This is an emergency!
A caravan of unarmed, destitute people, many of them women and children, is snaking its way through Mexico toward the United States at the breakneck pace of about three miles per hour. Still 1,000 miles from America, the ill-nourished pedestrians travel as a pack for protection against gangs; the few who make it to the border, perhaps next month, will likely apply, legally, for asylum.
But the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth is in a panic.
“Mexico’s Police and Military are unable to stop the Caravan,” President Trump tweets. Without evidence, he adds: “Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in. I have alerted Border Patrol and Military that this is a National Emergy.”
Yes, a national emergy! So urgent Trump doesn’t have time to add three letters to make it “emergency”! This is bad. Unpresidented, even. Covfefe!
Trump, again without evidence (or, in this case, logic), says Democrats arranged the caravan (from their little-known party headquarters in Honduras, presumably) but have now decided their brainchild was a “big mistake.” Trump accuses the bedraggled migrants of “an assault on our country” and says the group contains “some very bad people.”
The genius in Trump’s pre-election emergency: The asylum seekers, if they reach the border at all, won’t arrive until after the election. Therefore, he can frighten everybody about the menace they pose, and voters will be none the wiser.
The flaw in Trump’s pre-election emergency: Others can play this game. Using the same evidentiary standard Trump has used — none — I have identified various factual explanations for why the caravan spooks the president enough to declare a national emergency. The migrants in the caravan:
- Have his tax returns and are planning to release them.
- Are members of Nikki Haley’s presidential exploratory committee.
- Have the Russian kompromat on Trump.
- Are Russian colluders coming to turn themselves in to Robert Mueller.
- Are climate-change scientists.
- Have the n-word tape Omarosa claims to have heard.
- Are Simon & Schuster employees carrying a reprinting of Bob Woodward’s “Fear.”
- Are deported mothers coming to reclaim the detained children Trump lost.
- Are accountants coming to put Trump’s businesses into a blind trust.
- Are Saudi bankers coming to demand Trump repay their loans.
- Are vendors and business partners stiffed by Trump.
- Are hedge-fund managers coming to thank Trump for protecting their carried-interest loophole.
- Are all clients of Michael Avenatti.
As Trump likes to say: We’ll see what happens!
Alternatively, and again using Trump’s standard of proof (“I think the Democrats had something to do with it”), it would be 100-percent accurate to say Trump is the one who thought up and financed the caravan, for the purpose of fabricating a wedge issue two weeks before the midterms. It would be similarly accurate to conclude that the caravan, when it arrives, will be loaded, like the old Wells Fargo wagon, with good things for Trump.
Maybe the caravan will finally deliver on all those unmet promises that have so far eluded Trump and substantiate his unsupported claims:
- Tax cuts for the middle class.
- “Beautiful” and cheap health insurance for everybody.
- The benefits of Trump’s trade war.
- A $1 trillion infrastructure package.
- The guy who impersonated Trump’s voice on the “Access Hollywood” tape.
- President Barack Obama’s instructions to tap Trump’s phones.
- All those coal mining jobs that are coming back.
Maybe the migrants are those 3,000 Puerto Ricans whose hurricane deaths the Democrats faked. Or they are coming to build a border wall. Or they are Mexican bankers coming to pay for it. Or they are carrying Trump’s promised ethics rules on their backs. Maybe they will bring proof, finally, that Antonin Scalia was murdered and Obama was born in Kenya.
The only limit is Trump’s imagination — which is prodigious.
“We’re going to be putting in a 10 percent tax cut for middle-income families,” Trump claimed Monday, as he has repeatedly the last few days. “It’s going to be put in next week.”
Huh? A tax cut? Next week? Even Trump allies were baffled. Congress isn’t in session until after the election. How is he going to make good on this bluff?
It’s a national emergy! Quick, load a tax cut onto the caravan!
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.