Donald Trump already has his wall but it’s not concrete or steel slats or anything else. It’s made of stone.
This stonewall doesn’t run along our southern border from sea to shining sea, but encircles his White House, runs up and down Pennsylvania and Constitution Avenues, around Foggy Bottom and all Der Furor’s other outposts. And Mexico isn’t paying for it, we are, every day, in a commodity more precious than gold: truth.
It’s a fact Trump’s stonewall works — keeping Congress, the media, and Americans, not migrants, out; and truth, facts and open government locked up.
Yes, gentle reader, when it comes to stonewalling, this administration has no equivalent in American history.
(There is a small crack in his wall. More about that later.)
Let’s first examine some examples of Trump’s stonewalling as my strict, but kindly editor, won’t give me the 5,000 or 6,000 words needed to detail all Trump’s stonewalls.
To begin, Sarah Sanders, Trump’s press secretary, is the keystone in the White House’s stonewall; and she’s elevated bricklaying to a high art. Her main tool: canceling press conferences, press briefings and even gaggles (on Trump’s say so). The easiest way not to answer questions from the free press: don’t take them. So she doesn’t.
Government agencies such as the EPA or Health and Human Services or Homeland Security also stonewall: Congressional committees, legislators, public interest groups and the press. The tactic works for Sarah and it works for them.
There’s no reason for the EPA to tell people about relaxing rules regulating, say, formaldehyde, a pernicious and toxic chemical found almost everywhere. Just ignore the question and put people’s health in danger.
And no reason to tell taxpayers how much money Ben Carson, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, spends on travel. After all, it’s just our money and why should we know how he spends it. (He’s the guy who wanted to buy the $30,000 table for his office and got stopped when outed.)
It gets a bit more complicated when an arm of Congress, the General Accounting Office, is totally rebuffed by the White House and National Security Agency. But as the GAO’s only recourse is asking Trump’s hack attorney general to sue another branch of government, that ain’t gonna happen. Stonewalling works again.
In addition to government stonewalling, there’s Trump’s political stonewalling.
The easiest way for Sanders to deal with subpoenas against Trump’s Inaugural Committee: say it doesn’t involve the White House, so no comment, and an artful and elegant stonewall is erected.
She used the same excuse, saying it’s the Trump Organization’s responsibility, not the White House’s, when we found out Trump hired scads of illegal aliens to work at his resorts; eschewed the E-Verify systems he advocates for others; and recently began firings after he’d been caught.
Trump and his wallbuilders denied (then lied) about the Trump Tower Russia meeting. And accusations about the bogus note he wrote were met with blank stares and no comment. (That tactic didn’t work. The truth sometimes will out.)
While Der Furor’s political stonewalling can be ascribed to Trumpian “politics as usual” it has some real-life-and-death consequences.
He’s built a stonewall around the whole island of Puerto Rico, after stopping food supplement funding and not allocating billions of dollars already-appropriated-by-Congress for community development.
And the stonewall he and Homeland Security erected around the thousands of families and kids separated at the border is higher and stronger than anything he’s proposed for the ground.
In the 14th and 15th centuries there were two ways to overcome stonewalled defenses.
The first was siege. The wall was surrounded and slowly, inexorably, it was assailed with cannon and the bricks would come tumbling down. It took time but was foolproof. (The modern equivalent: Mueller, the Southern District of New York’s federal attorneys, the New York state attorney general, and the new Democratic House committees. Slow, but inevitable.)
Or people on the inside simply opened the front door.
And there’s been no shortage of insiders helping the truth get out.
First, of course, are administration alumni who wrote books: James Comey’s “Higher Loyalty;” “Unhinged,” by Omarosa; and Cliff Sims’s, “Team of Vipers.”
Then there were those with access to insiders: Bob Woodward’s “Fear,” and Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury.”
Finally, there’s the constant drip, drip, drip of White House leakers. They really make it all come tumbling down, as last week’s leak of Trump’s daily schedule introduced “Executive Time” to the lexicon and showed Trump’s utter disinterest and ineptitude for the office he holds.
It’s said there are ghosts in the White House and echoes of past presidents’ soaring oratory.
I wonder if, OK, I fantasize that, Ronald Regan’s spirit might gently tweak his most famous line, “Mr. Trump, tear down this wall.”
Tom Burke’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.