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January 12, 2019

MICHAEL BARONE: A shutdown stalemate as Trump goes factual, Democrats illogical.

The televised presidential address from the Oval Office, a staple of communication between the chief executive and the people in the second half of twentieth century, has recently been in desuetude. Former President Barack Obama delivered only three such addresses in his eight years in office. President Trump this week delivered his first, just days short of completing half a term.

It was a sober address, short but touching some emotive chords. It was also carefully based on actual facts and proposals — contrary to the Democrats’ meme that it would be based on fears, not facts.

Post-speech fact-checking was particularly farcical. The Washington Post said Trump’s claims of “266,000 arrests of aliens with criminal records” in two years was “accurate but misleading,” because it included all crimes. Huh?

Another complaint was that Trump’s claim that one in three women in caravans were sexually assaulted; the complainer pointed to a study that said it was actually 60 to 80 percent of them. Trump had understated the case. Obviously nobody knows the actual numbers; a good guess might be “a lot.”

But it is pretty obvious what’s been happening on the southern border. Attempted border crossings were way down in 2017, presumably for fear of tough Trump enforcement. They rose in 2018, as many Central Americans started arriving with children, hoping to gain entry into the United States by exploiting court-created loopholes in American asylum law. Few had legitimate claims of political persecution or on other traditional grounds for asylum; many complained of high local crime rates for which, so far as I know, no nation has ever granted asylum.

It may be objected that the number of illegal southern border crossings was much higher 15 and 20 years ago. That’s why Congress, including Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in 2006 voted for more border protection.

And it’s possible to argue that in the current hot labor market illegals have little depressing effect on wages, and that the numbers of violent crimes by illegal immigrants, though regrettable, are bearable in a nation of 327 million.

Democrats understandably tend to shun these valid but hard-hearted arguments. Instead they insist vehemently that a wall, which many supported a dozen years ago, will inevitably be ineffective and must be regarded as “immoral.”

This first argument flies in the face of evidence.

To be fair, so does the second.