On February 15, ten days after his State of the Union address, President Trump declared a national emergency on the southern border, tapping into executive powers in a bid to divert billions for border wall construction. At the same time, he signed a funding package that includes just $1.4 billion for border security which is sufficient for building 55 miles of fencing. The move is expected to face a legal challenge that could stall the attempt in the courts for the near future.
On Dec. 6, Nancy Pelosi said that additional barrier construction, as demanded by the president, would be “immoral still,” even if the Mexican government paid for it. On Jan. 3, in responding to reporters, Pelosi said, “A wall is an immorality. It’s not who we are as a nation.”
In his State of the Union address, the president said, “The only thing that is immoral is the politicians to do nothing and continue to allow more innocent people to be so horribly victimized. It is immoral to have the illegal immigrants.”
Simone Gao: In his SOTU address, the President said it is immoral to have the illegal immigrants coming over to kill and harm the American citizens. Nancy Pelosi said it is immoral to build the wall. Which one is immoral to you?
Thomas Reston: I think the whole way of discussing this problem is wrong. I think we have to step back and have a different kind of discussion about securing our borders on the southern side of the United States. I don’t think we’re necessarily getting anywhere with these charges of immorality back and forth. Obviously, it is unacceptable to have people coming illegally to the United States who harm our citizens. And I believe that the building of the wall, as proposed by President Trump, a complete wall across the southern border of the United States, is also sort of very much against the ethos of the American nation. I think there’s got to be a compromise about this. And the government has to be able to function and move forward. And I think the way the president has framed the debate, and he is by and large framing the national debate more than the Democrats are. I think is a very destructive way to set up a conversation about the health of the nation.
Simone Gao: It might be a destructive way to set up a conversation about the safety of our nation. But it is not president Trump, but Nancy Pelosi who set up this conversation. She first characterized the wall as immoral in December last year, and said it again in January. Then President Trump responded in his February State of the Union Address.
Simone Gao: What about Nancy Pelosi? She started this whole immorality back and forth by describing the wall as immoral.
Thomas Reston: I think the wall is un-American. That’s the way I would describe it. And I think the discussion should be what makes sense on the southern border rather than these very, very inflammatory words. It seems to me that if the Democrats are simply buying into the kinds of terms has suggested for the national dialogue, it’s not going to turn well for the Democrats. We should be using our own terms to try to frame the national discussion.
Simone Gao: So you disapprove both sides?
Thomas Reston: I am. But I think the president is largely responsible for the tenor of the domestic political discussion in the United States. He, more than the Democrats, has framed the way we talk about our politics these days.
Simone Gao: Reston brings up an interesting point. The president himself, especially thorough his tweets, and a newly robust conservative media are dwarfed in size by the left-leaning mainstream media. And yet, Trump remains the unmoved mover in American and even international media. He framed every discussion and the opposition media is always reacting to him. Let me know what you think by tweeting at us at @ZoomingInSimone. You can also join the conversation on our Facebook page and subscribe to our YouTube channel: “Zooming In with Simone Gao.” Goodbye until next time.