Once, late in the evening at my pad in New Hampshire, my old pal the novelist Sebastian Faulks advanced the theory that news that occurs while you're on holiday never seems quite to have happened. Which I think was true in the pre-Internet days, with only foreign-language telly in the hotel room. Nowadays, for yours truly, days lost to the sclerotic American legal system have the same effect: If you're holed up in court-ordered mediation or (as I was) deposition by cockwombles in a windowless room all day, the invisible world beyond shrinks to irrelevance, except insofar as it impinges on one's case. If you leave the room to find that North Korea has nuked Cleveland, one's first thought is whether opposing counsel will use this to move to continue the pre-scheduling hearing.
Which is by way of saying that, aside from a few mordant barristerial cracks around the water cooler as to whether Trump would be declaring martial law and, if so, which district court judge would order it stayed, in my particular claustrophobic corner of America yesterday the hours building up to the big speech instead built it down to barely detectable levels of consequence.
By the time I de-lawyered, Chuck and Nancy were on the air, demonstrating the point I made with Tucker on Monday: that, when your whole pitch rests (as Miss Ocasio-Cortez said) not on humdrum facts but on moral superiority - that we're better than the other guys, nicer than the other guys - it doesn't help to have Chuck Schumer up there with his fin glistening as it slices through the surf. Chuck and Nancy are the unlovely thuggish operators required to run a corrupt pseudo-legislature, but they're not the people to put up in public. At best, it's like Hollywood getting the Price Waterhouse vote tabulators to host the Oscars, and at worst it's like booking Harvey Weinstein's procurers and security muscle.
The Dems would have done better to bring on Alexandria to be nice and likeable and twitter on about how her story embodies the beautiful possibilities of a diverse multicultural society strengthened and enriched by vibrant dreamers, and how surrendering to dark paranoia and living in fear of the other just because he's got MS-13 tattoos all over his skull is not who we are.
Instead, Chuck and Nancy droned on about the government "shutdown", which nobody gives a hoot about, or even notices - unless you're one of the furloughed. And a temporary break in "non-essential" government that exists only to provide government benefits and government security for its bureaucrats is a parody of crisis: oh, gee, the poor bloated staggering Leviathan has a bandaged finger! Back in the real world, three-quarters of federal government cruises on, along with all the multiple alternative governments - state, county, municipal, school district. As I said on Rush the other day, one thing America does not want for is government: It's like Payless Shoe Source - there'll be another one two hundred yards down the road.
~The lack of a southern border in any meaningful sense does, however, have real-world consequences. Donald Trump is a businessman but his personality is, to put it mildly, not very business-like. That's one reason he's president, of course. Yet yesterday's speech was all business, crisp and brisk, blunt and sobering. This is just from the first paragraph:
All Americans are hurt by uncontrolled illegal migration. It strains public resources and drives down jobs and wages. Among those hardest hit are African-Americans and Hispanic Americans. Our southern border is a pipeline for vast quantities of illegal drugs, including meth, heroin, cocaine and fentanyl. Every week 300 of our citizens are killed by heroin alone, 90 percent of which floods across from our southern border. More Americans will die from drugs this year than were killed in the entire Vietnam War.
All true, and memorably put. Which one is the real "crisis"? That last wretched statistic? Or the undetectable absence of part of one level of the bureaucracy?
The President continued:
In the last two years, ICE officers made 266,000 arrests of aliens with criminal records including those charged or convicted of 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 violent killings. Over the years thousands of Americans have been brutally killed by those who illegally entered our country and thousands more lives will be lost if we don't act right now.
Also true. Every society has its share of muggers and rapists and murderers: That's one of the jobs Americans will do. No nation needs to import more criminals. Every citizen assaulted or killed by an illegal alien testifies to the most basic failure of the government Chuck and Nancy are so keen to "re-open".
Yet President Trump also pointed out that the left's incentivization of mass migration is basically a massive and cruel metastasization of all the most appalling and predictable aspects of human trafficking:
Last month, 20,000 migrant children were illegally brought into the united States, a dramatic increase. These children are used as human pawns by vicious coyotes and ruthless gangs. One in three women are sexually assaulted on the dangerous trek up through Mexico.
In a humane world where "liberals" were truly as nice as their self-proclaimed moral superiority, the delusional sentimentalization of human trafficking would be a high price to pay to import more dependents for government bureaucracy, more warm bodies for congressional apportionment and federal funding allocations, and ultimately more voters for Big Government. Their indifference to the use of women and children as human shields might even raise the suspicion that progressive moral exhibitionism is an ugly sham.
So: a fine business-like speech, of a kind we could use more of - although how many takers there are for brisk business on this issue in an Ocasio-Cortez world we shall soon discover. But the nub of the issue is clear: what's been shut down, for many years, is the essential core responsibility of national government - the integrity of its borders.
~To be sure, there were things the President did not say, or do - like announcing, say, a tax on so-called "remittances" to Mexico. Almost every itsy-bitsy thing is taxed in this country, or at least subject to the scrutiny of the tax regime, including any "remittances" by lawful US citizens to overseas banks. Which is why, thanks to the FATCA Act and other intrusions, foreign financial institutions increasingly forego American customers. And yet illegal aliens sluicing money out of the country on a scale that has made "remittances" the second-biggest contributor (after tourism) to the GDP of much of Latin America is entirely ignored by the US government.
"Re-opening" that cobwebbed corner of the revenue agency might be worth doing, don't you think? As it is, we continue to bifurcate into a society divided between the "undocumented" and the hyper-micro-documented.
~I regret that almost the entirety of this week is being loss to legal harassment by Cockwomble Katz and the now deceased CRTV, but we do our best to keep a flickering candle in the window, and we did have a busy weekend before the deposition/briefing/telephone-conference crunch commenced on Monday. I began by noting that both the Chinese politburo and the world media are belatedly catching up to the demographic thesis I advanced a decade-and-a-half ago. Our Saturday movie date celebrated the Hilton sisters and their memorable performance in Todd Browning's unforgettable film Freaks. And our Twelfth Night edition of On the Town presented a cavalcade of live-music performances from Steyn shows over the years, with guests including Tim Rice, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Paul Sorvino, Everything But The Girl and the Klezmer Conservatory Band. If litigation distractions cause content drought in the days ahead, I hope you'll want to check out one or two of those.
For that brave band who prefer me in vision, tomorrow evening, Thursday, I'll be with Tucker Carlson live across America at 8pm Eastern/5pm Pacific.
For both American and Canadian readers, we hope to see a few of you at my forthcoming stage appearances with the great Dennis Miller, which commence next month in Pennsylvania and New York. We know at least one Montrealer coming to the Rochester show, but, if you're anywhere along the QEW, it's a lot closer. And Kingston (or even Ottawa) isn't that inconvenient for the Miller/Steyn Syracuse gig. And with VIP tickets you not only enjoy the best seats but get to meet me and Dennis after the show. On the way home, it might be more prudent to tell the border guys you were at the Ocasio Cortez rally, or some such...
In grim weeks like this, I am very grateful to all the members of The Mark Steyn Club from London, Ontario to London, England to London, Kiribati who have stuck with us this last year-and-a-half. We hope to welcome many more of you in the years ahead.
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