It was just last month that HBO’s John Oliver slammed Donald Trump the presidential candidate and Donald Trump the man, suggesting that Americans begin referring to him by his ancestral name — ‘‘Drumpf’’ — to undo the spell he has cast over parts of the electorate.
‘‘We cannot keep being blinded by the magic of his name,’’ Oliver said. Of ‘‘Drumpf,’’ he added: ‘‘It’s the sound produced when a morbidly obese pigeon flies into the window of a foreclosed Old Navy.’’
Now Oliver, having failed to derail the Republican front-runner’s recent string of primary wins, has had a go at Trump again. During ‘‘Last Week Tonight’’ on Sunday, the host took aim at one of Trump’s signature policy proposals: a border wall.
‘‘Yes, Donald Trump wants to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border,’’ Oliver said, ‘‘and based on his tone, he wants to (expletive) that wall.’’
But Oliver didn’t just want to make jokes. He noted that the wall is ‘‘one of the few policy proposals Trump has talked about in detail,’’ and set about dissecting it ahead of Tuesday’s primary in Arizona, where the wall is a big issue and anti-Trump protesters have blocked roads.
‘‘Instead of mocking it or dismissing it out of hand, tonight, let’s take a serious proposal by a serious presidential candidate seriously,’’ Oliver said.
Oliver began by noting the Trump’s varied estimates of how much his wall would cost: $4 billion, $6 billion, $7 billion, $10 billion and $12 billion. Estimating the cost of the wall based in part on a piece by Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post, Oliver concluded that the wall would actually cost ‘‘conservatively’’ $25 billion.
‘‘It’s a big, dumb thing that only gets more expensive over time,’’ Oliver said. ‘‘It’s like getting a pet walrus. You think it’s stupid now — wait until you learn what a bucket of sea cucumbers costs. You’ve not prepared for that.’’
Oliver also questioned Trump’s claim that Mexico would pay for the wall ‘‘and they’re going to be happy about it,’’ pointing out that two former Mexican presidents and Mexico’s current treasury secretary have said the idea is a nonstarter.
‘‘People love it when you make them pay for (expletive) they don’t want,’’ Oliver said.
Trump has said that the U.S. trade deficit with Mexico would give the United States bargaining power to force Mexico to build the wall. Oliver, who pointed out that American trade dollars don’t go to the Mexican government, but to Mexican private businesses, dismissed the idea, saying ‘‘that’s not how anything works.’’
‘‘It’s not lying around in some centralized Scrooge McDuck money bin,’’ Oliver said, ‘‘labeled ‘Dumb Americans’ money — do not spend on border fence.’’’
Oliver then explained how complicated it would be to figure out where to build the wall. Large stretches of a fence approved by President George W. Bush in 2006, Oliver said, couldn’t be built along the Rio Grande — one natural border between parts of the nations — because a treaty prohibited it. As a result, the fence had to be built inland -- which, among other problems, resulted in a golf course in Brownsville, Texas, being stuck functionally on the Mexican side of the fence but still in technically in the U.S. Moreover, some land on the border was owned by private citizens, which resulted in lawsuits. And, Oliver added, a wall wouldn’t prevent immigrants from overstaying their visas.
‘‘A wall can’t stop that,’’ Oliver said. ‘‘It’s like wearing a condom to protect against head lice. You could do that, but that’s not really how you keep the thing you’re worried about from happening.’’
A wall might make people feel better, Oliver said. But since immigrants are less ‘‘crime-prone’’ than their ‘‘native-born counterparts,’’ that feeling is based on nothing but racism — and even if it wasn’t, would still cost $77 per person, he said.
Oliver’s counterproposal: waffle irons.
‘‘If the main thing it’s going to get us is a warm sense of satisfaction inside, I suggest instead of building that wall, we use the money to buy every man, woman and child in America a Palmer waffle iron,’’ Oliver said. ‘‘These beauties retail at $75 apiece, so we’d still have about $1 billion left over.’’
Oliver admitted the waffle-iron idea was ‘‘obviously’’ stupid, but wondered whether it was any stupider than Trump’s wall.
‘‘This waffle iron plan will cost less,’’ Oliver said. ‘‘It’ll do nearly as much to keep out immigrants and drugs. It won’t harm our relationship with our third-largest trading partner. If it is racist, it’s only toward Belgians.’’