“Is there anyplace that’s more fun to be than a Trump rally?”
The president himself made that observation during Tuesday night’s rally in El Paso. It wasn’t a groundbreaking policy statement, but a simple campaign event as he heats up his bid for re-election.
Although his demand for funding to build the border wall has been the key issue of his first campaign and current term, he scarcely mentioned it until more than a half hour into the rally.
Like most re-election rallies, the president touted many achievements and trends in the United States and took credit for them, such as low unemployment.
And like most Trump rallies, he also tossed out a few statements that had the crowd going crazy and his opponents shaking their heads.
Perhaps the best line: “The Democrats want to take away your cars. They want to take away your airplanes. … And in Texas, they want to take away your cows,” he said in mocking a “Green New Deal” proposed by some Democrats that mainly would seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also includes economic policies.
“How do you take a train to Europe?” Trump continued.
The rally took place within shouting distance — literally — from a similar rally held by undeclared candidate Beto O’Rourke, who represented El Paso in the House of Representatives before his unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign last year. Groups of supporters for each traded chants intermittently throughout the president’s event.
When Trump mentioned the border wall, he complained about Congress’ refusal to allocate the $5.7 billion he wants to build the structure, a standoff that led to the recent month-long federal government shutdown and could prompt another this week.
“The wall is being built,” the president said defiantly. “We actually started a big, big portion of the wall today at a very important location, and it’s going to go up pretty quickly over the next nine months. … “It’s fully funded …”
No region along the border has reported any actual construction on the wall.
The closest any place is to seeing work on the border barrier is here in the Rio Grande Valley, where equipment began arriving Feb. 3 near the National Butterfly Center to augment the fencing that already exists along the Rio Grande levee.
One of the federal funding bills passed last year provided funds to add 25 miles to the existing fence in Hidalgo County and another 8 miles in Starr County.
Money for other parts of the wall haven’t been allocated, and U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, has offered legislation that would protect the Butterfly Center and other key sites along the river from encroachment by the proposed structure.
Many of the president’s efforts and proposals have met resistance in Congress, from both parties.
So many of the themes he addressed on Tuesday repeat or continue statements he made in 2016 — even so far as to renew accusations that Hillary Clinton, and not he, should be investigated for colluding with Russian operatives to influence the election.
If the rest of the campaign follows the El Paso rally — and why shouldn’t it, since much of it echoes the arguments that fueled his successful campaign three years ago — then much of it will be of little surprise to American voters.
And it should be just as entertaining.