Donald Trump has many flaws, but he tends to understand what will affect his own personal standing. The president realizes, for example, that if he starts deporting hundreds of thousands of Dreamers, the threat of a political backlash is real. After all, the American mainstream supports DACA protections for these young immigrants.
And so, in order to protect himself politically, Trump has to lie – brazenly and repeatedly – as he did again this morning.
“Cannot believe how BADLY DACA recipients have been treated by the Democrats…totally abandoned! Republicans are still working hard.”
For anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of reality, the president’s tweet is hopelessly bonkers. Trump is the one who rescinded DACA protections for the Dreamers. At the risk of noting details that are already painfully obvious, if he didn’t want to see these immigrants “totally abandoned,” he wouldn’t have totally abandoned them.
Trump is also the one who’s now rejected or walked away from six different bipartisan efforts to protect Dreamers from the president’s own policy.
Indeed, it’s stunning just how far Democrats have been willing to go as this debate has unfolded. I, for example, have never seen much value in trading DACA for a border wall, largely because that’s a “compromise” in which Trump gets something he says he wants in exchange for something Trump says he wants. That’s not how bipartisan deals are generally supposed to go.
But as of yesterday, Democrats were willing to accept that deal anyway as part of the Rounds-King proposal that Republicans filibustered on the Senate floor. In effect, Dems caved, feeling as if they had no choice and no leverage. Trump and his team could’ve taken “yes” for an answer, but instead they worked as hard as they could to kill the measure.
The president insisted upon an even-further-to-the-right proposal, which slashed legal immigration, and which struggled to get 39 votes yesterday in a Senate that has 51 Republican members.
All of which led to Trump’s latest lie about Democrats – the ones who keep offering bipartisan deals to protect Dreamers from Trump’s own policy – “badly” mistreating the people Democrats are fighting to protect.
Let’s put it another way: imagine someone took a group of people hostage and then sent a ridiculous ransom note to the group’s friends. The friends, feeling desperate, grudgingly agreed to meet most of the hostage taker’s demands, only to receive word that the hostage taker considers his ransom note non-negotiable. He’ll only accept 100% of what he wants.
Then imagine that same hostage taker goes to the media and expresses amazement that the hostages’ friends aren’t willing to reach a “deal” with him. The person then adds that the hostages’ friends are treating the hostages “badly” by refusing to pay all of the ransom in ways that fully satisfy the hostage taker.
That’s the current dynamic of the immigration fight.
This isn’t complicated: if Trump wants to help Dreamers, he would. He could bring back DACA. He could extend his own arbitrary deadline. He could accept one of the many bipartisan offers he’s been presented with. But the president hasn’t done any of these things, and that’s almost certainly because he doesn’t want to.
Instead of defending his position, Trump, whose rise to power was fueled in part by anti-immigration animus, is lying about it.
The sooner the political world understands these basic truths, the more constructive the debate will be.