On Monday, President Donald Trump went to El Paso, which he falsely said had been rampant with crime before border construction, to whip up his base in favor of a wall. Before he could take the stage, however, congressional negotiators reached a tentative deal to reopen the border — with 55 miles of bollard fencing, but no wall. Meanwhile, at a nearby location, Beto O'Rourke gathered a crowd to celebrate American values. Trump, in short, was essentially irrelevant, as he increasingly is. (Only his cheerleaders at Fox News bothered to cover him live in entirety.)
The deal calls for $1.375 billion for barriers along the border, including 55 miles of new fencing, with restrictions on the location.
While Democrats relented on demands for a tight cap on beds available to hold immigrants, the number of available spots will decline somewhat — to the consternation of hard-line anti-immigration activists. Right-wingers figured out that they'd lost their battle. Trump lost this fight when he ended the shutdown; this was the nail in the coffin.
Trump, who might not have known the outcome of the negotiations before taking the stage, hollered at the crowd that he'd build the wall no matter what. He egged on the audience as it chanted "Lock her up," more than two years after beating Hillary Clinton. It was more of the same — insults directed at O'Rourke (whom Trump said had only his first name going for him), lies that money from tariffs flowed into the U.S. Treasury, defensive meanderings to explain why he didn't have a dog, exaggerated crime figures and so on. It's the same incoherent rambling that only his hard-line base appreciates; to others, he sounds unhinged and desperate.
Meanwhile, O'Rourke took the higher ground. "We, together, we are making a stand for the truth against lies and hate and ignorance and intolerance," he told the crowd. "We are going to show the country who we are." He declared, "With the eyes of the country upon us, all of you together are going to make our stand in one of the safest cities in the United States of America. Safe not because of walls but in spite of walls."
Trump and his apologists could vent their anger, claiming Democrats wanted "open borders." The reality, however, was that Democrats and Republicans without Trump could reach a common-sense border security deal. No wall is needed. The country at large, which staunchly opposed the shutdown and never supported a wall, is likely to react positively to news of the deal — unless, of course, Trump has another temper tantrum and shuts the government down. At this point, however, not even his own party in the Senate likely would support him on that score.
Trump is left with his cult-like followers, vague threats to "finish" the wall regardless of Congress, his mindless chants and his sycophantic right-wing media. As for the rest of the country, most Americans have little reason to pay attention to his rants. He's not setting policy nor saying anything new. In fact, he has become a bore.
Jennifer Rubin writes reported opinion for The Washington Post.