Cardella: The Wall


By Tom Cardella

As we enter 2019, our country faces many problems, not the least of which is that we’ll be bombarded by the president’s tweets for up to two more years. This is a president who hasn’t written a full grammatically-correct sentence since he wrote “I like it” as his full book review of DICK AND JANE in second grade. Trump’s overriding concern continues to be “The Wall.” We haven’t heard this much about a wall since Pink Floyd was in its heyday.

Trump wants his border wall. And it’s not just because he claims that it will enhance border security, he wants to fulfill arguably his biggest campaign promise. Only he can’t. And probably never intended to. The wall was supposed to be paid for by Mexico. Trump even claimed that former President of Mexico, Vincente Fox, AGREED to pay to pay for it. When Fox was asked whether his country WOULD pay for the border wall, he said, “We’ll never pay for that f — -ing wall.” Didn’t seem to leave any room for interpretation. In fact, the current President of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto, echoed Fox’s statement (although he may have used a different obscenity).

Trump has not been able to unify America. But give him credit. He’s done wonders for political unity in Mexico. Undaunted, the President continues to claim that there are various ways he can force Mexico to pay for the wall. Don’t take me literally, but it’s ranged from a tax on tacos to sending in the Texas Rangers (the baseball team) to invade Mexico, to using the new NAFTA agreement (Note: There is NO provision in the trade agreement that calls for Mexico to pay for the wall).

Honestly, I’m not even sure what the Trump wall is supposed to look like anymore. I’d thought, that after the president devoted many hours these past few years to methodically consider design options, he’d have a very clear picture in mind. Yet his view of the wall keeps changing. Maybe it’s just that the president’s view of his proposed wall has evolved. But Trump vehemently denies that he has evolved in any way, especially in his views on the wall. The President not only believes there’s no collusion, he also believes there’s no evolvement. Trump is firmly against evolving. However, be that as it may, the President’s description of the wall has changed over time.

The wall was originally described as being 1,900 miles long. No problem, according to Trump. “What’s more complicated is building a building that’s 95 stories tall. Okay?” Okay. That was in August 2015.

At a presidential debate in October 2015, the President spoke about a 1,000 mile-long wall along the border. If the Chinese could build a 13,000 mile wall, we can build a much smaller one, Trump contended. Apparently, the President had discovered that the additional 1,000 miles along the border had mountains and other natural barriers. He seems to have finally settled on the length of the wall, but the height remains in question.

My detailed research shows that Trump’s vision of how high the wall should be has ranged from a low of 32 feet up to 50 feet, which is four feet higher than the highest point on THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA. Granted, their wall did its job for China. At least until the Japanese occupation during World War II (Maybe if the wall had just been four feet higher?). Trump not only suffers from penis-envy. But also from wall-envy.

After Mexico rejected paying for the wall, Trump raised his wall’s projected height 10 feet higher. Trump playing hardball. The great negotiator. Just ask him.

The President’s estimate of the cost of the proposed wall has also changed dramatically. In September 2015, he estimated the cost at $4 or $5 billion. “Peanuts,” is how he described the cost at that time. But by November 2017, in an interview on Fox News, he said the cost would be $20 billion. The cost no longer “peanuts.” Maybe macadamia nuts. Chocolate covered.

The look of the wall has also changed over the years. From a concrete barrier, to a “great” wall with a “big fat beautiful door,” to a “solar wall,” to “a fence” — but then again, not a fence, to one with “slats.” Fran suggests a wall with French doors.

The President’s wall is supposed to prevent illegal entry and narcotics from coming into the country. But 70 percent of illegal immigration occurs through LEGAL points of entry when visitors overstay their visitor’s visa. And over 95 percent of illegal drugs coming into the U.S. comes through our ports, not the border, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency. And it is unlikely that a wall would prevent the secret building of tunnels. Trump would benefit from a chat with El Chapo, another successful businessman, about the effectiveness of tunnels.

Do we need better border security? Absolutely. Modern day electronic technology. More and better-trained border agents. Improved cooperation with Mexico and Latin and Central American countries. And yes, where the topography permits, a limited wall. What Trump has right is that no nation can exit without proper control of its borders.

What we don’t need is the President playing politics with this issue to distract from his legal problems. And we don’t need the guy who went bankrupt building ugly hotels and casinos to be telling us how to go about it.