Making his first national address from the Oval Office Tuesday night, President Donald Trump painted a picture of the southern border as a dystopian wasteland creating a “humanitarian crisis – a crisis of the heart and crisis of the soul” in America, but stopped short of declaring it a national emergency, as he had hinted he would last week.
Trump did not bring up the alleged thousands of terrorist suspects his administration had caught crossing into the country at the southern border – smart move given how thoroughly cable news pundits debunked that talking point as it was being used by Veep Mike Pence and White House Press Secretary to warm up the country for Trump’s talk.
Walking up to his address, Trump’s campaign fundraised off the speech, saying it desperately needed to collect half a million dollars toward border wall effort by 9 PM ET, when Trump would start talking. After Trump’s address, his campaign said it was going to extend that deadline just for them.
It was Trump’s first time addressing the country in the very significant Oval Office setting, where President John F. Kennedy told Americans about Soviet missiles in Cuba, and President George W. Bush attempted to calm the nation after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania.
The act of asking broadcast TV networks to clear time on their primetime slate for POTUS to address the country is supposed to telegraph urgency. Trump used that time to deliver what quacked a lot like a re-election campaign speech, mostly recycling his first campaign’s rhetoric – minus Mexico paying for the wall. Now that that is clearly not going to happen, Trump is saying, as he said again Tuesday night in the Oval Office, it will be paid for by the “great new trade deal with Mexico” which has not yet run the Congressional gauntlet.
The Border Wall, Trump said, had been changed from an actual concrete wall to a steel barrier at the request of Democrats, who pounced on that one to refute while he was still speaking.
An aggrieved Trump sat at the Resolution Desk and told America that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who they would be hearing from after his address, had previously supported a physical barrier along the southern border, as had other Democrats.
“They change their mind only after I was elected President,” Trump complained.
“Democrats in Congress have refused to acknowledge the crisis” he misinformed his viewers, adding that Democrats have refused to “provide brave border agents the tools they need.”
“The federal government remains shut down for one reason: because Democrats will not fund border security,” Trump insisted.
Trump said he had invited Congressional leaders to the White House on Wednesday to “hopefully rise above politics” and end the shutdown “in a 45-minute meeting.”
In jabs at both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former President Barack Obama, Trump said that “some” have suggested a barrier is immoral.” That would be Pelosi.
“Then why do wealthy politicians build walls, fences and gates around their homes?” Trump asked. That’s directed at Obama, who Trump has previously dinged for the gate erected at the home in which the Obamas now are living; they have Secret Service protection, as do all Presidents when they leave office.
“The only thing that is immoral is the politicians to do nothing and continue to allow more innocent people to be so horribly victimized,” Trump said, as he began to talk about those who have been “savagely murdered in cold blood” by those who have no right to be in our country.
Saying he had “held the hands of weeping mothers and grief-stricken fathers,” Trump said, “I will never forget the pain in their eyes, the sadness gripping their souls.”
“How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?” he asked.
“Those who refuse to compromise: Imagine if it was your child, husband or wife whose life was so cruelly and cruelly broken.”
“Pass a bill that ends this crisis,” he demanded.
“When I took the oath office I swore to protect the country and that is what I will always do, so help me God,” Trump concluded.