The Borderlord: Chapter Two

Abbott is brazen about using state resources to promote his political agenda, and nothing is more important to him than the border. He has no desire to solve the immigration problem. Instead, he has created a multi-billion $ issues platform to raise his profile, and Texans are paying for it.

The Borderlord: Chapter Two
"I am the least of all your pilgrims here, but I am most in need of hope." - Tom Russell

Anyone who knows the Texas and Mexico border in any manner even approaching familiarity, would have laughed in D. Trump’s face during his news conference at Eagle Pass. Technically, there was nothing news worthy about his appearance on the banks of the Rio Grande and he did not answer questions. Instead, he did what he always does, which was to stand in front of a microphone, ramble and lie, prolifically, while what passes for media duly recorded his words and dispatched them outbound to distort America’s perceptions and ruin any hopes for true understanding of La Frontera. I cannot recall a time when I saw a reporter call out Trump’s or Abbott’s lies that serve their politics.

In a considerably inarticulate attempt to increase the phobias being pushed by his party and by the angry little man serving as the governor of Texas, Trump explained that jails and prisons in the African Congo are being emptied of killers and various types of criminals and they are flooding across the border into Texas. No, they are not, but no one called him out on this most fantastical of his lies, either, during that photo op. Instead, the head of the Texas National Guard, a man who is expected not to make political appearances in a uniform, stood in the rear and affirmatively nodded his head at every outrageous claim that slipped between the dead, dry lips of America’s most legendary liar. Suelzer continued to smile, smirk, and nod as Trump made up numbers regarding how many miles of border wall had been built during his administration. We must at least give the pathetic soul credit for not claiming Mexico paid for the construction, as he had promised. Someone, though, had probably told him the Congo was over near Arizona.

Maj. Gen. Thomas Suelzer, who has led the Texas Military Department for the past two years, was violating both rules and norms about a service member participating in political endeavors while in uniform. U.S. history and tradition have long made it standard that political behavior that appears to represent the military violates the apolitical stance that must be exhibited by the armed forces. Suelzer was appointed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, which makes it unsurprising that he might be used in an unconventional fashion to promote a political point of view regarding the border. His metronomic nodding in approval as Trump prevaricated, however, was an indication of his personal beliefs, and they have no business being exhibited during his service. National Guard officials are looking into Suelzer’s decision to appear with the former president but I would expect nothing to come of their likely pro forma investigation.

Abbott remains unabashed about using state resources to promote his political agenda, and nothing is more important to him than the border. His focus has little, if anything, to do with solving the immigration problem. Instead, he has created a multi-billion dollar issues platform to raise his political profile, and Texas taxpayers are funding the entire operation. Abbott brags consistently about the work being done on the border by Texas Guardsmen and women but there is nothing in evidence that proves the concertina wire and razor buoys in the river and young men with guns have done anything to stop, or even reduce, the flow of people. He bragged earlier in the week that his project was having results because migrants had started crossing in greater numbers in Arizona. This is not solving a problem, it’s relocating it, much the way border pressure in the 80s prompted drug cartels to move their product through Florida and up the East Coast of the U.S. and away from Texas and the Southwest.

Abbott spent the day smiling like a fanboy of Trump’s as they paraded through what has come to look like a cheap set for B-grade prison breakout film. When Trump later told a network TV interviewer that Abbott was on the shortlist for vice president, the governor insisted he wanted to remain in Texas. Why wouldn’t he? The man can waste billions in tax dollars, screw up everything from school funding to Child Protective Services, and he still wins elections. He is pleased with himself and his border battlements even though word has gotten around south of the Rio Grande that Abbott is providing free airplane and bus rides to the North, if you can just get across. Instead of stopping immigrants, his policies are only seducing them to keep coming. After stepping off a plane or bus north of the Mason-Dixon Line, an immigrant can melt away into the population and never return for any scheduled court dates or follow-up processing.

Word has gotten around south of the Rio Grande that Abbott is providing free airplane and bus rides to the North, if you can just get across. Instead of stopping immigrants, his policies are only seducing them to keep coming.

Abbott does not want the immigration problem solved any more than does his hero Trump. When it goes away, so does their notoriety and the cameras. There is no more dangerous place to be in all the land than between Donald Trump and a TV camera. Instead of working with Democrats and moderate Republicans to approve a measure that experts consider the strongest set of immigration regulations ever passed, Trump has urged his party to not let the legislation get through the U.S. House. The Speaker, a man who claims his god speaks to him often and guides his decisions, is paying more attention to the disembodied voice of Trump, who has told Speaker Moses to kill the bill. If the border situation were to improve from the passage of bipartisan legislation, what would the crumbling GOP have to whine about? President Biden, who was in Brownsville the same day Trump was with Abbott in Eagle Pass, offered to work with the Republican to get the new law passed, which is about as likely as the two sitting down for drinks and dinner. Abbott, meanwhile, tweeted or Xed or whatever it is now, that the death of the Georgia student by an illegal immigrant meant that Biden had blood on his hands. Abbott has kept his hands clean from blood by never even mentioning the names of the Guard soldiers who died while serving in his Operation Lone Star or the 74 people who died on this side of the Rio Grande as a result of high-speed chases precipitated by his pet project, including a 7-year-old bystander.

While Abbott was strutting his wheels in Eagle Pass, an exercise that had no purpose other than stroking the pitiful ego of the former president, Texas was afire. The Smokehouse Creek Fire, the largest wildfire in the state’s history, was racing across the Panhandle and burning a million acres and Abbott was too busy to deal with it because he was tied up holding Trump’s hand. The flames, whipped by winds, tore across the famed Turkey Track Ranch, northeast of Borger. The 80,000 acre property was recently on the market for $200 million dollars and appears to have lost much of its grasslands and several buildings. The Turkey Track is also the site of a bit of Texas history as the location of the two Battles of Adobe Walls, where Kit Carson concluded the Indian wars against the Comanche.

After six days had passed and the fire was still out of control, Abbott decided to finally express an interest. He put on his newest and starchiest disaster shirt, bearing his name and title over the pocket, and flew to Borger to hold one of his lecture series, which mistakenly gets referred to as a news conference. While reporting on damage and commending the bravery of firefighters, Abbott, almost unbelievably, used a line that he first uttered during his only appearance at the mass shooting in a Uvalde school. “It could have been a lot worse,” he said. Actually, it could have been much better if the thousands of Texas National Guard soldiers stationed on the border were redeployed to fight the fires and undertake a task that helps Texans and saves people instead of wasting their own lives as political pawns of a cravenly ambitious governor.

Abbott made it clear to Trump and his sycophants that he planned to run for reelection as governor of Texas. Maybe he arrived at that decision flying back to Austin from Eagle Pass, a town literally being ruined by his policies. The flight path would have taken Abbott directly over Uvalde, a sad spot that he has not returned to since the day of the mass slaughter of children attending school. Everywhere he goes, tragedy and failure are oversized come-alongs. His ability to ignore Uvalde, though, and avoid political consequences, may have offered some inspiration to guide his reelection decision. I have a bit of political experience on my airframe and I think I can provide him a tagline for his next campaign: “Greg Abbott for Governor: It could have been a lot worse.

Though I cannot imagine how.

James Moore is a New York Times bestselling author, political analyst, and business communications consultant who has been writing and reporting on Texas politics since 1975. He writes frequently for CNN and other national media outlets and can be reached a
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