminals are convicted on such evidence all the time. They will also say that there’s no explicit quid pro quo proposal here. But… ‘even when a corrupt deal is struck implicitly, the government can still prosecute extortion on a quid pro quo basis. Circumstantial evidence can be enough to prove a criminal exchange.’…

“In the absence of an explicit quid pro quo over restarting aid, the context and circumstances are what will become the focus of the investigation. There is enough here to support impeachment. Whether it is also enough to convince Republicans and lead to removal is another matter.”
Noah Feldman, Bloomberg

Some suggest that Congress “remove Trump from office, so that he cannot abuse incumbency to subvert the electoral process, but let the American people make the judgment on whether or not he gets a second term… Removing Trump from office for the remainder of his term would disable him from abusing presidential power again and protect the integrity of the electoral process from inappropriate interference. At the same time, letting him run for a second term would permit the American electorate to decide whether Trump, despite his attempt to subvert the system, should have another chance… Decoupling removal from disqualification lowers the stakes and changes the constitutional calculus. As long as Trump can run again, Republicans cannot hide behind a claim that they are [the] ones protecting voter choice by opposing impeachment.”
Edward B. Foley, Politico

From the Right

The right is not excited about the deal, but believes signing it is the best option for Trump.

From the Right

The right is not excited about the deal, but believes signing it is the best option for Trump.

Fifty-five miles isn’t much, but it’s better than zero, which is what Nancy Pelosi promised to allow… It’s certainly not a great deal, but it’s probably best for Trump to declare a victory on principle and sign off on it. It does force Pelosi to part with barrier funding, which will stick in her craw just as the limitations to that funding will stick in Trump’s. That may be good enough for most Trump supporters.”
Hot Air

“Is this a good agreement? No. It's a tiny bandaid on a much larger policy challenge that each party has powerful incentives not [to] solve. But guess what? Anything that might have come out of this broken process was going to be a stinker. Shutdown politics are bad politics… The realistic goal of this committee, from a GOP perspective, was to save a little bit of face and walk [away] with some modicum of plausibly-claimed non-defeat. Because there are some new barriers included, this deal checks that box.”
Townhall

Many argue that “it was malpractice not to get more funding for a border barrier out of Congress when it was held by Republicans… It was bizarre that the White House didn’t formally request more funding last year, before Trump drastically increased his demand to $5.7 billion near the end of process. Finally, it was foolhardy to lurch into a shutdown without a viable strategy for getting out of it. At least the current deal doesn’t reflect Nancy Pelosi’s vow not to approve a dollar for a border barrier, and Democrats backed off their demand in the negotiations for a hard cap on ICE detentions.”
National Review

Some note that “if one didn’t understand contemporary American politics, [the deal] would seem odd. Democrats have supported building a wall in the past, and President Trump has nothing against some relief for the DACA population, or even the broader group of ‘dreamers.’ Yet Trump came up almost empty on the wall and the Democrats came up empty on amnesty for illegal immigrants who were brought here as children.”
Power Line Blog

Going forward, “Trump needs to shift the debate to a place where he has real leverage: using the threat of a sequester, rather than a shutdown, to force the Democrats to give him his border barrier. In 10 months’ time, if Congress fails to act, then an automatic sequester will kick in that would reduce federal spending in 2020 to levels that Congress and President Barack Obama set in the Budget Control Act of 2011…

“That looming deadline gives Trump leverage he needs to get his wall. Democrats may not fear another shutdown, but will they really sacrifice $55 billion for domestic priorities next year just to deny Trump a measly $5.7 billion for a physical border barrier?”
Washington Post

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

“Handing Trump some wall money might have been worth it if Democrats had got something in return like legalizing the DREAMers… and others whose temporary protected status Trump scrapped. But Democrats failed to even put this on the table despite many hints by Republicans that they would consider a DREAMer-for-wall deal. The Democratic Party seems to be more interested in rallying their base with the issue than actually solving it.”
The Week

On the bright side...

Tinder-style app for cows tries to help the meat market.
BBC

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