Wednesday, February 06, 2019

"How Would You Spend Them?"

This started here, if you're interested in the context.  I decided to post all 25 tweets because the substance of this issue (border security) is so rarely discussed, and because the nature and definition of that idea of security, as well as of the reality of border, is, as Crenshaw's tweets proved, so often dismissed in favor of ignorant sloganeering.  The tweets, for the most part, speak for themselves; although they break into two segments by the author herself.  In the first segment she lays out her credentials (challenged by Crenshaw) and asks the basic question of government:  why should we spend public monies this way?, a question largely ignored in this discussion.  In the second part Ms. Kayyem argues the fundamental issues of how a policy is proposed, defended, and agreed on; matters, again, largely ignored in the national discourse that wants to resolve the issue into the stubbornness of children on one side or the other.  This struggle is about how government should function and why it should function that way; it is not about who wins and who loses and the next election cycle.

And then the discussion of policy and security and even how government should function, was re-engaged. Note especially in this second part of the discussion the concept of a "single point of failure".

This is the way a discussion of government policy and, perhaps more important, government spending should proceed.  The discussion of the wall has never advanced beyond bad slogans ("Build the wall and crime will fall!", which even Trump has abandoned) and posturing presented as moral positioning:

“I never think it’s a mistake to stand up for what you believe in,” [Vice President] Pence said, “and I think what the American people admire most about this president is he says what he means and he means what he says in a very real sense.”

“He said there’s a crisis at our southern border,” Pence added. “He said he was determined to get the funding to build a wall and secure our border, and he was willing to take a stand to accomplish that.”

Well, until he folded like a tent without a tent pole.

Ms. Kayyem presents the facts and reasons which should be the basis for any argument for or against a proposed government policy and related expenditures.  There was an argument during the last shutdown to "just give him the money!", as if that's the way government should function.  I'm quite sure government funding is seldom really treated as "real money," but that's no excuse for letting this bedrock principle of governance be run over roughshod for such a silly and indefensible reason.  If Trump is doing all of this simply to assure his base he will keep his campaign promises, we need to reconsider his legitimacy as President, because he is not presenting even the fig leaf to cover his ignorance of how government works.  Imagine a CEO making this kind of presentation for the use of corporate funds:  do it because I said so and I promise to do it if I became CEO!  Is that a good reason to spend the money, to pursue the project?  Is that any way to run a business?  And yet we were told a businessman would run government far better than a politician will.  Is this better?  Is this sensible?  Or is it merely mob rule, the President responding to his "base," a minority of voters who base their opinions on ignorance and xenophobia and racism?

It's at this point I have to point out Rep. Will Hurd actually knows about life on the Texas border, where Rep. Dan Crenshaw is a newly minted representative from a suburban district in Houston, Texas.  Houston is, to its shame, a major center of human trafficking, but that's not because Houston is on the Mexican border or indeed anywhere near it.  It's because Houston is a major air travel hub and a port city, two conditions a border wall won't affect in the least; and the issue of human trafficking through Houston should be Rep. Crenshaw's concern.  His district doesn't touch on the Texas-Mexico border, and his knowledge of it from one Jeep ride with a Border Patrol Agent does not make him more knowledgeable than Rep. Hurd or Ms. Kayyem.  So far as I know, he didn't respond to her argument on Twitter.  That her argument has to be made on Twitter, and that it sounds so rational among the news reports about immigrants and "security" and borders, that it proves the paucity of our national discussion and the emptiness of so many politician's words, is perhaps the strongest indictment of our media and our systems of governance.

We can only keep it, if we insist it be run properly.  This is not an utter failure of government; but it's pretty goddamned close.

1 comment:

  1. I am, now, hopeful that we may actually make it through this assault and hopefully emerge stronger.For the first time, Franklin's "if you can keep it"is more than post colonial rhetoric and has started to enter the public consciousness as an actual possibility to be warded against.Not even going to go there as to where this leads, but starting the discussion is a huge first step after years of accepting a slowly eroding status quo.