Wednesday, August 28, 2019


On a day when the pollsters at Quinnipiac are reporting that President Trump is trailing Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Kamala Harris by double digits (and Pete Buttigieg by 9 points), we have this Washington Post report on Trump's desperate quest to please his base before Election Day:
President Trump is so eager to complete hundreds of miles of border fence ahead of the 2020 presidential election that he has directed aides to fast-track billions of dollars’ worth of construction contracts, aggressively seize private land and disregard environmental rules, according to current and former officials involved with the project.

He also has told worried subordinates that he will pardon them of any potential wrongdoing should they have to break laws to get the barriers built quickly, those officials said.
This is Trump's strategy: keep trying to please the voters who are already certain to be on his side, even if it alienates the people who haven't made up their minds yet (and motivates the people who despise him but aren't sufficiently motivated to vote against him yet). To me it seems like a blueprint for defeat, and the Quinnipiac poll may already be reflecting that. But hey, Trump became an instant campaign expert one night in November 2016, so what do I know?

This is intended to win the election for Trump -- but please note that he's already adding to what I'm sure is an extensive selection of people and institutions he'll blame if he loses:
Trump has repeatedly promised to complete 500 miles of fencing by the time voters go to the polls in November 2020.... But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has completed just about 60 miles of “replacement” barrier during the first 2½ years of Trump’s presidency, all of it in areas that previously had border infrastructure....

When aides have suggested that some orders are illegal or unworkable, Trump has suggested he would pardon the officials if they would just go ahead, aides said. He has waved off worries about contracting procedures and the use of eminent domain, saying “take the land,” according to officials who attended the meetings.

“Don’t worry, I’ll pardon you,” he has told officials in meetings about the wall....

Trump has recently urged the Army Corps to award a contract to a company he favors, North Dakota-based Fisher Industries, though the firm has not been selected. Fisher has been aggressively pushed by Trump ally Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who briefly held up the confirmation of a Trump budget office nominee last month in an attempt to put pressure on the Army Corps.

Cramer demanded to see the contracts awarded to Fisher’s competitors, lashing out at the “arrogance” of the Army Corps in emails to military officials after he was told the bidding process involved proprietary information that could not be shared. The CEO of Fisher Industries is a major backer of Cramer and has donated to his campaigns.

Cramer visited the El Paso area Tuesday to tour border facilities and view a span of privately funded border fencing Fisher built as a showcase for what it claims are superior construction techniques....

The senator had asked Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, the commander of the Army Corps, to meet him at the site, but Semonite is traveling in Brazil, where the Trump administration has offered to help fight wildfires in the Amazon....

“The agents on the ground said the walls have been very helpful in slowing illegal crossings,” Cramer wrote. “I’m not a wall-building expert, but at the pace of the last few years, it’s hard to see how 450 miles gets built with the same process...  I wish DHS would engage a whole bunch of builders and innovators rather than rely on the same decades old bureaucracy.”
We know that if Trump loses his reelection bid (and accepts the results of the election), he'll blame the usual scapegoats: the mainstream media, the "biased" tech giants, Democratic states and localities that allegedly permit voter fraud, and so on. But here are some new contenders from Trump's doghouse: the Army Corps (especially General Semonite), aides who won't insist on illegal behavior on Trump's behalf, and whoever in the Department of Homeland Security won't hire companies run by donors to Trump allies.

So, yes, the main message of this story is that Trump is hell-bent on building his wall, or at least enough of it to secure him a win in 2020, with no regard for the rule of law -- but the subtext is that Trump has an overwhelming fear of defeat. Pundits may say that he has the fundamentals on his side, and data nerds may insist that he can win the Electoral College even if he loses by five million votes, but he's terrified of losing. Fortunately for his delicate psyche, he'll have a long list of people to blame if it happens, and there isn't the slightest chance he'll put himself on that list.

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