Will the GOP benefit from Trump’s border stunt?

Will the GOP benefit from Trump's border stunt?

by digby

My Salon column this morning:

President Trump refused to postpone his visit to Pittsburgh on Tuesday. Local officials and leaders of the community begged him not to come until after their funerals and time of mourning were over, but Trump has a busy rally schedule and said it was the only time he could fit in the PR stunt that nobody wanted him to do. So he went anyway, diverting security from the gatherings of mourners who were concerned that there could be another violent incident. The president, the first lady, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were on their own, lighting candles at the Tree of Life synagogue accompanied only by the rabbi and the Israeli ambassador as a sad, slow protest took place just blocks away:

The New York Times reported that Trump's Jewish daughter and son-in-law had talked him into going, and that he didn't really want to do it. He was angry that his superfan, alleged MAGAbomber Cesar Sayoc Jr., along with the Pittsburgh killer inspired by his rhetoric about the caravan, Robert Bowers, had disrupted his "strategy." He was anxious to get right back to it.

That strategy is to gin up hatred and paranoia about a ragged band of Central American refugees, most of them women and children, who are walking through Mexico to seek asylum in America. They are several hundred miles from the U.S. border, but Trump is sending more than 5,000 troops down there to protect us from these dangerous invaders to the border. According to the Pentagon they will be armed, although Homeland Security head Kirstjen Neilsen says there are no plans to shoot anyone. So that's a relief.

What they will be doing is still obscure but we know that Trump is very impressed by the pictures of the DMZ between North and South Korea. He said, “Look at Korea. We have a border in Korea. We have a wall of soldiers...You look at that, nobody comes through. But our own border, we don’t take care of it.32,000 soldiers, their finest equipment, barbed wire all over the place,” referring to the DMZ. We protect that whole thing. Nobody comes through."  They don't come through because his beautiful pen pal Kim Jong Un orders them to be shot if they try.

Trump told Fox News, "we're going to build tent cities. We're going to put tents up all over the place. We're not going to build structures and spend all of this, you know, hundreds of millions of dollars — we're going to have tents."  Apparently, he's unaware that this costs money as well, much more than it would cost to simply process people the normal way. According to CBS News, the Department of Health and Human Services expects to "spend $367 million on the government's tent city at the Tornillo Port of Entry in Texas in just the final three months of the year." That facility holds 1500 unaccompanied minors.

As for the cost of the troop deployment, let's just say it's going to be very high. Jennifer Griffin of Fox News reported that this will come out of the Pentagon budget and the numbers have not been finalized. But she notes that when President Bush sent 6000 National Guard it cost $1.2 billion.

In other words, this stunt is going to waste billions of taxpayer dollars for no reason. This is not a crisis. These refugees coming to the border are not dangerous. There is no threat to national security. Border crossings are way down from where they were a decade ago. The unemployment rate is very low. Migrants have been flowing back and forth over that border for centuries. There is no "invasion."

Donald Trump wagging the dog. Instead of waging a phony war on foreign soil, he's putting on a pricey pageant at America's southern border in a blatant attempt to get his base out to vote next week. It would have been much cheaper to let him have his big parade.

It's not that the country hasn't faced a number of real crises requiring the mustering of federal resources and manpower since he's been in office. There have been five major hurricanes and massive wildfires in the past two years resulting in horrible loss of life and property. And he has not shown even a tiny fraction of the same level of concern for those as he is showing for this phony border crisis.

In fact, he commonly complains about how much money they are costing "him" and suggests that the ones that take place in areas that didn't vote for him had it coming. We all remember his  ghastly performance after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, even complaining  in the first few days that it was busting his budget. The federal recovery effort was incompetent from the beginning and the island is still in dire straits (made even worse by the GOP tax cuts.) And this is what the president had to say about that just last week:

To this day, Trump still does not understand that Puerto Rico is not a foreign country. But then he treats California as if it's a foreign country too:

What's happening should never happen. I go all over the country and I meet with governors. The first thing they say is there's no reason for forest fires like that in California. So I say to the governor or whoever is going to be the governor of California you'd better get your act together because California, we're just not going to continue to pay the kind of money that we're paying because of fire fires that should never be to the extent that they were telling me in a couple of states I wouldn't even mention their's costing the country hundreds of billions of dollars because of incompetence in's hurting our budget, our country. And they just better get their act together.
Evidently, he's under the impression that the people of California don't pay federal taxes. Or perhaps he sees all such payments as a donation to the United States of Trump and anything the people get back is a gift from him.

There are real crises happening all the time right here in the United States. But unless it can be blamed on a person of color, a foreigner, Democrats or the media, Trump's interest is very limited. Just as he does with foreign countries, he likes to threaten to withhold money if people fail to kowtow properly before his throne. But he's happy to spend billions on ridiculous stunts like sending troops to repel a nonexistent "caravan invasion," in a ploy so obviously designed to rile up his followers to vote in the midterms that a five-year-old could see through it. What Trump hasn't yet absorbed is that this kind of stuff also riles up his opponents. Perhaps that lesson will sink in next Tuesday night.