When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Go to Mar-a-Lago

By Steven Gan

Do you remember the knee-jerk call and response at Trump rallies? Trump would yell out several times to his supporters, “Who’s going to pay for the wall?”  Raising fists, the crowd would shout with one voice, “Mexico!”

That Trump would bring the Mexican government to its knees and make it pay for his big, bad, beautiful wall was just one of the fantastical promises that propelled him to the presidency.

In view of Trump’s 100 days of failures, reversals, and flip-flops, it doesn’t surprise me in the least that we don’t hear much about Mexico paying for the wall anymore, let alone how this monstrosity is even going to be built. Note that Trump never did explain exactly how we were going to force Mexico to foot the bill. But to Trump’s supporters, these annoying details were beside the point. All they cared about was the anti-immigration sentiment behind creating an impenetrable fortification.

Although it was fun while it lasted, now, as the rubber meets the road, some cold hard facts are coming into focus.

One of these facts, ironically, relates to statements by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who is backing off Trump’s promise to build his version of the Great Wall of China. “You see, the border is complicated,” Zinke said back at the end of March when speaking to the Public Lands Council.  He elaborated:

“The Rio Grande, what side of the river are you going to put the wall? We’re not going to put it on our side and cede the river to Mexico. And we’re probably not going to put it in the middle of the river.”

And then there’s the annoying fact that most of the land in Texas that’s along the Rio Grande is privately owned.  The folks who own the land are not planning to sell cheaply, and they won’t allow the government to take their property (through eminent domain) without a fight that could take years.  A number of these landowners, some of whose families have owned land bordering the river since the 18th century, are vowing to stand firm no matter the legal costs.

And did we mention the cost of the wall itself? Trump claimed at first that he could build the structure, everything said and done, for less than $10 billion. Now it’s estimated at $25 billion. But even if it’s $100 billion, don’t worry, because the Republicans will cancel social programs like Meals on Wheels that feed and support millions of poor Americans in order to pay for it.

Speaking of high costs to the government, let’s not forget Trump’s weekend jaunts down to the “southern White House” to escape from a week of dealing with all the world’s problems that he bragged only he could fix.  As they say, when the going gets tough, the tough go to Mar-a-Lago.

But those of us opposed to any investment in an expensive new border wall can take heart.  So far, Trump has reversed course on the importance of NATO, U.S. involvement in Syria, whether China is a currency manipulator, and more, so it’s likely that in time his grandiose border wall, with all of its immense challenges, will become just one more forgotten promise.

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