Washington’s Impenetrable Wall

US President Donald Trump intends to sign a budget bill on Friday, February 15, simultaneously announcing a state of emergency in connection with the humanitarian crisis on the border with Mexico, the White House announced. This will allow Trump to increase allocations for the construction of the wall on the border with Mexico, since the draft budget, adopted by the congress, allocated only $ 1.375 billion instead of $ 5.7 billion requested by the president.

Late 2018 and early 2019 saw almost biblical passions over the budget allocations for Donald Trump’s idée fixe - the construction of a wall along the US-Mexican border that would be “absolutely impenetrable” to illegal immigrants and other violators. For the sake of this idea Trump even resorted to a partial 35 day shutdown of the federal government, the longest in 25 years. As a result, the US economy lost at least $6 billion, more than he asked Congress to allocate for the border wall.

However, as Trump saw for himself after his annual State of the Union Address to US Congress on February 5, every virtual, ironclad or political division barrier needs to have some “special window” for “one’s own” or “the right” people because Trump found himself in a position of “illegal” politician speaking to the Democrat-controlled Congress.

Basically, in his long eloquent speech that lasted 82 minutes (Clinton’s speech in 2000 is the record at 89 minutes) Trump did not offer a detailed analysis of US government affairs or problems in domestic and foreign policy.

This was an election speech addressed almost exclusively to the Republican voters that have been loyal to their president over the past two years.

US observers noted that Trump’s address to the American people was the most partisan in the 21st century. This is not surprising because, as recent US history shows, when the Democrats control the House and the Republicans the Senate, the US’s highest legislative bodies become almost paralyzed.
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In effect, Trump mentioned only three main areas of contact between the polar interests of the Republicans and Democrats -development of the US economic infrastructure, a reduction on medication prices, and resistance to China’s economic expansion. He did not mention any other socio-economic problems that might unite the two parties. To be more precise, one of the tasks that Trump presented as a major priority for the 116th Congress was his appeal to start a discussion to adopt a new federal law on abortion.

This is why Trump focused his address on the problems of immigration reform and the key elements in his opinion - the allocation of funds for the early construction of the wall along the US-Mexican border. He devoted 15 minutes to this subject and mentioned the word “wall” eight times. But this wall or fence has become a symbol of the political, social, cultural and ideological split between the Republicans and the Democrats, which became even more pronounced after his address. US journalists noted that this address was made by “the most polarizing president of recent times in the Oval Office and the nation’s divisions deeply entrenched, that pattern will surely not be broken. The stark political divisions were dramatized on Tuesday night at the many points when Republicans leapt to their feet to applaud the president while Democrats remained seated and still.”

The foreign policy part of Trump’s speech contained a package of fairly empty and trite declarations, which was designed to support what analyst Scott Anderson from the Brookings Institution called the ambitious and consciously disruptive international agenda that the Trump administration has set out in public remarks over the past year.

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First of all, this concerns the voluntarist decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty, which further deepened the crisis in Russia-US relations. American observers noted with schadenfreude that Trump mentioned Russia only twice and devoted as much time to it as to the MS-13 gangster group.

At the same time, Trump openly lied to the US public. He declared pathetically that during his two years in office, US NATO allies had increased their military spending by $100 billion. However, in an interview on the eve of Trump’s speech in Congress, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the allies had increased their military spending by only $41 billion, and are expected to increase it by $100 billion only by the end of 2020. Trump also declared that the introduction of customs duties on imported Chinese goods made it possible to increase US customs revenues by $6.7 billion in the 2018 fiscal year, forgetting to mention that the whole sum plus another billion dollars were spent to reimburse American farmers that sustained damage from higher tariffs on Chinese goods.

The absence of a positive foreign and domestic policy agenda in the activities of the Trump administration at least for 2019 is objectively aggravating the domestic political crisis in the US. After Trump’s address the Democrats, in part, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi demanded that the US Congress should inquire into his tax declarations and present them finally to the US public. US history graphically shows that outstanding problems with the Internal Revenue Service have finished the careers of many prominent politicians and entrepreneurs and have often resulted in prison time.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.