Email #321: “a political bind”?

Regarding President Trump “Great Wall,” you said last Wednesday:

“One of the issues there, of course, is how much wall do you need. We’re not going to build a wall that’s 30 feet high along the entire 2,000 miles of our southern border, but walls in particular places, particularly where there’s high-trafficked areas, where there’s lots of criminal cartel activity on the other side, where there are major urban areas, walls are appropriate.”

I agree that a 2,000-mile is not appropriate. There are 653 miles of wall already in the kinds of high-traffic, high-activity places that you indicated. So could you please specify how many more of the remaining 1, 347 miles you feel require additional construction?

Also, how much are you willing to spend on such construction? We have already spent $7 billion since 2001. The current wall cost $3-4 million per mile. Even without purchasing the privately owned land where the wall would need to extend, employing construction workers, and paying for annual maintenance of upwards of $750 million, the materials for just an additional 1,000 miles would cost $15 billion. Do you consider that the best use of taxpayer money?

President Trump of course promised the wall would cost Americans nothing. He explained in April 2016:

“Mexico currently receive $24 billion in remittance payments annually from the United States. This provides substantial leverage for the United States to obtain from Mexico the funds necessary to pay for a border wall. It’s an easy decision for Mexico: make a one-time payment of $5-10 billion to ensure that $24 billion continues to flow into their country year after year.”

Though as a candidate the President threatened to change a Patriot Act rule that would cut off money Mexico receives through wire transfers, he has taken no such action. When President Trump did attempt to negotiate with Mexico in August, he did not mention wire transfers and remittance payments. According to published White House phone transcripts, the President only asked that Mexico’s President Peña Nieto stop saying he would refuse to pay:

“The only thing I will ask you though is on the wall, you and I both have a political problem. My people stand up and say, “Mexico will pay for the wall” and your people probably say something in a similar but slightly different language. But the fact is we are both in a little bit of a political bind because I have to have Mexico pay for the wall – I have to. I have been talking about it for a two-year period. So what I would like to recommend is … we should both say, “we will work it out”… because if you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore because I cannot live with that. I am willing to say that we will work it out, but that means it will come out in the wash and that is okay. But you cannot say anymore that the United States is going to pay for the wall. I am just going to say that we are working it out.”

But although President Peña Nieto agreed to “stop talking about the wall,” the Trump administration and Mexico are not “working it out.” Peña Nieto was absolutely clear:

“my position has been and will continue to be very firm saying that Mexico cannot pay for that wall.”

President Trump was only concerned with how that would make him look, telling Peña Nieto:

“But you cannot say that to the press. The press is going to go with that and I cannot live with that.”

So the President is in, as he said, “a political bind.” He has a “political problem.” That is very different from having an actual border security problem. He wants a wall not because it is vital for security but because he campaigned on the impossible promise of a Mexico-funded “Great Wall” that encapsulated his simplistic anti-immigration platform.

I know you share many of his immigration attitudes. I also know you are a fiscal hawk—though now with disturbing selectivity. If the current 653-mile wall isn’t sufficient, why have you never sponsored wall-expansion legislation during your previous terms? Why only now is there a sudden need? How many billions of deficit-expanding dollars are you willing to spend bailing the President out of his “political problem”?

What happened to the Bob Goodlatte who wanted to “put an end to deficit spending”? What happened to the Bob Goodlatte who said: “Families all across our nation understand what it means to make tough decisions each day about what they can and cannot afford and government officials should be required to exercise similar restraint when spending the hard-earned dollars of our nation’s citizens.”

Where is your restraint now?

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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