Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Julie Hirschfeld Davis & Michael Shear

Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Michael Shear are journalists with The New York Times. Their new book is Border Wars: Inside Trump's Assault On Immigration.

From the transcript of their Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:
Terry Gross: Michael Shear, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, welcome to FRESH AIR. So let's start with something a lot of America is talking about, alligators and snakes in moats around the Mexican-American border. This is one of the ideas that Trump had, to have, like, basically a moat, (laughter), across the border with alligators and snakes and who knows what else in the water. It sounds so preposterous. It sounds medieval. What was the context of this proposal?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: Well, President Trump has been just taken with this idea of a physical barrier of the wall for many years. And he would talk about it and have very vivid descriptions of what he wanted it to look and feel like. He considers himself a builder. That's one of the reasons his advisers initially thought of the wall. It was almost as a mnemonic device to get him to sort of remember to talk about illegal immigration and his plans for cracking down on it. So going in, he was thinking about the physical aspects of this structure. But he came to really be frustrated with the inability to get the wall built quickly, and he would sort of cast about for other ideas of how he could make it more effective or something else he might be able to do.

And so he would raise this idea of a trench, and maybe we could have a water-filled trench. And he raised it so many times that, actually, his aides finally went and got a cost estimate for what a trench would cost. And it was going to be three times more expensive as a wall. But it didn't really deter him because he was so enamored with this idea of having countermeasures. And so when they would have discussions about these things, sometimes he would raise, well, you could have snakes inside it, or you could have crocodiles inside it - or alligators inside it - excuse me.

And even though it seemed preposterous to his advisers the first and second times that he would bring this up, they kind of got to the point where they couldn't really tell whether he was serious or not serious. All they knew, all he seemed to really know, is that he wanted something that would be dangerous, and threatening and a deterrent.

GROSS: Yeah. He wanted something that would be punitive that would, like, maim people or burn people, cut them to pieces. This is what you write in the book. So what are some of the more extreme ideas he had for a punitive barrier?

MICHAEL SHEAR: Right. So he talked about this constantly. He - the wall, in his view, should not just be kind of a structure that would stop people on the other side, but that anybody who tried to climb it would be hurt severely. So he talked about painting it black. He would always say flat black, Kirstjen - talking to Kirstjen Nielsen, his Homeland Security secretary. He'd say, I want it to be black. And that was because he wanted it to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue