After Donald Trump rescinded the DACA program, ending protections for young Dreamers, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) issued a statement calling on the president to set the course on the future of U.S. immigration policy. “It is important that the White House clearly outline what kind of legislation the president is willing to sign,” the Florida Republican said.
And while I imagine Rubio’s call was sincere, it was hard not to chuckle a little in response to his statement – because the president clearly has no idea what kind of legislation he’d like to see on his desk. As Simon Maloy noted yesterday, Trump “lit this fuse with absolutely zero planning for what to do next.”
Administration officials weren’t even confident the president understood yesterday’s policy change, making the idea that Trump could offer Congress details on a way forward fanciful thinking. In order to lead, one must know where to go – and this president is lost without a map.
Business Insider’s Josh Barro had a good piece along these lines yesterday.
For Trump, immigration policy is expressly about disrespecting and demeaning certain classes of foreigners and sending the message that they are bad people. Remember “they’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists”? For Trump, this message is the policy, much more so than actually governing who may be present in the US.
All Trump wanted to do was look tough and show he was protecting Americans from threats, including those immigrants he sees as a menace. He’s not here to make complicated policy, and it’s not fun for him to deal with the most sympathetic subset of unauthorized immigrants.
Which is largely why he’s kicked the immigration debate to Congress: Trump doesn’t know what to do next and he isn’t especially interested in figuring it out. Rolling up one’s sleeves and tackling unglamorous policy details is difficult and frustrating, and the nation’s first amateur president can’t be bothered.
But whether he realizes this or not, it’s Trump’s inability to lead that’s contributing to his flailing presidency.
Congressional Republicans looked to the White House to help lead on health care, for example, and by Trump’s estimation, “leading” meant telling Congress to pass a health care bill. The president didn’t know or care what the legislation should say, so long as something reached his desk. But because Trump, as Barro put it, “lacked the capacity” to lead, the effort fell short.
In the debate’s aftermath, the president appears to have learned very little. Trump wants tax reform, but he’s already abandoned his pledge to produce a White House plan for Congress to consider. Trump wants immigration reform, but at least for now, he’s offered no guidance on the kind of measures he’d like to see implemented.
Trump doesn’t have a governing vision. He has a vision of bill-signing ceremonies in which everyone celebrates his awesomeness.
To a certain degree, congressional Republicans shouldn’t be surprised by any of this. They’ve known for at least two years that Trump is effectively a low-information voter – he has no meaningful interest in public policy or substantive details – and GOP congressional leaders have long understood that they’d have to take the lead in policymaking.
What Republicans have failed to appreciate, though, is that the post-policy problems plaguing the White House are affecting Capitol Hill, too. Lawmakers don’t know what to do, so they turn to the West Wing for guidance, only to find blank stares and poorly written tweets.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said yesterday Congress stands ready to legislate on immigration “with the president’s leadership,” which was unintentionally amusing because Trump hasn’t the foggiest idea what a credible immigration bill would look like and has no interest in reading up on the subject.
Indeed, for the president, this is the best of both worlds: he can take the lazy way out and do no work, which apparently makes him happy, and then blame Congress for his lack of accomplishments.
Anyone waiting for Trump to offer credible leadership is going to be waiting a very long time. The president has literally has no idea what such an effort would entail.