If President Trump is the finicky client describing what he wants for a monstrous wall-building project along the Mexican border, Stephen Colbert is the flummoxed architect trying to fashion a blueprint from his bombastic adjectives.
On “The Late Show” Friday night, Colbert assembled a team of builders to come up with a ballpark estimate of how much it would cost to erect the president’s promised wall.
The answer: a lot, based on Trump’s descriptions.
“That wall is going to be so big and so strong and so powerful,” then-candidate Trump said at a campaign stop in Holderness, N.H.
“Impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful,” he said in another speech.
We know the length of the United States’ southern border — about 2,000 miles, Colbert said — and Trump gave people watching the GOP debate in Houston a sense of how tall it would be: “A heck of a lot taller than the ceiling you’re looking at.”
That was all Colbert needed to pull out his whiteboard and start in on some simple calculations.
Colbert’s efforts are a comedic version of what builders have been doing since Trump was elected after making campaign promises about a massive border wall.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has said it plans to start awarding contracts for the wall by mid-April, according to the Associated Press. Concept papers were due Friday — it’s unclear whether Colbert submitted one.
The candidate field will be narrowed by March 20, and finalists would submit offers with their proposed costs by March 24.
Trump has suggested the wall would cost $12 billion, the AP reported. Republican leaders say it would cost between $12 billion and $15 billion, although an internal Department of Homeland Security report for Secretary John F. Kelly said the final total could reach $21 billion.
Colbert’s estimate came in a heck of a lot higher — 200 million cubic yards of wall, his team of builders concluded, would mean $400 billion — just for concrete.
That number more than doubled to $985 billion when the team factored in other costs — 12,000 workers, portable concrete plants, a road next to the wall and the cost of draining swamps along the border.
Total cost: $2 trillion.
But that doesn’t account for another of Trump’s adjectives: “beautiful.” Beautifying the border wall would take something like 100 million rolls of wallpaper, one of Colbert’s experts estimated.
Clearly, the costs were adding up. Fortunately — at least for the United States — Trump has announced where he would send the bill.
And Colbert had the Mexican Consulate on speed dial.
“This is Stephen Colbert from ‘The Late Show,’ ” he told the woman who answered the phone. “We’re trying to come up with just some rough numbers. Obviously, don’t hold my feet to the fire over this, but we’ve got a rough number of $2 trillion to build the border wall and I was wondering if you had that in petty cash right now.”