While it is a standard tactic in politics to exaggerate a problem, lying to exaggerate a problem seems irrational when there is an abundance of problems that are both serious and real. Ironically, Trump referenced some of these problems in his speech, such as drug addiction in the United States and the families seeking asylum. The problems are that Trump characterized the problems incorrectly and that his proposed solution, the wall, would not address these problems in any meaningful way.
Trump has claimed that the wall will reduce the flow of criminals into the United States. He has, of course, grossly exaggerated the number of criminals that enter via the southern border and relies heavily on the fallacies of anecdotal evidence and scare tactics. The wall would do little, if anything, to address whatever real problem exists in terms of criminal intrusions. There is, of course, always a crime problem—one that would be better addressed by using the resources that would be wasted on Trump’s wall to prevent or solve crimes in the United States.
Trump has also claimed that the wall is needed to stop the flow of terrorists across the border. Trump did not make this claim in his speech, presumably because Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried that line on Chris Wallace. Sanders, and many others, were shocked when Wallace did a live fact check on Sanders’ claim that “…nearly, 4,000 known or suspected terrorists come into our country illegally, and we know that our most vulnerable point of entry is southern border.” Wallace responded by pointing out that none of these suspects were captured crossing the southern border, but mostly at airports. Even Sanders’ number was exaggerated and misleading—there were 2,554 encounters with suspected terrorists and only six people were actually detained. Based on the actual numbers, the problem is miniscule and the wall would do nothing to address it. As such, those who are focused on terrorism should accept that resources would be better used elsewhere.
Trump was correct to point out that there is a humanitarian problem on the border: people are fleeing Central America and seeking asylum in the United States. Given what the United States did to Central America, some would argue that we have an obligation to the people escaping a disaster we helped create. Laying that aside, the obvious problem with Trump’s wall is that those seeking asylum are not trying to sneak across the border, they seek out border agents so that they can start the process of requesting asylum. Given the backlog in the legal system and the problem with housing these seekers, Trump is right that money should be spent solving these problems. But the wall is not part of the solution.
Trump was also quite right that America is suffering from a drug epidemic. However, his wall would do nothing about this problem. First, drug smugglers use the legal points of entry (typically hiding the drugs in vehicles) rather than entrusting their product to people walking in on foot. Many drugs also come in to the country from China; our great wall would not stop these drugs. It is true that marijuana is sometimes smuggled in this way, but the legalization of marijuana in many states is already solving this problem or at least transforming it. The wall will not stop the flow of the dangerous drugs.
Second, the drug dealers are not forcing drugs on Americans—if there was no demand for illegal drugs, there would be no drug smugglers. Trying to address the drug problem by stopping smugglers has been attempted for decades and has proven ineffective—if it worked, we would not have a drug problem. Building a wall will not reduce the demand for drugs. Addressing the root causes of drug use (which is often poverty and economic despair) would be a better use of resources that building a useless wall.
Trump also laid out various other problems, such as the old, false claim that migrants are stealing jobs and social services to the detriment of Americans. It is true that there are economic woes and problems with the social services, but these are not due to a lack of a wall.
Given the abundance of real problems that even Trump seems to be aware of, it might be wondered why Trump and his fellows persist in their lies and their obsession with the wall. One explanation is that the wall was made into the keystone of Trump’s campaign and that he is dedicated to keeping that promise. Since the facts will not justify the wall, Trump must lie to argue for it. Another explanation is that there are other reasons for wanting the wall, reasons that would not appeal to the public or even be appalling to most. As such, advancing lies is seen as preferable to giving the real reasons. Third, the wall seems to be a matter of pride and ego for Trump—he does not care about solving problems, he wants the wall that gets him cheers from his base. Since there are no good reasons for the wall, he must lie. Finally, lying might simply be the norm in the Trump Whitehouse—they lie simply because that is what they do.