Samuelson comes out for a wall — and actually makes a decent argument, unlike you-know-who

Robert Samuelson has joined his Washington Post Writers Group colleague Charles Krauthammer in saying that maybe a wall along our southern border isn’t such a crazy thing after all.

Of course, he does so based in facts and political realities rather than bluster and xenophobia, but that’s because he’s a rational person, and not Donald Trump. And it makes him worth listening to:

Just because Donald Trump isn’t qualified to be president — and just because much of his agenda is hateful and undesirable — doesn’t mean that everything he says is automatically wrong. Some of his ideas deserve consideration and enactment. One of these is building a wall across our southern border with Mexico….


Robert J. Samuelson

The crucial question is: If we had a wall, what would we get for it? The answer: A wall probably represents our best chance of reaching broad agreement on immigration policy, a subject that has frustrated Congress and the two most recent presidents….

Without a wall, it’s doubtful that Republicans would enter meaningful negotiations on immigration policy — and without Republican participation, the stalemate would continue. In a recent Pew Research Center poll, 63 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters supported a wall and only 34 percent opposed it. The distrust is deep. Republicans think Democrats don’t truly care about stopping illegal immigration; they mainly want “amnesty” for existing undocumented immigrants. In the same Pew poll, 84 percent of Democrats and those who lean Democrat opposed a wall….

In other words, we may need to build the wall because the GOP, now fully in the grip of Trumpistas, will never agree to the rational parts of immigration reform without it. To put it another way, we don’t need a wall, but they’ll never stop thinking we do, and we need to move on and deal with some actual problems.

No, Samuelson hasn’t gone ’round the bend. He knows as well as the rest of us how absurd Trump’s approach is:

Let’s be clear on one issue: Trump’s insistence that Mexico pay for the wall is absurd . No self-respecting Mexican president would accept it. If one did, the wall would become a subject of endless bickering between the two countries as to who actually owned and controlled it. The fact that Trump made this so central to his proposal suggests that he’s simply grandstanding….

Indeed. But Samuelson, economics writer that he is, says that the ridiculous amount of money that a wall would cost could be a good deal in the long run:

If we could buy an immigration bargain for $25 billion, or even a bit more, it would be a fabulous deal. That’s the opportunity facing the next president. But we won’t make it any easier by stigmatizing the one change — a wall — that could be the foundation for compromise….

20 thoughts on “Samuelson comes out for a wall — and actually makes a decent argument, unlike you-know-who

  1. Harry Harris

    Yeah. Why don’t we waste a lot of money (that is needed for infrastructure, by the way) and diminish our regional relations and our commitment to not being a police state in order to get some Republicans to support positions they held before opposing Obama became objective number one, and they let a self-promoting loudmouth dupe them into nominating him. Good call, Samuelson. I’d rather trade them more tax cuts for rich folks (which would surely get them on-board). Trade them a pipeline or a new bundle of military spending. Offer allowing bazookas and machine guns in private hands (as long as they are law-abiding). Declare an unborn child to have rights as soon as both parents are feeling horny, but don’t build a stupid wall.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Hey, I don’t want a wall, either. I’m simply saying that his argument that it may be the only way to get comprehensive immigration reform is reality-based.

      I’m not against it because of the cost, as ridiculous as it would be to waste money that way.

      I’m against it because I’m an American, and the country to which I pledge allegiance doesn’t wall itself off from people who are in search of a better life and willing to work for it…

      1. Harry Harris

        You have it right on both points in my way of thinking. My beef is with Samuelson’s willingness to assert that going along with a bomb-thrower is a reasonable form of compromise. There are plenty of other options for winning Republican votes for reasonable immigration reform. My hyperbolic suggestions were just to illustrate that there are a number of things the more temperate Republicans can use for cover other than xenophobic knee-jerks.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Sure. But I don’t know what those things would be.

          It certainly wouldn’t be “trade them more tax cuts for rich folks,” because you’re talking about different sets of Republicans. Ditto with abortion. Whole other bunch of people from the ones who are so worked up about illegal immigration…

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Well, we’ve been trying like fun to do that, without success. You may recall George W. Bush spent much of his time in office trying to get reasonable immigration reform, with lots of help from John McCain and Lindsey Graham — neither of whom has fully recovered from the political damage that did to them among that portion of the “base.”

              I hold that fact responsible for McCain picking Sarah Palin as a running mate, in a desperate attempt to appease those people…

  2. Harry Harris

    I’m convinced that Republican leaders and congress members as a whole would, as before 2008, be glad to accept more Mexican/Central American immigrants, grant legal status, and promote employer work permits as long as they never, never, never get to vote. They are fine with them working cheap, paying into the systems without getting benefits as citizens, and helping expand the economy as consumers and workers. If they were like Cubans (more likely to vote Republican), they would be welcome and protected the moment their toes touched American soil. Republican groups might send boats after them and sign them up for social security on the way over. Resettlement into swing states would be arranged. The whole country would be a “sanctuary.” But, as they come to us from the Southwest border, we need a wall.

    1. Bart

      “…….be glad to accept more Mexican/Central American immigrants, grant legal status, and promote employer work permits as long as they never, never, never get to vote.”

      You left out the one thing that should be the main reason for the “never,never, never get to vote.” portion of your comment. Becoming a “legal citizen” that does afford an immigrant the right to vote.

      Let me pose a reasonable question to you on the subject of voting. If you were to move to Mexico or any other Hispanic country, live there, work there, and not become a citizen, would you be allowed to vote? If the answer is no, then why should it be an issue if we hold immigrants, legal or illegal, to the same standard if they are not legalized citizens?

      It may be a good idea to revisit one historical event that took place in 1980. The Mariel boatlift was done during the Carter administration. Approximately 125,000 Cubans were allowed to leave Cuba and come to the US over a 6 month period. They were mainly settled in Miami but many were sent to other states including Puerto Rico. Castro emptied prisons and mental hospitals to intermix with the majority who were legitimate refugees. It also is a fact that during the Carter administration, he had a majority in the House and 60 in the Senate. So, it begs the question of why do Cubans tend to vote Republican if a Democrat president and congress were responsible for negotiating and working with Castro to bring 125,000 Cuban refugees to the US? Wouldn’t logic dictate that Cubans would be more appreciative of a Democrat administration and congress than a Republican one considering the number of families reunited under the Carter administration? Considering the fact that most if not all remained and became citizens, it is a mystery to me why they still vote Republican as you infer.

      And it would be remiss not to mention that it was JFK who tried to invade Cuba, Bay of Pigs, and was the one who stood down Kruschev and the Russian navy.

      Just something to think about when painting one political party with the tainted Trump brush.

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        I think Brad’s point was that the GOP might be okay with “brown” immigrants, so long as they never get the chance to [become citizens and] vote [against the GOP].

        1. Bart

          Kathryn, I was replying to Harry Harris.

          On the FWIW side, most if not all Republicans I know have no problem with “brown” immigrants voting if they are legal immigrants and have taken the necessary steps to become a citizen endowed with the same rights as birth citizens of the US. However, if an immigrant is not yet a citizen no matter the color of skin, I strenuously object if they try to vote or to any effort by either party to allow them to vote.

          What I find objectionable and hypocritical are the accusations leveled at Republicans and conservatives about voting a straight ticket when it a well known fact there are demographic groups on the Democrat side who will vote a straight ticket without considering any other candidate. The egregious behavior is not confined to one side when it comes to blindly voting for “their” party ticket.

          My parents were very good people. Hard working, honest, conservative, and only once in their lifetime did they vote for a Republican and afterwards expressed great regret. With the one exception, they always voted a straight Democrat ticket just as most of my relatives did. Republican in my family, both sides, was a dirty word. Heck, they voted against Eisenhower and if there was a Republican who had the best interest of the country in his heart, it was DWE.

          The point is that blindly voting for one party on a straight ticket is not limited to Republicans, Democrats are some of the oldest, loyal, and most consistent straight ticket voters one can find.

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            Republicans as individuals probably do not have a problem with citizens voting, but the Party does—brown and black do not vote GOP, overwhelmingly.

      2. Harry Harris

        I’ll clarify. I meant to imply a “path to citizenship” in my “get to vote” comment. Non-citizens should never vote. It’s the citizenship path that seems to most separate the parties on these issues – for political reasons on both sides.

  3. Mark Stewart

    Plus another $25 billion to double the coast guard cutter fleet – at least. Whatever happened to just calling ridiculous ideas ridiculous?

  4. bud

    If we had a wall, what would we get for it? The answer: A wall probably represents our best chance of reaching broad agreement on immigration policy, a subject that has frustrated Congress and the two most recent presidents….

    Never have cared much for Samuelson and it’s columns like this that are why. He makes a very compelling reason why we need to excoriate the Republican party and do our gut level best to rid the body politic of this diabolical band of fear-mongering, plutocrat loving jerks. Then he reaches the outrageous conclusion that we should go along with a ridiculously expensive and unnecessary project simply to appease their extremist world view. This is simply amazing.

    1. Bryan Caskey

      You don’t do much negotiating, do you?

      I’m thinking lawyers who deal with opposing counsel all the time are suited for legislative work….precisely because they are used to getting things done – defending your position where you have to and compromising where you can.

      1. bud

        Not much. I’m a statistician. We make forecasts. I’m making the forecast that it’s a fools errand to try and negotiate with folks who are willing to shut the government down when they don’t get their way. And yes, I’d stand firm against building an expensive wall. Perhaps some type of enhanced border patrols but otherwise I’d rather have what we have now than build Trump’s ridiculous wall.

        1. Bart

          bud, you need to do a little research before making a comment about Republicans willing to shut the government down when they don’t get their way. Under Reagan and GHB, the government was shut down twice and the House and Senate were under Democrat control. Under Clinton, the government was shut down twice and the House and Senate were under Republican control. Under Obama, it has been shut down one time, Senate under Democrat control, House under Republican control.

          This is nothing new and trying to blame Republicans for it alone is not right or fair. Both sides have used government shutdown to score political points. Check 2014 when one Harry Reid used the threat of a shutdown because of a provision he actually championed but wanted it voted down. Instead of voting it down, Republicans voted for it and it pissed Reid off. His stunt backfired. Now it had to be brought before the Senate for debate which was the last thing he wanted. You can read about it yourself if you care to.

          No matter which side tries to use a shutdown for political advantage, it is not right nor is it fair to the voters and taxpayers when the immature representatives in Washington throw temper tantrums and dismiss the business of running the country to curry political points with their supporters.

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