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What the Devil won't tell you

Ducey too smart to be so stupid as to support Trump's latest border sucker-punch

Just about the time I go and call Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey a sane Republican, he wanders away from handlers like Daniel Scarpinato and ends up in Washington across the Resolute desk from the Very Stable Genius.

Ducey now says he supports President Donald Trump’s threat to shut down the U.S.-Mexico border because he apparently is cool with losing a quarter-billion dollars per day in trade.

Personally, I think this is proof that Trump is bluffing. Ducey isn’t criminally bonkers. And a shutdown at the border would harm Arizona’s economy far more than our security will be helped.

I don’t like that the media chases every single one of Trump’s antics. The U.S. presidency has become pro-wrestling plot line, starring the Orange Nightmare playing to fans with a thing for pain. The border shutdown nonsense is more of that. “Is he crazy enough to do it? Watch and find out.” (Trump's now milking the drama by putting off the climax for a year.)

Ducey backing Trump may give the president a stronger hand in dealing with Mexico to gain some concessions so he can say he won. Promising to support a shutdown that is "short as possible" puts a bit of a crimp in American resoluteness. Trump, though, is the Don of the GOP and he's decided Ducey now owes him a special favor.

This is a battle of schticks. Trump’s schtick is being the tough guy willing to break the world to get what he wants. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s schtick is to be a patron of the downtrodden.

Trump wants AMLO to stop being nice to immigrants and shut down Mexico’s southern border or Trump will shut down America’s with Mexico.

The border standoff gives Arizona an acute problem but it’s part of the country’s current and chronic disaster of diplomacy by sadism.

Ducey, not two months ago, told KUAT’s Lorraine Rivera that the growing number of asylum seekers is a “humanitarian problem.”

“(T)here are people fleeing a country – usually in Central or South America – living in situations that are just unimaginable,” he said.

Ducey said he prefers to focus on the drug traffickers and human smugglers. Trump has made it clear he sees no distinction between the former and the latter. They are all invaders and he is going to be tough.

Shutting the border down isn’t being tough. It’s stupid and self-destructive. When Newt Gingrich, the father of shutdown brinksmanship, says it’s a too extreme a measure, it’s too extreme a measure.

Ringing up the damages

Exports to Mexico account for $100 million per day-ish (the most recent government numbers are from 2017) in economic wealth based on the most recent Census data.

We’re talking about aeronautics, microprocessors, integrated circuits and copper ore. You want imports? How about the machines required to make the semiconductors we export and other aeronautics parts required to make our outbound industries function. It’s called an integrated supply chain. Losing that would cost us about, meh, another $100 million a day.

That $200 million per day that doesn’t count up the money Mexican nationals spend in Arizona every day. Ducey has commissioned an update to a 2007-08 study that showed Mexican visitors spent $2.3 billion a year in the state. Since then, Amazon has done a number on brick and mortar but the Mexican economy has also done pretty well and inflation has boosted the absolute number.

So if it’s anywhere near that $2.3 billion number, then Trump is eager to threaten a quarter-billion bucks per day in Arizona’s economy.

That equals about – meh – 1 percent of the state’s gross domestic product, according to the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank in St. Louis. I “meh” because I’ve been told by economists that a state’s GDP is a sloppy number that comes with a margin of error.

One percent this way or that way is a recession. U.S. Sen. Martha McSally can’t afford in 2020 to lose 1 more percentage point of voters than she did in 2018. One percent of vote could cost Donald Trump Arizona’s 11 electoral votes, which could cost him the presidency. He can keep Wisconsin.

Crisis or opportunity?

Oh, that’s right. There’s a crisis. Phffft.

I’m going to be ridiculously fair here, because I have been poo-pooing the notion of a an unmanageable situation at our border for about six months. It’s unmanageable largely because the feds don’t devote enough resources to manage it. I don’t mean a wall. I mean judges and services to figure out who should get in legally, who shouldn’t and how to take care of the people (yes, empathy) while they wait to discover their fate.

However, there has been a spike of late in the number of people coming to the U.S. But I repeat. Phffft.

I smell opportunity.

The U.S. economy needs workers now and really needs them in the long term. We aren’t doing enough to make new babies so we are going to need more people. Until we figure out how to grow white people in Iowa labs, we are going to have to take in immigrants.

And since when is it a good idea to smack around economically, America’s top trading partners? Small business owners don’t try to get their best customers fired. It makes no sense.

Schoolyard diplomacy

No, actually, it makes a lot of sense if a president bases his entire presidency on his testosterone levels.

The truth is, a short shutdown of the border probably won't do much to Arizona's economy long-term. The long-haul damage is in the game Trump insists on playing because it's the only one he knows.

The Monroe Doctrine told Europe that the Americas were no longer Europe’s play thing. The Truman Doctrine ushered in the policy of containment. The Trump Doctrine domestically and globally is the the temper tantrum.

But because Trump has the office of president at his disposal, he’s able to cause pain and a lot of it on people who don’t deserve it. That’s the point of the Trump Doctrine. Take hostages. Torture them. Force surrender on something where there is no consensus. He wants what he wants and he wants it now.

Frankly, his supporters enjoy causing pain a little too much.

That works once. Eventually, the rest of the world is going to pull a Pelosi and decide there’s danger in rewarding the baby with treats.

This isn’t hard. It’s human dynamics on a level taught on elementary school playgrounds. “Donnie is being a dick. We don’t want to play with him anymore. We’ll get our own ball.”

And if Trump is so tough and smart, how come his jihad against thieving trading partners has lead to higher trade deficits and his war on migrants has been met with increased migration? You know what would really help? Cutting off aid for the countries refugees are fleeing. That'll do it.

Long term, it makes little sense to anyone older than the age of 11.

The final blame

Trump wants everyone to put him first and do what he says because he's the boss of the world and every country's job is to slake his sense of rather phenomenal personal grievance.

It doesn’t take a genius of international relations to figure out that if the United States is going to start acting like a rogue state, the world will have to decide if it’s the fluke a of an Electoral College or the new normal. If they settle on us the idea that America is just going through a phase, then the Trump Doctrine will have little lasting effect. If they decide the U.S. is now a rogue state, then they will take action to isolate us.

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MAGAs might like that until they realize what it’s like to live in a shrinking nation playing in a global market alongside a rising nation like China, which knows how to fill a vacuum.

What am I saying? Should that day come, they’ll just blame immigrants for their empty lot in life.

Blake Morlock is an award-winning columnist who worked in daily journalism for nearly 20 years and is a former communications director for the Pima County Democratic Party. Now he’s telling you things the Devil won’t.


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Cronkite News Service

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey discussing border issues at the White House in 2018.

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