September 4, 2016 | Last Wednesday, Donald J popped off to Mexico to visit with Enrique Peña Nieto, the president of Mexico. Although they met behind closed doors, the two of them later appeared in public to make public statements.
The two stood side-by-side in the presidential palace at individual podiums. (FYI, the real plural of podium is podia.) The fact that Trump mostly stood comatose and then spoke in dulcet tones, calling Peña Nieto his "friend," was taken as a sign that Trump could appear "presidential."
Later that evening, Trump took to a stage in Phoenix to deliver what was billed as a "policy address" on immigration; supposedly he would clarify which of the many signals he had sent while vascillating during the last week was the "real" Trump policy. He launched into an hour-and-a-half harangue that reverted to the harshest, extreme things he has said since the day in 2015 when he announced his candidacy by declaring, "When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."
He offered up red meat to the carnivorous right beast, including the proposterous claim, "Day one, my first hour in office, those people are gone" (transcript).
Yeah! Rah! Make them gone!
Sure. Trump was talking about "criminal aliens," of which he claimed there are "at least 2 million, 2 million, think of it, criminal aliens now inside of our country, 2 million people criminal aliens" (transcript). And he's going to get rid of them in his first hour in office, not just depositing them on the other side of the border, but far away so they can't some back again.
OK. Let's do the math.
A Boeing 747 in a high-density one-class configuration can hold 660 passenters (Wikipedia/Boeing). Therefore, deporting those two million "criminal aliens" will require 3,031 747 jetliners. As of July 2016, only 1,523 of the planes had been built (Wikipedia/Boeing). You see the problem?
Maybe he intends to use railroad cars instead of planes. Back in World War II, the French used boxcars to transport troops using what were known as "forty-and-eights" so called because they could accommodate forty men or eight horses.
The Nazis were known to have stuffed as many as 150 people in the railroad cars to the concentration camps, forcing them to stand cheek by jowl the entire time; many, needless to say, arrived dead.
Whether 80 or 150 per car, this means that 13,333 - 25,000 railroad cars would be required.
All within one hour of taking the oath of office. Sure.
We don't even have to wonder about the practical question of who would do the rounding up and how. We don't even have to wonder whether anywhere that Trump hoped to deposit his "criminal aliens" would ever let the train/plane/bus/boat into the country. All we have to understand is that in one hour, it is simply not possible to make 2 million people vanish from the United States.
Trump's Arizona speech was, indeed, a master class in demagoguery. If you just looked at his facial expression, just heard the harsh tone of his bellowing voice, just took in the cheering, hooting, and hollering of the rabid crowd, you probably came away afraid, very afraid, for the future of politics and civil discourse.
On the other hand, if you paid attention to the words, you realized that Trump was pulling off a masterpiece of beating a policy retreat while seeming to be on the attack.
Charles Krauthammer, writing in the Washington Post, got the analysis just right:
You can rail for a year about the squishy soft, weak-kneed and stupid politicians who have opened our borders to the wretched refuse of Mexico. You can promise to round them up — the refuse, that is, not the politicians (they’re next) — and deport them. And that may win you a plurality of Republican primary votes.
But eventually you have to let it go. For all his incendiary language and clanging contradictions, Trump did exactly that in Phoenix on Wednesday. His “deportation task force” will be hunting . . . criminal aliens. Isn’t that the enforcement priority of President Obama, heretofore excoriated as the ultimate immigration patsy?
And what happens to the noncriminal illegal immigrants? On that, Trump punted. Their “appropriate disposition” will be considered “in several years when we have . . . ended illegal immigration for good.” Everyone knows what that means: One way or another, they will be allowed to stay.
Now Charles Krauthammer is someone whom I seldom read because he is such a die-hard rightist, but interestingly his analysis of Trump's speech synched up closely with that of Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC! When the two of them agree, you know that some wondrous has happened.
And that's why Trump is so very dangerous — he has incredible skill as a showman and demagogue. In a performance ranging over an hour and a half, he was able to separate the emotional content of the speech from the actual message of the speech, which was quite different.
Hillary had best be taking him very seriously.
Last updated on Sep 4, 2016