What are we to make of Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist extraordinaire who is embroiled in a child custody battle in a Travis County courtroom? His attorney wants us to believe Jones’ bombastic on-air persona is merely performance art – just for show, folks, that’s all. Jones, however, asserts no trickery is involved.
A far cry from President Trump, another well-known figure known for his crowd-pleasing bluster. You can count on Trump meaning what he says. Well, except for when he doesn’t.
Take for instance the president’s recent flip-flop on NATO, the trans-Atlantic alliance Trump called “obsolete” throughout the campaign and as recently as last month. The president declared then that NATO “doesn’t cover terrorism,” which isn’t true.
But earlier this month, as he stood with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Trump had a sudden change of heart. “I said it was obsolete. It’s no longer obsolete,” the president said, explaining that NATO made a change and now fights terrorism. The record says otherwise; as the Washington Post noted, NATO has been active in counterterrorism since 1980, even moreso since 9/11.
The newspaper has taken to calling Trump the “king of flip-flops.” Like the Post, a number of news organizations routinely chronicle the president’s many 180-degree turns on policy.
But there is one policy position where the president isn’t showing any signs of budging or flip-flopping – his vision of a border wall.
On Thursday Trump doubled down on one of his signature campaign pledges. He wants Congress to add money for a new wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border to a massive spending bill, potentially forcing a government shutdown. As the Chicago Tribune reported:
Trump’s request, outlined in conversations with White House officials and in a memo from budget director Mick Mulvaney, calls for $33 billion in new defense and border spending — and $18 billion in cuts to other priorities, such as medical research and jobs programs.
A partial government shutdown would begin April 29 if the spending bill isn’t passed.
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney told The Associated Press that Democratic negotiators on the spending bill need to sign on to funding the president’s priorities, including a down payment on a border wall and hiring more immigration agents.
“Elections have consequences,” Mulvaney said. “We want wall funding.”
Mulvaney said the Trump administration knows many in Congress, especially Democrats, don’t like the wall, “but they lost the election.”
More Americans opposed (62 percent) than favored (35 percent) building a wall, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in February.
A partial government shutdown is never popular and at least for now, it appears few in Congress share the White House’s desire to flirt with one, though some Democrats vow to oppose the wall and even some conservative Republicans object, though on fiscal grounds.
The Department of Homeland Security pegs the cost of a wall at up to $21.6 billion. Trump famously vowed throughout his campaign to make Mexico pay for the wall. That’s obviously not in the cards. Was it ever, really?
With the spectre of a government shutdown looming, some on Capitol Hill expect a bipartisan spending bill will emerge by next week’s end, and that a vote on funding for the wall will come in a separate spending bill later this year.
One thing is clear: Trump administration requests to fund the wall aren’t going away. The president is adamant about fulfilling his vision of a “big, beautiful border wall.”