Perhaps the most notable takeaway from President Donald Trump’s brief speech on Tuesday requesting funds for a border wall and the response from Democratic leaders is that both sides approach the immigration debate in a stubborn, cynical and frustratingly uninspired fashion.
In a roughly nine-minute address, Mr. Trump read listlessly from a teleprompter citing the threats — real, exaggerated and fabricated — posed by illegal immigration.
In a similarly brief rebuttal, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., looked stern and uncomfortable while calling for a vague discussion on immigration reform decoupled from a disastrous government shutdown about to enter its third week.
No new ideas were presented. No significant compromises were offered.
Then, on Wednesday, Mr. Trump reportedly walked out of a meeting with Mr. Schumer and Ms. Pelosi.
America appears no closer to ending this unnecessarily contentious and damaging debate than it was weeks ago when Mr. Trump first started threatening a shutdown if Congress refused to fund some version of a wall on our border with Mexico.
National security and illegal immigration are, of course, matters of tremendous importance to the United States. There are also humanitarian and moral challenges involved that we must address, as Mr. Trump rightly acknowledged Tuesday.
But the current border “crisis” isn’t so much a crisis as the semi-permanent result of decades of congressional inaction, reactionary policy-making and a lack of political will to make tough choices and complicated compromises.
In this sense, Democrats are absolutely justified in calling to separate the broader immigration reform effort — which will likely take months — from the government shutdown, which has immediate consequences for the hundreds of thousands of federal workers who aren’t getting paychecks.
Mr. Trump, on the other hand, is obviously correct in presuming that no meaningful legislative action will be taken absent significant political pressure.
In all of this turmoil, it’s worth noting that Congress already has the power to reopen the government. Existing bipartisan solutions could fund the government and provide a boost to border security — while likely overcoming Mr. Trump’s veto should he choose to use it.
Certainly, this would seem the logical and imperative near-term course of action. But immigration reform is also something that must be addressed once the immediate — and, again, unnecessary — shutdown problem is resolved.
Even more importantly, Congress should consider safeguards that focus on the larger framework from which this entire debacle emerged.
The practice of funding government through stopgap and piecemeal measures is absurdly inefficient and opens the door to waste, abuse and — in extreme cases — shutdowns. Lurching from one emergency to the next makes it difficult if not impossible to run the country in a predictable, levelheaded manner.
Unfortunately, these increasingly common “crises” also offer excuses for nationally televised addresses and performative politics, which should not be mistaken for sound governance.
Real leadership would mean ending the shutdown, securing the border, addressing our broken immigration system, and moving our country toward a government of cooperation and stability — not one full of chaos.