El Presidente José Biden, tireless and loyal friend and protector of "refugees" everywhere, promised us when he was running against diabolical fascist Donald Trump in 2020 that "There will not be another foot of wall constructed [during] my administration." In case there was any confusion on this point, he continued: "End. Stop. Done. Over. Not going to do it."
Good ol' Joe Biden: He sure does tell it like it is!
That's why it came as something of a shock this week when Joe Biden's Department of Homeland Security announced that it would, in fact, be erecting 20 new miles of border barriers in Texas. What's more, to build this, uhh, let's call it a "fence," to spare Sleepy Joe's feelings, the Biden administration itself would have to waive "dozens of federal laws," affecting matters like water and air quality and the protection of endangered species, to facilitate the new construction. Biden has claimed that he "can't stop" the project, because the funds were appropriated before he took office, but the simple fact is that his own DHS and Customs and Border Protection are defending the move, and his own administration issued the necessary waivers. Biden responded with a pointed "no" to a question about whether "walls work," but the truth is that he and his administration own, whether they like it or not, this extraordinary policy shift.
Clearly, Joe Biden is – or at least his handlers are – reading the polls that say that the border crisis is growing acute. Biden may also be sensitive to the rising crescendo of complaints from deep blue governors and mayors, who are howling about the influx of migrants and the vast burdens and expense this influx inflicts on select communities. The Biden administration's tactical retreat on the question of wall construction, therefore, presumably reflects a cynical calculation that 1) showering these Democratic areas with federal dollars to defray the costs of housing, clothing, feeding and educating migrants, and 2) making a few empty gestures toward immigration enforcement, like building slightly more "wall," will, in combination, be enough to give Biden political cover in an election year. That, of course, remains to be seen.
This change of direction may, instead, prove extremely damaging – to the president himself.
First, it risks undercutting one of the central claims of Joe Biden and the Democrats: that their leadership represents an opportunity to reverse and repudiate the allegedly punitive and inhumane border policies of Donald Trump. In fact, as everyone knows, "Build the Wall!" was one of Trump's principal slogans and major policy initiatives. The fact that Biden is now mimicking Trump at the border is, understandably, seen by Trump and many Republicans and independents as a sign of weakness, indecision and even rank hypocrisy.
Second, however, and perhaps more damning in the short term, is the damage this policy reversal does to Biden's standing among Democrats and progressives, who may see it as confirmation of their worst fears about Biden in several respects.
Biden has done much in the last three years to placate the hard left in his own party, but many diehard progressives have always seen him as a squishy, conciliatory, inside-the-Beltway moderate – and, even worse, an old white male in sheep's clothing, as it were. Confronting defenseless asylum seekers with a heartless wall is just the sort of thing a despicable "centrist" might do, from the progressive vantage point.
In addition, Biden's tacit endorsement of wall-building, in policy terms, accompanied by his own words, which undercut the policy and express doubt that walls can "work," further call into question whether Biden himself is running his own administration, or, if he is, whether his verbalizations of policy and principle bear any coherent relationship to how his administration actually behaves. In other words, Biden's competence and mental acuity are both cast into doubt. This can hardly help Biden at a moment when vast numbers of ordinary Democrats, and elite Democrats, are questioning whether he has the ability to lead the party in 2024 and beyond, and, even if he does, whether the American people can be persuaded to vote for him (again).
All in all, the importance of the Biden administration's retreat on the question of "building the Wall" cannot be overstated – not because it heralds a fundamental change in border policy (it almost certainly doesn't), but because it may dramatically reduce the confidence both the American people, in general, and Democrats, in particular, have in Biden as a leader.
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