Trump and Pelosi Battle Over the Border

A Rhetorical Analysis

“The Wall in Neco”by jonathan mcintosh is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Round 1:

Oval Office Meeting Between President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and Senator Chuck Schumer

December 11, 2018

President Trump began the meeting by bringing up criminal justice reform and the renewal of the farm bill, which, he reminded his audience, is a bipartisan topic that both Democrats and Republicans can agree on. This functioned to show his audience that he wants solutions that are for the good of the American people as a whole, not one particular party.

“We’re going to talk about the wall,” he then acknowledged, adding, “I wanted to talk about criminal justice reform, just to let you know how positive that is. I want to talk about the farm bill, how positive that is. And I want to talk about the wall.”

Trump situated the purpose of the meeting as a discussion of positive things, thereby positing the wall as a positive.

Nancy Pelosi joined in by condemning a government shutdown, arguing that there are other ways to solve a problem and the 30 seconds that followed consisted of a Pelosi v. Trump debate over whether the shutdown should be called “a Trump shutdown” or “a Pelosi shut down.” Pelosi said that Trump should get the ball rolling on passing the budget for the wall.

“But I can’t get it passed in the House if it’s not going to pass in the Senate,” Trump responded. “I don’t want to waste time.”

Pelosi and Chuck Schumer told Trump that he does not have a majority of votes in the House, yet Trump said that if he wanted the votes he would have them in one session. As the argument really started to get heated, Trump stated that they are not fighting, that they are instead debating, “in a very friendly manner.” The purpose of stating this is to make the audience believe that this is what a normal debate between politicians look like. He then went on to state that the border wall is necessary because there are terrorists coming in through the southern border.

“The Washington Post today gave you a whole lot of Pinocchios because they say you constantly misstate how much the wall is — how much of the wall is built and how much is there,” stated Schumer, attempting to disprove Trump’s statement.

Trump then tried to say that (in his opinion) there is no border security without a wall, while Pelosi and Schumer stated that (they think) that is simply false. They then went on to take questions from the press.

While answering questions, the President made several attempts to discredit Pelosi’s strength as a politician to debate. Pelosi stated that the President lies to the public and said that the purpose of their meeting is, “about the security of our country.”

“We take an oath to protect and defend,” Pelosi said. “And we don’t want to have that mischaracterized by anyone.”

She added that she wants an evidence-based discussion where, when they fact check the President, there are no fake facts.

“The one thing I think we can agree on,” said Schumer, “is we shouldn’t shut down the government over a dispute. And you want to shut it down. You keep talking about it.”

Round 2:


Donald Trump

  1. Trump used a terror attack on France to strengthen his argument for the border wall; he reiterated that there are terrorists coming into the U.S. from the southern border.

  2. He said that Congress gave Obama a lot of money for security against Iran, but that they will not give him money for a wall. He uses this in an attempt to point out the hypocrisy of the Congress members.

Nancy Pelosi

  1. Pelosi rebuked Trump’s statement, “But I can’t get it passed in the House if it’s not going to pass in the Senate. I don’t want to waste time,” by pointing out that there is a Republican majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

  2. Pelosi condemned Trump’s threat of a shutdown: “At a time when there is so much uncertainty about the economic security of working families, it is deeply disturbing that @realDonaldTrump is threatening a #TrumpShutdown. This is far from the treatment American families deserve during the holiday season.”

  3. Pelosi shared a video of California Senator Lucille Roybal-Allard speaking out about Trump’s border wall and his constant threatening of a government shutdown.

On December 22, 2018 Donald Trump shut down the government.

Round 3:

Trump Oval Office Address

On January 8, 2019, President Trump delivered a speech from the Oval Office. The televised event lasted about six minutes and was on the border wall.

He addressed his audience by aligning himself with them and repeatedly used the pronoun “we” to show that he is affected by this plight too. He immediately instilled fear, saying that there is a “humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border.” He went  on to explain that illegal immigration at the southern border is harmful to those who reside in the U.S. legally. He furthered his point by saying that these illegal immigrants are smuggling in hard drugs which kill many Americans through overdoses.

“More Americans will die from drugs this year than were killed in the entire Vietnam War,” Trump claimed.

This is a central point of his argument because the Vietnam War is known for being a war America should not have been involved in and for the vast quantities of Americans that died there. Once Trump finished this point, he presented himself as the one who will save us from this humanitarian crisis through his proposed border wall. He established the credibility of his proposal by stating that his border wall proposal was constructed by the Department of Homeland Security, which combats American domestic threats. He then stated that he needs $5.7 billion dollars in order to build the wall. Trump anticipated the shock of the audience to this huge amount of money which may cause taxes to rise by explaining how the wall will quickly pay for itself. He then assigned blame to the Democratic Party as to why the wall is not yet being built, arguing that they simply do not like him. He acknowledged that many disagree with the wall because they say it is immoral and expensive, but then he recalled a young man who was killed in California by someone who “had no right to be in our country.” This made his audience empathetic and want to stop this from happening again. He furthered this angle of his argument through a series of anecdotes, saying that people are killed by illegal immigrants every day.

Trump concluded with a call to action: “How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?”

How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?”

— President Donald Trump

Nancy Pelosi’s rebuttal to Trump’s Oval Office speech

Nancy Pelosi:

Nancy Pelosi began her rebuttal by addressing the fact that most of the information presented in Trump’s oval office speech was inaccurate. She also recognized that Trump was trying to manipulate his audience by manufacturing a crisis.

“We want to start with the facts,” she said, in an effort to establish her credibility for this claim.

She stated that there were many bipartisan proposals for border security which Trump completely ignored. She also pointed out the hypocrisy of the border wall and his reason for shutting down the government in the first place. He said Mexico would pay for the wall, and now he is shutting down the government because Congress does not want to raise taxes or take taxpayer money to build it. She added that now, Trump has chosen to withhold the paychecks of hundreds of thousands of government workers for however many months or years it will take for him to receive funding for his wall, no matter what the repercussions. Pelosi also pointed out that those Americans’ lives who Trump argues the wall will protect, are now being forced into poverty as a result. She pointed out that there is no crisis at the border, but rather a humanitarian challenge, as the women and children being held at the border are not a threat to national security. Furthermore, she concluded that Trump has been harming their safety by rejecting them at the border and putting them into horrible prisons.

“President Trump must stop holding the American people hostage, must stop manufacturing a crisis, and must re-open the government,” said Pelosi.

This is her final blow. The first clause functions to scare the audience in order to show that what President Trump says is for good, is in reality harmful. The second clause points out the hypocrisy of the President. The third clause is a call to action, providing a solution to the issues she has described.

President Trump must stop holding the American people hostage, must stop manufacturing a crisis, and must re-open the government.”

— Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Round 4:

Nancy Pelosi wrote a letter to Donald Trump on January 23, 2019, telling him that the State of the Union speech will not happen until the government reopened. She states that her purpose for this is because she thought that by the original date of the speech, the government would have reopened.

In response, Trump wrote a letter canceling her trip to visit troops 45 minutes before her plane left.

“In light of the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay, I am sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate,” he stated.

In addition, Trump added that he wanted Pelosi to stay in America so they can work towards a compromise and reopen the government. Trump’s final statement?

“Obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative.”

Please share our stories: