Tuesday night, President Donald Trump went on national television to propose a solution that won’t work for a problem that doesn’t exist.
In the course of doing so, he offered up a grab bag of assertions to support building a wall (or barrier) along the U.S-Mexico border that either were not true or were so wrenched out of context that they could be nothing other than deliberate distortions of truth.
It was an odd and disturbing moment, one that demonstrates how increasingly disconnected from reality this president is.
It is hard to know what President Trump thought he was going to accomplish with his national address from the Oval Office. He offered no new arguments in favor of his position. Instead, he trotted out lines that have been refuted again and again.
Strangely, for a man who prides himself on being a skilled and tenacious street fighter, the president left himself wide open to counter punches from his political opponents.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, didn’t hesitate to exploit those openings and landed several telling body blows in their response.
Pelosi reminded everyone that President Trump had promised Americans, again and again and again, that Mexico, not American taxpayers, would pay for the wall. And Schumer said there was “no excuse for hurting millions of Americans” because the president couldn’t get his way in a policy dispute and accused Trump of trying to govern by “temper tantrum.”
What Schumer referred to, of course, was the partial federal government shutdown, which now is nearly three weeks old and approaching the first of what may be a series of crisis points.
Soon, about 800,000 government employees won’t receive their paychecks. Many doubtless will miss mortgage or rent payments or fail to meet other obligations as a result, which will create a kind of ripple effect through the American economy.
Still other Americans by the hundreds of thousands worry whether they will receive their tax refunds, their housing payments or food stamps. Again, all this will have damaging consequences for an American economy that already has begun to stutter and stall.
This was so unnecessary.
The president’s main assertion – that hordes of undocumented immigrants are crossing our southern border and committing massive numbers of horrific crimes – simply isn’t true.
Undocumented immigration into the United States from all parts of the globe peaked in 2007 and has declined at a steady rate since then. Undocumented immigration from Mexico – the president’s primary fixation – hit its high point in 2003 and has been dropping ever since.
In fact, more undocumented immigrants now leave the United States than enter our country.
Nor do they commit vast numbers of crimes.
Research reveals that undocumented immigrants are only 75 percent as likely to kill someone as a native-born U.S. citizen is. Overall, undocumented immigrants commit 40 percent fewer crimes than citizens born here commit.
These facts are easy to discover.
That the president continues to ignore these truths as he punishes both undocumented immigrants and the most vulnerable U.S. citizens – including, in both cases, children – is and should be a source of shame for this nation.
Donald Trump provokes great rage in this nation and across the world.
But it’s become increasingly clear that this anger is neither appropriate nor effective.
The president demonstrated in Tuesday night’s speech that he not only does not know what he is doing but that he cannot determine what is real and what isn’t.
This is the stuff of tragedy and is cause for great sorrow.
Healing the wounds left by this heedless president’s flights from reality will take time, work and a commitment to each other born of our shared sense of common humanity. Maintaining a constant state of fury won’t help us meet this challenge.
President Trump vowed to make America great again.
Instead, he’s sought, time and again, to make us smaller, weaker and more frightened.
That’s what he tried to do once more Tuesday night.
It didn’t work, because Americans in the past were big enough, strong enough and, yes, great enough to face the truth.
And we will be big enough, strong enough and great enough to do so again.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.