Earlier this week, Donald Trump hosted Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer in the Oval Office for what supposed to be an anodyne photo opp, but which, thanks to his patented combination of impulsiveness, stubbornness, and general lack of critical thinking ability, turned into a full-on presidential meltdown instead. As cameras rolled and reporters tweeted, Trump vowed to shut down the government over funding for the wall, a project for which, it should always be noted, Mexico was supposed to pay. "I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down," he promised, as Schumer grinned like a man who just realized he's the only standby passenger who is going to make it on the flight. "I won’t blame you for it."
The next day, in an earnest attempt to provide its commander-in-chief with something that a gullible person might mistake as evidentiary support, the Department of Homeland Security published this: "Walls Work," a dystopian bit of propaganda barely disguised as a hybrid of a white paper and a press release. It appears to have been co-authored by Sean Spicer, Dwight Schrute, a megaphone, and someone who is utterly transfixed by the notion of comparative measurements of height.
The document, which somehow gives the distinct impression that it is a sentient being, describes with unmistakeable pride the 31 of 40 planned miles of the alleged border wall that contractors have already built. If DHS receives full $5 billion in funding that Trump has requested for fiscal year 2019—which, after Tuesday's debacle, does not seem like a likely outcome—it states that it will be able to build along a total of 330 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border over the next few years. In a related story, the U.S.-Mexico border is 1,954 miles long.
I used "alleged" in this context, because the accompanying photographs clearly illustrate that the precise thing about which the federal government is bragging here is, in fact, a fence. (If a barrier is opaque, it's a wall; if it isn't, it isn't. These are just the facts.) In response to Democrats' reluctance to accede to the president's delusional budgetary demands, the Department of Homeland Security has elected to remind you that it has spent billions of taxpayer dollars to replace a short wall with a somewhat taller fence.
Because this is a creation of the Trump administration, and every dumb thing these people do must also be infused with some measure of malevolence, it engages in plenty of the xenophobic fearmongering that now serves as a substitute for U.S. foreign policy. In an apparent reference to crowds of impoverished asylum seekers at which Border Patrol agents fired tear gas last month, DHS states that its "wall" proved invaluable when dealing with "a violent mob of 1,000 people"—"assaultive" people, no less—who "stormed our Southern border." It notes that officials have observed precipitous declines in border crossings in newly-fortified areas, eliding the obvious possibility that this shiny new infrastructure is simply prompting people to try entering the United States somewhere else.
Whoever runs the White House Twitter account attempted to make this same point with a "Walls Work" declaration of their own, but the conflation of "money talks" and "numbers don't lie" in the punchline sort of undermines whatever credibility it may have had in the first place.
The president and his acolytes, of course, are free to say whatever they please in pursuit of consolidating political power. The executive branch, however, is staffed mostly by diligent, nonpartisan career employees who are tasked with the day-to-day administration of the federal government, not with making policy arguments. Now, they have to watch as shouty, Hannity-esque talking points are published on official agency letterhead, all for the purpose of making the commander-in-chief's moonshot seem marginally less nonsensical.