WASON: Our shameful state of union shows regression


Opinions Column: Disputed Territory

As hard as it may be, put aside for one moment any and every matter of mainstream political discourse that holds importance to you. Whether it be an opinion on the economy, immigration, abortion or healthcare, we can all unite behind the significance of national security as it is the one interest that we inherently share with one another. We will undoubtedly witness later tonight a shameful attempt to divide us along the lines of our own safety, as President Donald J. Trump will deliver his State of the Union address.

Trump has slowly been blending the issue of immigration at our southern border with that of national security since the first day of his presidential campaign, when he harangued the nation from the lobby of Trump Tower about the “rapists” and “criminals” coming from Mexico. So as president, when he began his habit of making baseless claims about large groups of migrants heading toward our boarders as being “caravans” full of gang members and terrorists, I did not know if I was really surprised. But what I did know was that I was terribly alarmed, the reasons for which are now beginning to come to fruition. Such is the unfortunate state of this union. 

While there are certainly problems to address at our southern border, there is absolutely no case to be made that any of them pose an imminent national security threat to our nation. Do not take it from me, just ask the intelligence chiefs that Trump himself has appointed. A group of officials that included Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Director of the CIA Gina Haspel and Director of the FBI Christopher Wray sat before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last week and informed them of the greatest threats facing our nation. What happened next was remarkable, albeit limitedly so, given the pathetic standard of what constitutes normality in the Capitol these days. 

Each of the intelligence chiefs proceeded to paint a picture of reality in complete contradiction to the foreign policy talking points touted in public by this administration. Whether it came to Iran’s nuclear activity, the actual condition of ISIS or the prospects of peace with North Korea, Trump was dead wrong in the eyes of those officials — all of whom he and Congress declared fit to make such assessments according to his decision to appoint them and their subsequent confirmations. 

But their greatest rebuff of Trump came not with what they said before Congress. Rather, it was what they did not say. At no point during the hearings was there any mention of a security threat coming from the southern border. Nevertheless, later this evening as Trump stands before a fractured nation, we are sure to hear about how the border situation should be of the utmost concern to the American people. So much so that it was worth putting the federal government through the longest shut down in history. The shutdown itself is evidence that no such national security exists. Did anyone see our government moving with any sense of urgency to end the shutdown, as there surely would have been if there was a genuine emergency? The historic nature of the fiasco would suggest otherwise. 

Through the midst of such unprecedented chaos, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: the greatest national security threat we currently face comes from Trump. Aside from his undocumented, off-the-record meetings with Vladimir Putin or his behavior towards the investigation into his campaign led by Robert Mueller, it is his ability to so easily detach himself from reality that should most worry all of us as Americans on a non-partisan basis. To see Trump stand next to Vladimir Putin this past July and contradict the findings of his intelligence agencies in order to defend the Russian autocrat was obscene enough. 

But I had found some solace in the blowback he received from both parties, thinking that this ever-so self-conscious president would not repeat such foolishness and knowing that he would not receive much of the Republican establishment support he is used to. Well, that bit of hope was clearly mistaken. In response to the findings of his intelligence agencies, he proceeded to tweet that they were being “extremely passive and naïve” and suggesting that “Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!” 

It is shameful and jarring to see our president lambaste his own intelligence agencies and non-partisan public servants who spoke with no goal other than to protect our safety. It is on us as a public — Democrat or Republican — to draw the line. If we cannot do so in response to an attempt to politicize our own safety like never before, then when? 

Amar Wason is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in political science. His column, “Disputed Territory,” runs on alternate Tuesdays. 

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