On Monday, President Trump did his chauvinist best to haul immigration back into the minds of voters ahead of the midterms by adding a dollop of (100 percent unconfirmed) terrorism. “Sadly, it looks like Mexico’s Police and Military are unable to stop the Caravan heading to the Southern Border of the United States,” Trump tweeted. “Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in.” It is ludicrous claim. But it’s one that Trump held onto, refusing to budge, for a full day and change. The president even challenged a reporter to “take your camera, go in the middle and search” the caravan, before admitting, of course, he was full of it. “There’s no proof of anything. But there could very well be,” Trump said of the “Middle Easterners” claim in the Oval Office Tuesday afternoon. “They say it happens all the time from the Middle East.”
The whole charade was a classic Trump distortion designed to stoke fear and ignite his base. The wild claim proved to be catnip to Trump world, which, no matter how ludicrous the Trump utterance, is now fully conditioned to start pulling facts out of thin air to show that—See! See!—Islamist terrorists conspicuously trudging through central America to get to the United States is a real thing. And while good faith would require you to view these cynical claims skeptically, much of Trump’s support is not operating in good faith. But the upside of when Trump does an about face, which he almost always does, is it exposes just how vapid those are who line up to carry Trump’s water no matter the illogic.
This week the big winner was: Vice President Mike Pence!
Pence has a long history of covering for Trump and dutifully did so again only to be caught midair by Trump’s pump fake. So while Trump was conceding he had made up the bit about Middle Easterners, Pence was out front, adamant that Trump was right. “It’s inconceivable that there are not people of Middle Eastern descent in a crowd of more than 7,000 people advancing toward our border,” the vice president said during a Washington Post event. “In the last fiscal year, we apprehended more than 10 terrorists or suspected terrorists per day at our southern border from countries that are referred to in the lexicon as ‘other than Mexico.’ That means from the Middle East region.”
It will likely not surprise you thaaaat’s not exactly right. “[The Department of Homeland Security] [-] told reporters Monday that Customs and Border Patrol agents had in fiscal 2018 ‘apprehended 17,256 criminals, 1,019 gang members, and 3,028 special interest aliens from countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Somalia,’” according to the Post. None of those countries are actually in the Middle East, the Post notes, and the statistics are not specific to the southern border.
When you’re making it up as you go along, it’s hard to keep your stories straight.