President Donald Trump's administration is frenzied over the southern border. Family crossings from Mexico are up. Separating families proved an ugly fiasco. The great wall remains a fantasy solution. The GOP-controlled Congress remains stymied on new immigration laws.
Border Patrol agents arrested 16,658 family members in September, the highest one-month total on record and an 80 percent increase from July, The Washington Post reported. Many are fleeing gang-related violence in Central America.
Resisting the sympathetic image of refugees seeking a safer life in the U.S., Trump depicts a so-called caravan of migrants headed north as an invasion by a hostile power. So he speaks of “unknown Middle Easterners” in the group. None are known to exist, but the assertion does help worry some Americans.
But the president's canards serve a purpose: Each seems aimed at obscuring a different truth — not just about immigration in this final rush to key midterm elections, but in several areas.
The tax-cut bill enacted last year is widely reputed to benefit corporations and the wealthy. David Winston, a longtime Republican pollster who advises GOP lawmakers, told Politico his surveys indicate only 35 percent of voters realize the law cut individual tax rates at every level. As a result, his incumbent clients don't seem to be touting the new law.
On Monday, Trump said he will soon propose a tax cut for middle class Americans of "about 10 percent."
One problem: Top lawmakers who craft tax bills hadn't heard of such a proposal. Trump said, "If we do that, it’ll be sometime just prior to November.” But Congress is in recess, so he later added, "We'll do the vote after the election."
There is no plan. Trump announced fake news.
There is a crisis involving Saudi Arabia. Some may get the plausible impression that the U.S. is unwilling, unable or afraid to confront that nation's oil-rich ruling monarchs over the murder of a dissident inside its consulate. Trump himself has equivocated on the matter.
The nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington points out that recently the Trump Organization’s business partner in Indonesia inked an agreement with a construction firm in which the Saudi government owns a large stake. Development plans include "Trump-branded elements," the group noted.
But lest anyone suspect the national interest takes a backseat to commercial privileges, Trump has issued different statements that could suit the purpose of denials and deflections.
In arguing against a delay in Saudi arms sales, Trump has issued inconsistent and evidently inflated estimates of how many jobs may be at stake for Americans.
More broadly, as if answering a question nobody asked, the president told a rally for Sen. Ted Cruz Monday in Houston: "You know what I am? I’m a nationalist. OK? I’m a nationalist."
Shortly after Trump was elected, a Yale/George Mason poll found 7 in 10 voters supported carbon dioxide emission limits on coal-fired plants to reduce global warming and promote public health.
Trump's policies run in the other direction, by deregulating polluting industries and withdrawing from the Paris climate accords. This week he tweeted a chart with information from the World Health Organization claiming the U.S. has "the cleanest air in the world by far."
The numbers cover only fine particulate, and America lands seventh. And according to The Associated Press, data from his own Environmental Protection Agency shows smog and soot increased in 2017.
Don't expect a correction from the White House for any of this stuff. What for? The sloppy tall tales seem to have their intended effect.