House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), center, speaks with members of the media while other Democratic congressional leaders listen after a meeting with President Trump at the White House in Washington on Jan. 4.(Al Drago/Bloomberg)
Opinion writer

Democrats have asked for equal time to respond to President Trump’s address to the nation. They might consider the following:

You’ve just heard from President Trump. The government is shut down because the president wanted to shut it down; he said he was proud to do it. He is holding the country hostage, inflicting real pain on 800,000 workers plus small businesses and others who depend on the normal operation of our government. Farmers aren’t getting checks. Contractors aren’t getting paid. Garbage is piling up at our national parks.

Why are we here? The president made a ridiculous pledge in his campaign: Mexico would pay for a 2,000-mile border wall. Mexico isn’t paying for the wall. Trump is now holding the government hostage to extract billions from you, the taxpayers, to pay for it. This is not what he promised.

Now the president, to save face and get himself out of a jam, threatens to declare an emergency and act without Congress to take money from our men and women in the military and their families to pay for the wall he said Mexico would pay for. This would do real damage to our national security. You cannot say you “love the troops” and take money out of their pockets. This would also be an unconstitutional power grab. It’s the threat of a tyrant, not a president in the world’s greatest constitutional democracy.

Unfortunately, the president — and I do not say this lightly — has lied over and over again to the American people.

He says we have a crisis at the border. But crossings are a fifth of what they were in 2000.

His administration says thousands of terrorists have been apprehended coming over the southern border. But the real number of immigrants encountered who were on the Terrorist Screening Database was six. A libertarian think tank found, "Zero people were murdered or injured in terror attacks committed on U.S. soil by special interest aliens who entered illegally from 1975 through the end of 2017. However, seven special interest aliens who initially entered illegally have been convicted of planning a terrorist attack on U.S. soil. They all entered illegally from Canada or jumped ship in American ports before the list of special interest countries even existed. None of them successfully carried out their attacks and none illegally crossed the Mexican border.”

Trump said “some” former presidents agreed with his plan to build the wall. But every living former president has denied speaking to him on the topic.

He said he needs $5 billion for the wall before he’ll reopen the government. But he has spent only 6 percent of $1.7 billion previously allocated for fencing. Democrats have offered $1.3 billion more for border security.

He stoked fear before the election of a caravan of migrants hundreds of miles from the border. But after the election he stopped talking about these people.

He points to the influx of refugees as evidence of a crisis. But a wall would not address this problem. Asylum seekers would still present themselves at the border and have their claims adjudicated. The president should consider, as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) suggested, sending more judges to the border to process claims.

Trump claims only a wall can solve this crisis. But his current chief of staff said in 2015 that the idea of a wall was “absurd and almost childish.” His then-Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, who had previously headed the Department of Homeland Security, had said the president wasn’t “fully informed” when he promised a wall. His current secretary of Homeland Security said at her confirmation hearing, “The president has stated, as have my predecessors at DHS, certainly something that I share: There is no need for a wall from sea to shining sea.”

The president says Democrats won’t come to the table to negotiate. But that is false. The moment he reopens the government, we can discuss some of the many ideas Democrats have put forward to secure the border by appropriate and effective means, including increased personnel, drones, ground sensors and other devices.

We are a democracy with a Constitution. We cannot give way to a hostage taker or be cowed by bullying and lies. We ask that the president respect his office, the Constitution and the intelligence of the American people. Open the government, Mr. President.