MONDAY, MAY 15, 2023

Collins confronts some high walls: At least as judged by conventional norms, it looked like a sensible question. 

The question was part of last week's "town hall." It went exactly like this:

COLLINS (5/10/23): When it comes to big questions about what your immigration policies would look like if you are re-elected, some of your Republican rivals have criticized you for not fulfilling the promises that you made on the campaign trail, like finishing the border wall. So how do voters know that you would get those done if you are re-elected?

The question, from CNN's Kaitlan Collins, was directed at Donald J. Trump. We wouldn't call it the world's greatest question, but it certainly wasn't the worst. 

(To watch videotape of the full town hall, you can just click here.)

According to Collins, some of Trump's Republican rivals have criticized him for failing to finish the wall. In 2016, building a wall on the Southern border had been Candidate Trump's iconic campaign pledge.

You didn't fulfill that pledge, Collins said. Why should voters think you'll do better if you go to the White House again?

It had the feel of a sensible question—but as was clear at last Wednesday's events, nothing is easy in the American discourse at this point in time.

Our tribes are divided by very high walls. Those walls have created a modern-day Babel. We got to see that Babel in action when Collins asked that question. 

Her question produced a long, futile exchange. The long exchange started like this:

COLLINS (5/10/23): When it comes to big questions about what your immigration policies would look like if you are re-elected, some of your Republican rivals have criticized you for not fulfilling the promises that you made on the campaign trail, like finishing the border wall. So how do voters know that you would get those done if you are re-elected?

TRUMP: I did finish the wall. I built the wall—

COLLINS: You didn't finish the wall.

TRUMP: I built hundreds of miles of wall and I finished it, and then I said, we have to build some more because there are areas like water going through a dam. There are some areas where a lot of people are coming. You close up one and they come in through another. And we started another hundred miles of wall...

In his initial response to the question, Trump said he did finish the wall. 

According to Trump, he then decided that we needed more wall. So he started building a hundred miles of additional wall!

On its face, that presentation doesn't quite seem to make sense. At any rate, a standoff had now begun:

You didn't finish the wall, Collins said. The candidate said that he did.

That first presentation by Candidate Trump didn't quite seem to parse.  Having completed the border wall, he tried to build even more wall!

That said, the exchange on this topic was far from done. The exchange continued as shown:

TRUMP (continuing directly): In fact, I said to my people, if we start this and don't finish it, and then we had a rigged election—I'm sorry to say it.

COLLINS: The election was not rigged, Mr. President. 

TRUMP: And OK, good, I know. I'm glad you are saying it.

COLLINS: You can't keep saying that all night long. You cannot keep saying the election was rigged.

You didn't finish the wall, Collins had already said. Now, she told Trump that the election hadn't been rigged—that he couldn't keep saying it was.

In fact, the candidate could keep making that claim. Indeed, as the evening proceeded, he did exactly that. 

He continued to say the election was rigged, right to the end of the forum. Even as audience members gathered their coats, he said the election in Georgia had been rigged.

"There [was] no rigged election in the state of Georgia," CNN's Collins replied.

With respect to this exchange, we'll offer this first key point: 

Journalists lack a magic wand with which to make misstatements stop. 

A second key point is also quite crucial:

Journalists lack the ability to command belief in their account of our floundering nation's vast array of disputed facts.

Was the last election rigged? Donald J. Trump was saying it was, Collins was saying it wasn't! 

Now, Trump returned to the wall. The Babel proceeded as shown:

TRUMP (continuing directly): [The Biden administration] took over and they decided not to finish it. It would have taken three weeks. I built hundreds of miles of wall. If we didn't have it, it would be—hard to believe, it could be even worse. They're just letting people flow into our country. 

Look, a country has to have borders. There's never been anything like that's happening to our country right now.

COLLINS: You built about 52 miles of new wall when you were in office, Mr. President. It wasn't a complete wall. One other thing that was immigration—

TRUMP: No, but I have to respond to that.

COLLINS: —with your immigration. It was only about 52 miles of new wall.

TRUMP: OK, can I respond? This is what she does.


By now, Trump seemed to be saying that he actually hadn't finished the wall. According to Trump, the Biden administration decided to leave the wall unfinished. It could have been done in three weeks!

Collins didn't take note of this apparent switch. Instead, she challenged another claim:

Trump had said that he built "hundreds of miles of wall." In reply, Collins said that Trump had built only 52 miles of "new" wall!

Did onlookers know what she meant by new wall? There's no reason to assume that they did. That said, the futile exchange rolled along, and you can see what happened next:

By almost all accounts, Collins' claim about the 52 miles can be scored as accurate. But Trump was now able to get a laugh concerning the host's persistence!

The attempted discussion of the wall went on and on and on. After that, it went on a bit longer—but had anything been gained?

With apologies, we're going to post the transcript of the rest of this discussion. It provides a small look at the travails of a nation whose population, or perhaps whose various populations, are divided by very high walls:

TRUMP (continuing directly): I built hundreds of miles. Some of the wall was up there, and it would be laying on the ground, rusted rotten steel, rusted rotten wood, a little—and what the radical left crazy Democrats did, if there's a piece of wood laying down, they consider that a wall. 

I built 30-foot walls that go down seven feet into the ground. If there was a little piece of wood sitting in the ground, they said, "Oh, he's not building a wall, we already had a wall." Because this is the game. They're a party of disinformation.

COLLINS: It's not a game, Mr. President. It's about 52 miles of new wall. One other immigration policy you had when you were in office—

TRUMP: No, no. I built new wall. I built new wall for hundreds of miles.

COLLINS: 52 miles according to CBP, Mr. President.

TRUMP: What I did is I replaced other wall that was lying down, that was up and rotting on the ground for 30 years. Some of it was steel that you couldn't even consider it was steel.

COLLINS: Mr. President, it was only about 52 miles of new wall. But moving on, another immigration policy you had was the zero-tolerance immigration policy that separated families at the border...

Mercifully, Collins moved on at this point. But had anything been resolved? 

Donald J. Trump said he finished the wall. Collins said that he didn't.

Donald Trump said the election was rigged. Collins replied that it wasn't.

Trump said he'd built hundreds of miles of new wall. Collins said it was 52 miles. She said it three different times!

Finally, when Trump referred to "the game" the Democrats play, Collins said that this isn't a game.

Our nation's population—or perhaps, our nation's populations—are divided by networks of very high walls. 

We're still fans of Kaitlan Collins. At some points during Wednesday's "town hall," she did a very good job.

That said, she was confronting some very high walls. Can anyone within our floundering tribe start to tear those walls down?

Tomorrow: Stephanie Ruhle and the swami

For extra credit only: Concerning the 52 miles of new wall, Collins sourced her claim to "the CBP." 

How many people watching this show had any idea who that is?


  1. "Can anyone within our floundering tribe start to tear those walls down?"

    Ignore them. Just like you've been telling us not to do.

  2. The second amendment is evil.

  3. We need to find common ground. Let's start by coming together and agreeing the National Anthem has no place at sporting events. Granted, that's an easy one, but we can build on it from there.

    1. Play “Stars and Stripes Forever” instead.

    2. "(What's So Funny About) Peace, Love, and Understanding".

    3. Let’s agree that professional sports are a net negative for society, and that sporting events should take place in backyards and local parks.

    4. I notice they don't play the National Anthem at sporting events that take place in backyards and local parks. Probably because its nonsese to play the National Anthem at sporting events.

  4. “At some points during Wednesday's "town hall," she did a very good job.”

    It would be instructive if Somerby were to share with his readers the points during which he thinks Collins did a very good job, and clearly explain why he thinks that, in the context of interviewing someone like Trump.

    I’m of the opinion that there is no way to interview Trump, because he is so full of BS and lies, mocks the interviewer, and never concedes any point.

  5. “Our tribes are divided by very high walls.”

    And Somerby’s “key points:”

    “Journalists lack a magic wand with which to make misstatements stop.”

    “Journalists lack the ability to command belief in their account of our floundering nation's vast array of disputed facts.”

    These are no insights. These so called key points have always been true. And it doesn’t apply only to journalists. No less a figure than Abraham Lincoln was unable to “command belief in his account” of the meaning of the Union, or the “United States.” He ultimately took sides, as “God gave him to see the right.”

    It’s also true that a very high wall has been erected by Republicans and right wing media, who have enabled the kind of lying, bullshitting, and yes derangement that Trump represents.

    In an age where the facts are available to just about everyone via the internet, the only thing that people who care about the truth, including but not limited to journalists, can do is to state the truth clearly.

    1. Lincoln was tough. I wouldn’t want to be his enemy in a civil war.

    2. CNN didn’t have to pick Collins, a right winger, as the interviewer, didn’t have to pick an audience of rabid Trumpers, didn’t have to air it live where it couldn’t address Trump’s lies through editing.

      So journalists do have tools to handle liars like Trump.

      Commanding belief is a fool’s errand, persuasion plays no role in electoral politics; elections are decided by the amounts of motivation and corruption.

      Somerby himself has no interest in truth, his empty goal is to manufacture ignorance.

  6. Republicans should support statehood for Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

  7. One suggestion: when the journalist is personally insult (“nasty”) , with indignation, She or He should give it to Trump right back, and “you are an obvious liar an con artist” would be a good place to start. The first to do this will be a national hero.

  8. Defund the Supreme Court.

  9. Might the journalist have mentioned how much of the 52 miles was paid for by Mexico?

  10. Whether Trump "finished" the wall is a stupid semantic argument. Trump's wall and his other policies brought illegal immigration down to a 45 year low. Biden reversed many of the policies, leading the something almost resembling an open border.

    Trump deserves to be proud of what he accomplished on the border. It's wrong to criticize him for a big accomplishment, by complaining that his accomplishment wasn't even greater.

    Also, since liberals actively stood in the way of controlling illegal immigration, it's bizarre for a liberal to criticize Trump. for not sufficiently controlling illegal immigration.

    Trump did fail in several areas, such as controlling government spending. His opponents won't get anywhere by reminding us of an area where he had a lot of success.

    1. David in Cal,
      If you can lie about Trump controlling government spending, why can't you lie about him finishing the border wall?
      In your opinion, what makes one of those lies better than the other?

    2. I think the reason Trump doesn't take more credit for zeroing out our defense budget, is because it was Putin's idea.

    3. covid decreased immigration

    4. Why isn't the wall working now, David?

    5. Source for that 45 year low figure please, David.

    6. Somerby is no liberal. Putting children in cages, separate from parents & forgetting how to reunite them, is not “success.”

    7. @3:48 -- To0o busy to find all the sources. Here's a non-conservative, respected organization confirming a huge drop in illegal immigration. Please read the whole thing.

      @3:36 Did you misread my comment about Trump's failure to hold the line on spending?

    8. David in Cal,
      Crying about runaway inflation has led to us to policies almost resembling an open border, to find cheap labor to pick our crops and do the dirty work American citizens are too lazy to perform.
      You know the old saying: The actions of 501(c) political groups banging the drum on inflation and leading the corporate media to report on it non-stop, has consequences.

    9. 4:40

      I’m sorry to say your claims are misleading as well as some are just false.

      When looking at data like immigration, which spans many years, you have to look at trends, you can’t just cherry pick a particular year and make broad claims.

      The number of illegals immigrants in the US peaked in 2007, dropped a little for a couple years, and has held steady since then. So Trump had no impact on that.

      Trump jumps up and down about 2017 border apprehensions (this is what is being addressed in your source), but it’s silly for 3 reasons: 1)Trump had just become president, and had taken no action so he had no impact on 2017, 2) 2016 was a spike year, but 2017 was just a return to the long term trend of declining border apprehensions since 2000, and 3) border apprehensions are not necessarily connected to illegal immigration quantities, there are various reasons why apprehensions on the short term rise and fall.

      To sum up, Trump can’t make any claim to impacts on illegal immigration or border apprehensions as their quantities are on long term trends that are unrelated to Trump.

    10. I asked for a source of David's bullshit claim, and he produces a fact check from April, 2017. A mere couple of months following the inauguration of Donald J Chickenshit. Yeah, you pulled that claim out of your ass, David.

      How many miles of new wall were built under Tump's presidency, David? Do you even know? Aside from the criminal grifting from Steve Bannon and his co-conspirators.

    11. @6:58 PM -- you said the number of illegal immigrants in the US. Did you actually mean the number coming into the country in a given period? This figure can be approximated based on arrest data.

      Nobody knows the number of illegals in the country. A few years ago, the official government estimate was 13 million, but a study done by two prestigious universities estimated that figure as 22 million. I don't claim to know which figure is more correct. My point is that there is an enormous range of estimates.

    12. Experts agree that the number of undocumented immigrants in the US has been holding steady at around 12 million since the number peaked in 2007.

      Here’s an article from the neoliberal Brookings Institute covering the issue:

    13. 8:35 your point is noted, but is already factored in by experts who track the issue; having said that, “enormous range”, while vague and unspecified, the notion you are trying to convey with that phrase is false.

    14. Just think about what Dr Jordan Peterson said on the Joe Rogan show about immigration..

    15. Trump said Mexicans are rapists, but some are good people. Trump’s immigration policy agenda may have been to limit his competition in his sexual predation.

    16. Maybe Trump was implying that some rapists are good people.

  11. We live in a giant spiral galaxy.

    1. Apparently it’s moderate-sized, not giant.

  12. Defund the Supreme Court.