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Editorial: What is a crisis?

| Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, 11:33 a.m.
President Donald Trump is seen on monitors in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, as he gives a prime-time address in the Oval Office, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Donald Trump is seen on monitors in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, as he gives a prime-time address in the Oval Office, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Donald Trump speaks from the Oval Office of the White House as he gives a prime-time address about border security Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2018, in Washington. (Carlos Barria/Pool Photo via AP)
President Donald Trump speaks from the Oval Office of the White House as he gives a prime-time address about border security Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2018, in Washington. (Carlos Barria/Pool Photo via AP)

A crisis is a fork in the road. Go one way, things get better. Go another, they get worse.

It’s a word that came up repeatedly Tuesday as President Trump gave his first national address on the government shutdown and the situation on the southern border.

It is a humanitarian crisis, he said. It is a security crisis.

“It is a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul,” he said, starting with words of concern for the women and children making the journey from Central American countries through Mexico, but ending with a litany of crimes committed by illegal aliens.

The solution, he said, is the wall he promised during the campaign. A wall that is the sticking point in negotiations to end the shutdown. A wall he promised Mexico would fund. A wall that could lead to the declaration of a state of emergency.

The wall, it seems, is the crisis more than the immigrants it would keep out.

Illegal immigration, after all, is at an 11-year low, according to federal government numbers. Illegal immigration on the southern border? That’s down 78 percent since 2000, again based on Trump’s own administration figures.

The wall, on the other hand, is a problem that seems to be growing for both the president and the country.

Trump has already gotten $1.6 billion for the wall, and a list of contracts for replacements of existing sections of wall in Texas, Arizona and California has been announced. Another $1.3 billion was approved by the House and Senate, but the president has rejected it, holding on for the $5.7 billion he said Tuesday law enforcement has said was necessary for the wall, which is now a steel bollard barrier (although not at the request of Democrats, as Trump stated in his address).

“The fact is: We all agree that we need to secure our borders, while honoring our values,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said after the address. “We can build the infrastructure and roads at our ports of entry; we can install new technology to scan cars and trucks for drugs coming into our nation; we can hire the personnel we need to facilitate trade and immigration at the border; and we can fund more innovation to detect unauthorized crossings.”

Trump noted those kind of improvements, but went back to the wall. The wall, he said, is the only thing that will get him to re-open government. Right now, that means the wall is not standing between the U.S. and Mexico. It’s standing between 800,000 federal workers and paychecks.

If the border situation is a crisis, and Trump really does intend to follow through on his threat to declare a state of emergency and bypass congressional approval for the wall, that should have been the message delivered from the Oval Office. It wasn’t. Trump’s address was largely the same message he has been delivering for three weeks.

What was new? The fundraising emails the Trump-Pence re-election campaign sent out before the speech and after seeking to raise $500,000 off the address, something Fox News’ Harris Faulkner pressed adviser Kellyanne Conway about, saying “I thought that these speeches were not supposed to be political.”

The crisis seems entirely political.

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