It's hard not to laugh when White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defends President Donald Trump's fanciful and counterproductive attempt to "close the border" by saying Trump's No. 1 concern is the safety and lives of Americans. Oh, really?
Let's start with the border. Threatening to "close the border," an impossibility, only prompts panic and an increase in border crossings. Cutting off aid to three Central American countries, as Trump plans to do, will make violence there worse and increase the flow of desperate people.
Former car czar Steven Rattner explains:
"Yes, illegal border crossings at the southwest border are on the rise, but they are still very low by historical standards, running at 44,000 per month over the past year (and 66,000 in February.) Twelve years ago, they averaged more than 70,000 a month and sometimes exceeded 100,000 in a single month. And if you go back further, they routinely exceeded one million a year and were as high as 1.6 million in 2000 (when they also exceeded 200,000 in two months.)
"It's worth noting that in the past, spikes in border traffic have often preceded upcoming crackdowns, such as the uptick that occurred just before Mr. Trump's election as he campaigned on getting tough on immigration."
Trump makes the situation worse. And if he gets his way, cutting off aid to these three Central American countries and starting another panic over a mythical border closing will backfire as well: "Mr. Trump is now talking about closing the border entirely because these family groups, who are generally seeking asylum, often try to cross illegally as a result of an agreement between the United States and Mexico in January that forces asylum seekers who present themselves at the legal port of entry in San Diego [California] back across the border to Tijuana, [Mexico]," Rattner explains. "This is, in effect, America's version of the Syrian refugee crisis that gripped Europe in 2015."
And Trump's scheme would also tank our own economy. "The president's threat to close the border entirely would be an economic catastrophe for the United States," Rattner writes. "Mexico is our third largest trading partner (Japan is a distant fourth), amounting to 12 percent of our overall trade. Cutting off commercial traffic between the two countries would arguably hurt us at least as much as it would Mexico." He adds, "what is not understood or appreciated is that we don't simply import finished goods from Mexico; after 20 years of free trade, supply chains have been rearranged in a way that results in many items (such as automotive parts) passing back and forth across the border multiple times in the course of being manufactured."
Trump's conduct would make the border less manageable, increase the flow of desperate people (some of whom perish on the way) and throw the economy into a tailspin. (In the category of Trump-inflicted damage, add in his tariff war which is increasing woes of American farmers, consumers and businesses that import steel and aluminium.)
Then there is scheme to kill the Affordable Care Act in the courts — and come up with a replacement in 2021. The Washington Post reports, “President Trump signaled Monday night that he will not press for a vote on a bill to replace the Affordable Care Act until after next year’s elections, apparently heeding warnings from fellow Republicans about the perils of such a fight during campaign season.” But wait. If he wins in court, tens of millions will lose coverage for at least two years. (Also, we know there is no magic Trump plan that improves on the Affordable Care Act.) Great — millions of people potentially without coverage will be delaying or forgoing all sorts of treatment.
The harm to national security inflicted by Trump ranges from threatening nuclear war with North Korea, to declaring there is no threat, to suspending large-scale military exercises with South Korea. And that's just on the Korean Peninsula. Damaging alliances, giving Russians classified information in the Oval Office, letting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman get away with the grisly killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi are only a few examples of inexplicable, counterproductive "policy," if one can call it that.
Then to top it all off, the White House gave 25 people top security clearances whom intelligence community personnel believed posed a risk. Making a mockery of our security clearance process and letting those with potential problems have access to our most closely held secrets is a disaster waiting to happen.
A disaster waiting to happen — that actually is an apt summation of our current commander in chief.
Jennifer Rubin writes reported opinion for The Washington Post.