The wall is a really dumb idea. To spend $5.7 billion to put up a wall along the entire 1900+ mile border with Mexico to stop an imaginary flood of murderers, rapists and drug smugglers is a naive, unnecessary, worthless fantasy. What kind of a wall would that pay for? A 17 ft high, a 25 or 35 ft high…? concrete or steel barrier, or a fence, continuous along the entire border?
Anyway, $5.7 billion would not be anywhere near enough to wall off the entire border or even the aproximate 1,200 unfenced portion. What other far more worthwhile and greatly needed programs could be paid for with such an appropriation? Trump’s claim that Mexico would pay for it was, of course, rediculous on its face and is even more absurd than the wall itself. If President Trump really needs to bring down the government in order to save face with his base and blame Democrats for it, it only proves that he was wrong in promising in the campaign to do what he should have known that he could not deliver as president and that his base had no right to believe.
Since there is some legitimate uncertainty about what a wall would cost and how effective it would be, the answer is to conduct an experiment. When in doubt, test things out. The best answer to disputed issues is to try it out; see what works and how much it costs. So that’s the practical, face-saving way to solve the current government shut-down impasse over the border wall. Trump says it’s a must to keep out an invading horde of criminal immigrants and drug dealers. Democrats say it is an ineffective, costly boondoggle. So let’s try out a small, representative sample. Congress should appropriate money to build something like 100 miles of a true wall, not a glorified fence. There is already over 600 miles of fencing so we know what that costs and what it does or doesn’t do. But Congress should appropriate money for the 35 foot high, foot-thick, six-foot deep concrete structure that Trump promised the voters during the campaign and build it in the location most vulnerable to illegal crossings. Then we’ll keep track and see how well or poorly it works and how much it costs. That should settle the argument for now and maybe for good and get the government back in business in the meantime.
So Trump has offered to end the shutdown and grant a 3-year “dreamers” program if he can get his $5.7 billion wall. It doesn’t look like the Dems are interested.
A basic principle of bargaining is that when the other side makes an offer of compromise, regardless of how inadequate, it is your turn to make a counter-offer. I say this as a life-long liberal and steadfast opponent of President Trump, but also from the pragmatic point of view of lawyer engaged in the process of bargaining that is fundamental to the practice of law. Parties who do not understand this are doomed to endless deadlock and disappointment. Experience teaches that if you don’t like the offer made by the other side you do not just say it is a “non–starter.” You make a proportional counteroffer. So if their offer is ridiculous you make a somewhat ridiculous counter. Gradually if this process is pursued the offers and counter-offers get less ridiculous. For the Democrats to insist that Trump end the shutdown before they will negotiate with a counter offer is itself an unproductive non-starter. It is asking Trump to give up his only bargaining chip. That won’t work and it makes the Democrats look like they are the intransigent party. By refusing to negotiate at this point Democrats are losing the public opinion high-ground that they have had up to this time.
Though it is not right and not fair that he is using this bargaining chip, the grim reality of this — this gun-to-the-head strategy — is that it is there and can’t be ignored just because it is unfair or improper.