Even in a Congress full of Trump Derangement Syndrome sufferers, California Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell rose head and shoulders above the rest of these political Section 8-ers yesterday with a tweet about President Trump’s proposed Border Wall.
Swalwell, a member of the House Intelligence Committee and possible 2020 presidential candidate , is best known for his efforts to de-legitimize the 2016 presidential election results by hawking charges that President Trump and/or his campaign stole their way to victory by colluding with Russia to defeat Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. In the process, he’s accused Mr. Trump of “working on behalf of the Russians” while in the Oval Office. And like nearly the entire roster of Democrats in the House and Senate, he’s working overtime to prevent the President from keeping his signature campaign promise on illegal immigration (though lately Swalwell has said he’s OK with “fencing where there are vulnerabilities”).
So evidently in an effort to hold Mr. Trump’s version of physical border barriers up to ridicule, Swalwell yesterday sent the Twitter-verse the following challenge:
“If you’ve been to the U.S. Capitol, close your eyes. Do you remember a wall around it? But do you remember officers guarding it? Cameras? And barriers at vulnerable points? Do you believe our Capitol is at any risk of an invasion? We don’t need a wall, we need smart security.”
But as must be obvious to anyone who has indeed visited the Capitol, Swalwell has missed more than a few critical details. Most fundamentally, as a building, the Capitol actually consists of walls. Moreover, doors don’t exactly abound, few of these are open to the public, and the public entrances are manned by Capitol Police officers who, for good measure, require every prospective visitor to go through a metal detector. The same goes for the nearby House and Senate office buildings.
An that’s not all. Capitol Hill security employs “barricades that block cars from approaching the Capitol and office buildings and snipers positioned on the terraces.” And for years, anchoring the security strategy is a $621 million Capitol Visitor Center through which most visitors to the Capitol building itself must pass. Indeed all told, Congress spent $423 million in 2018 on security for itself and its workplace – a sum that has quadrupled since 1998. And the 2,200 officers and civilians comprising the Capitol Police represent a security contingent larger than the police forces of Atlanta, St. Louis, New Orleans, or Denver. (See the previous linked Roll Call article for these details.)
Further, one big reason for this impressive effort is that in 1998, before it reached this scale and form, a gunman forced his way into the Capitol and killed two Capitol Police officers. And a handful of violent incidents since then could have surely been much worse – including a 2013 near-disaster involving a driver who tried to crash her vehicle through barriers near the Capitol and surrounding the White House.
Not that the Trump Border Wall, nor his decision to shut down the government partially by leaving spending legislation for some federal agencies in limbo, are beyond criticism. But Swalwell’s from yesterday is clearly off the wall. And weirdly, he’s served in Congress since the beginning of 2013. Maybe instead of urging his fellow Americans to close their eyes and picture the Capitol of his imagination, he should open his and check out the real thing.