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Latest Trump move on border wall is straight out of hell

President’s ploy to get some of his wall finally built is same one that landed one of Dante’s characters deep in the pit of his ‘Inferno.’

Statue of the writer Dante Alighieri with an eagle.
Statue of Dante in the Piazza Santa Croce in Florence, Italy. Donald Trump takes a play from the game plan that landed one of Dante’s characters deep in hell.
Neil Steinberg/Sun-Times

Almost any reaction to the daily doings of the unhinged, untruthful, craven, cruel, possibly insane, probably criminal, confirmed fraud we call our president can be justified at this point, from simmering outrage to protective indifference.

And heck, I should add that unyielding enthusiasm is a common reaction that can also be justified — because you can rationalize anything. I hear every day from readers who believe passionately that Donald J. Trump is the best president the United States has ever had or could ever have, particularly when compared to the infamous criminal regime of Osama bin Obama.

You think I’m joking? Let’s reach down and hook an email wriggling in today’s Spam filter.

“It seems that people with morals are the underdogs these days,” Vicki Falsey writes to me and half the Sun-Times masthead. “So all the people that voted for Trump and love him don’t have a voice. Since Trump has gotten in office, your paper has been writing these disrespectful articles about the president. I cannot imagine anyone ever writing anything this ignorant about the worst president to ever be in office, Obama. Just so you know, Obama was the worst thing to happen to our country. He brought it down. Insurance will never be affordable again for the working class people. But, no one and I mean no one disrespected him. You would have lost your jobs if you said anything negative against Obama and his wife. Yet everyday, you mock and insult the president. You should be fired.”

There’s more, but you get the point. And no, I didn’t argue with her. To what purpose?

So to recap: many reactions to our leader, across a broad spectrum. That said, I believe my personal reaction to Wednesday’s jaw-dropper must be unique.

The news: that Trump is so desperate to have a few miles of new border wall by election time, as a sop to his xenophobic base, he ordered aides to seize private property (“Take the land,” he said), skirt environmental concerns, and not to fret about any crimes they might commit. (“Don’t worry, I’ll pardon you,” he told them.)

Democrats were aghast, but I was delighted, thinking “Guido da Montefeltro!”

A bit of context might be necessary.

Workers break ground on new border wall construction about 20 miles west of Santa Teresa, New Mexico, last week.
Workers break ground on new border wall construction about 20 miles west of Santa Teresa, New Mexico, last week. The wall visible on the left was built in 2018 with money allocated by Congress; the new construction is funded by money reallocated from Department of Defense funds.
Cedar Attanasio/Associated Press

Dante’s “Inferno,” Canto 27. Deep in the bowels of hell — the Eighth Circle. Past the lustful and the greedy, the angry and the violent, past flatterers, hypocrites and thieves, into the realm of fraudulent counselors.

The flames part, and we meet Montefeltro, the Dick Cheney of his day, known for his cunning. He tells his story — he was home free, living in a monastery, the downward slope of life we men in our late 50s know so well, when it’s time to calar le vele e raccoglier le sarte — “lower the sails and coil the rope.”

Then the pope, Bonifice VIII asks him for advice to end his siege against the Colonna family, holed up in their fortress. Montefeltro is reluctant to speak and risk the berth awaiting him in Heaven.

No worries, the pope assures him. “I absolve you in advance ... I have the power to lock and unlock heaven.”

What? You think Trump invented the idea?

Given this free pass, Montefeltro utters the immortal advice of the wicked, from his day to our own, evergreen because it works so well: “Promise much and deliver little.” The pope should offer a truce, draw out the Colonnas, then attack.

It turns out heaven is not easily fooled. St. Francis is ushering Montefeltro to the pearly gates when a demon arrives to drag him down.

”No one has absolution without repenting,” Satan’s minion explains. “Nor can one will a sin and repent at once.”

Some staffer must have explained this to Trump, who immediately labelled the news “made up,” as he does, even as a White House spokesman confirmed it, under the amnesty that Trump grants himself whenever he is challenged for saying something truly shocking: He was joking.

Ha ha.

The saddest part of this latest installment of Our American Tragedy is that it’s so unnecessary. Trump supporters barely notice or care what’s true or not, what’s fact or fiction. The president could satisfy them with a stock photo of a wall somewhere, ignoring that it never actually got built. His base doesn’t trouble itself with such petty details.

Multiple layers of steel walls, fences, razor wire and other barricades are viewed from the California side of the U.S.- Mexico border.
Multiple layers of steel walls, fences, razor wire and other barricades along the U.S.-Mexico border, viewed in San Ysidro, California.
Getty Images