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Donald Trump is not a man who thinks a lot about most matters of state. He doesn't know or care about the stupid details of little things like health care, diplomacy, or how tariffs actually work -- he keeps insisting that China pays them, not US importers. But the Washington Post reports there's one thing he really loves thinking about, in great detail: his big beautiful WALL, which he obsesses over like a creepy version of a little boy planning out his dream model train set. (Maybe a train to Dachau!) Trump keeps calling in officials tasked with building his dream and haranguing them about all sorts of details that he hopes will make WALL as cruel as possible -- as a deterrent to illegal border crossers, you know.


The wall is going to be a steel bollard fence instead of a concrete barrier, and Trump has some definite ideas about that.

The bollards, or "slats," as he prefers to call them, should be painted "flat black," a dark hue that would absorb heat in the summer, making the metal too hot for climbers to scale, Trump has recently told White House aides, Homeland Security officials and military engineers.

And the tips of the bollards should be pointed, not round, the president insists, describing in graphic terms the potential injuries that border crossers might receive. Trump has said the wall's current blueprints include too many gates — placed at periodic intervals to allow vehicles and people through — and he wants the openings to be smaller.

Never mind the bollards, here's the upshot of Trump's continual fiddling with plans for WALL:

At a moment when the White House is diverting billions of dollars in military funds to fast-track construction, the president is micromanaging the project down to the smallest design details. But Trump's frequently shifting instructions and suggestions have left engineers and aides confused, according to current and former administration officials.

Trump has demanded Department of Homeland Security officials come to the White House on short notice to discuss wall construction and on several occasions woke former secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to discuss the project in the early morning, officials said.

In addition, we learn Trump has "repeatedly summoned" Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, the head of the Army Corps of Engineers, to give him an earful about how WALL should be built, demanding it be both scary and pretty. It should be hot enough to burn people's hands, but also lovely, like a flower. A deadly flower. Hey, how about coating it with poison? Couldn't we coat it with poison?

Trump's constant suggestions for making WALL both meaner and more lovely will also make the thing more expensive, requiring more "emergency" raids on the military budget if it's to be built at all. He really, REALLY wants that black paint, even though he's been warned that would mean lots of extra money for maintenance, forever.

"Once you paint it, you always have to paint it," said another administration official.

And yes, former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen regularly rolled her eyes at the boss, too, according to insiders:

Before her removal from DHS last month, Nielsen had "very specific meetings" on the wall project, another administration official said. She thought the president's acute interest in the barrier's appearance became a distraction from more pressing border issues, the official said. Nielsen did not respond to a request for comment.

The article goes into some Serious Business about how the hell you build a giant steel bollard wall to deter anyone who wants to saw through it. Lower sections of the hollow bollards will be filled to a certain height with a "secret sauce" that makes them harder to cut. But the overall impression is of President Batshit ignoring other tiresome details of presidenting so he can obsess over WALL. How tall will it be, what will it be made of, will it look sufficiently impressive in a photo op, will it like him, and most importantly, will it lie for him under oath?

Behold, a portrait of a truly presidential mind at work:

Trump often brought up the construction of the barrier at unrelated meetings, and aides learned to bring prep books — and even sketches — to address his questions. He often grew frustrated when he would learn that more of the barrier was not built, the current and former officials said.

He continued to insist on speeding up construction, blanching at suggestions from aides that it would take many years, according to former administration officials. Trump frequently delved into the minutiae of contracts and suggested that some of his friends in New York would have ideas on how to build it faster, officials said.

At periodic meetings to update the president on construction progress, sometimes held more than once a month, Trump has asked questions about how border crossers might be able to "cut a hole in it, dig under it, climb over it," in the words of a meeting attendee.

Thank goodness the man doesn't have any other duties. Still, Trump's interference has had some interesting "benefits" for WALL design. His insistence that the wall be at least 30 feet high resulted in those prototypes being built near San Diego, and one former official told the Post,

We were able to test what happens when you put someone up that high. They freeze up [...] There was significant deterrence value to putting people on a 30-foot wall.

So at least no contractors without bucket trucks are likely to try to scale WALL, that's for sure. We also learn Trump didn't like a couple of designs AT ALL, even though they were touted as being particularly hard to climb.

US Customs and Border Protection photo

One design Trump panned, according to a former official, was topped by a rounded, barrel-like metal cylinder to prevent climbing. Approved barrier designs include a flat-panel anti-climbing surface that has been field-tested, but the president doesn't like the way it looks either, arguing that sharp spikes would appear more intimidating.

Trump told one group of aides that the metal points would cut the hands of climbers and function as a more effective deterrent.

We can only think of Kurt Vonnegut's thoughts about little boys' weird obsession with cruelty, in his 1971 essay "Torture and Blubber," on the futility of the idea that if only a nation is sufficiently cruel, it will get what it wants. In Vonnegut's case, he was talking about Vietnam, but it applies to the torture-obsessed bully in the White House, too:

Children talk about tortures a lot. They often make up what they hope are new ones. I can remember a friend's saying to me when I was a child: "You want to hear a really neat torture?" The other day I heard a child say to another: "You want to hear a really cool torture?" And then an impossibly complicated engine of pain was described. A cross would be cheaper, and work better, too.

But children believe that pain is an effective way of controlling people, which it isn't -- except in a localized, short-term sense. They believe that pain can change minds, which it can't. Now the secret Pentagon history reveals that plenty of high-powered American adults think so, too, some of them college professors. Shame on them for their ignorance.

Hmmm. Crucifying undocumented migrants. Let's not give Trump any ideas -- he'd think "CROSSES FOR ILLEGAL BORDER CROSSERS" would make for a really nifty tweet.

[WaPo / NYT (Vonnegut) / Image: Photo by US Customs and Border Protection, embellishments by Kid Zoom]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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