“Border is tight,” Trump claimed — suggesting that maybe a wall ... isn’t necessary for border security? Either the border got locked down between 7:29 a.m. and 7:38 a.m., or Trump is offering contradictory arguments to make contradictory points. He wants a wall because he promised a wall, so the wall is an essential part of keeping the country safe, and Democrats are slackers. But if the wall is needed to keep the country safe, that implies that the country isn’t safe, which implies Trump isn’t doing his job — so Trump claims that he’s doing his job, and the border is secure.
What’s particularly remarkable about his claim that the border is secure is that it comes at a moment when data from Homeland Security indicate that apprehensions at the southern border have spiked. We noted this last week when Trump made a similar claim about the security of the border: After a dramatic drop in apprehensions when Trump first took office, the number of apprehensions is back where it was at the end of 2016.
Why does that matter? Because early in his administration that drop in apprehensions was *itself* a sign that Trump’s policies were working.
"[I]t just came out that [apprehensions are] 73 percent down,” Trump told the Associated Press in April 2017. “That’s a tremendous achievement. Look at this, in 100 days, that’s down to the lowest in 17 years and it’s going lower. Now, people aren’t coming because they know they’re not going to get through, and there isn’t crime."
It stopped going lower. But, regardless, Trump claims that the border is more secure than ever. Except, of course, when it isn’t and we need a wall.
By no means is border security the only place where Trump has his cake, eats his cake, brags about his cake, disparages his cake and tweets a photo of his cake under the caption, “There is no cake."
Consider the stock market. As recently as September, Trump explicitly linked stock market growth to his policies and to the strength of the economy.
In 2017, this was a common practice. Over and over, as the Dow Jones industrial average trudged higher, Trump would tweet about the market and the economy and the United States' newfound confidence.
But that mostly stopped this year, as the Dow and the S&P 500 shuddered. The markets plunged and recovered and plunged again, and Trump had rationales. A drop in February? Investors were worried that the economy was *too* good! Stocks back up to 25,000 in July? A function of Trump’s strong hand on the economy. A plunge in November? Investors worried about Democratic control of the House.
It's never, ever Trump.
These are the big things. There are lots of little things, too.
I have chosen one of the truly great business leaders of the world, Rex Tillerson, Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, to be Secretary of State.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 13, 2016
Mike Pompeo is doing a great job, I am very proud of him. His predecessor, Rex Tillerson, didn’t have the mental capacity needed. He was dumb as a rock and I couldn’t get rid of him fast enough. He was lazy as hell. Now it is a whole new ballgame, great spirit at State!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 7, 2018
And so on.
The amazing thing is that most Americans are inured to it. We don’t really expect there to be consistency in what Trump says or advocates. The arguments he offers are ones that are important to the point he’s making in the moment. If they extend past that, fine. If not, the argument changes. The border can be a porous mess demanding a wall while “Fox and Friends” goes to commercial; it can be tight as a tick by the time the break ends.
Where this gets tricky is when Trump tries to spin the investigation into his campaign being conducted by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Trump has insisted that there was no collusion with Russia since early in 2017 — before we learned about the Trump Tower meeting (for which Trump crafted a misleading explanation) or his allies' interactions with WikiLeaks or any of the rest of it. He denied knowing about the hush-money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels until Cohen admitted in court that Trump knew.
A recent Suffolk University poll found that about 6 in 10 Americans had little or no trust in Trump’s assertions that there was no collusion with Russia — a position that’s hard to argue with. To some extent: Among Fox News viewers, more than half said they had “a lot of trust” in Trump’s assertions.
On Fox Thursday morning, though, even Trump’s claims about the border met with skepticism. Guest host Ed Henry claimed that the border was more secure than it was under President Barack Obama, prompting host Brian Kilmeade to reply: “I don’t know. I don’t know. It seems like chaos.”
When Kilmeade isn’t buying Trump’s latest story, that might be a problem.