Editorial: Getting over the huge edifice complex

After following through on his threat to shut down part of the federal government and still not getting his way, President Donald Trump is supposedly willing to make a deal – to accept less than the $5.7 billion he was demanding for his grandiose southern border wall.

Whether it’s true or not – given Mr. Trump’s abusive relationship with the truth, who knows – Democrats and any Republicans skeptical of this absurd idea should see through this negotiating ploy.

No responsible person is arguing that the United States should have unsecure borders, or open ones. But the wall Mr. Trump uses to fire up his voter base and curry favor with right-wing media is not the way to improve border security.

The way to do that is through modern technology and smart strategies, including addressing all the various ways people enter or remain in the country illegally – many of which don’t involve a risky, arduous trek across the U.S.-Mexico border. Some hide in vehicles or ships, or come across the even longer U.S.-Canada border, or enter legally but overstay their visas. No wall is going to address any of that. Nor, for that matter, will a wall stop people from finding a way across the southern border, especially those fleeing for their lives from violent Central American countries.

As for a deal, Congress offered the president one – $1.5 billion for real border security measures, not a fantastical wall that will be no less ridiculous at newly marked-down prices.

Mr. Trump at various points has seemed open to that idea, and other times not – the kind of flighty behavior that has frustrated even Republicans who don’t know if they can count on his commitments from one hour to the next. Mr. Trump has been all over the map on the border: Mexico would pay for the wall. Mexico somehow is already paying for the wall. We need the wall too much to worry about who pays for it. The military will build the wall. It will be a solid wall. Or maybe slatted. No, definitely solid. Mr. Trump will take full blame for shutting down the government over it; people can even call it the Trump shutdown. No, make that the Democrats’ shutdown.

Incoming acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney now has said the president will take less than he wanted.

Congress needs to make it clear that the way to a deal to end to this entirely unnecessary shutdown is with the kind of bipartisan approach that some in the Senate put together back in less-volatile times, well before the 2016 election. It contained border security and thoughtful ways to provide a path to citizenship for people who were living upstanding lives here. Too many, unfortunately, have given up on such compromise, too fearful of political threats from the far right.

Congress must make it clear, too, that Mr. Trump’s oversimplistic, fantastical wall just isn’t going to happen, not at $25 billion, not at $5.7 billion, not at whatever discount he now wants to pass off as a compromise. A waste of money is a waste at any price.