President Donald Trump walks across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Friday, March 23, 2018, as he heads to Marine One for a short trip to...
Manuel Balce Ceneta

Trump’s line on immigration descends deeper into incoherence

It’s tough for a president to screw up the White House Easter Egg Roll. You show up, you wave, you thank people for coming, and you encourage the kids and their families to have fun. It’s not complicated.

Yesterday, however, Donald Trump seemed to struggle more than he should have. In reference to the White House, for example, the president thanked those who care for “this incredible house or building, or whatever you want to call it – because there really is no name for it.” (There is a name for the White House. It’s called the White House.) Trump then took some time to assure everyone that he and his team haven’t ruined the mansion. “We keep it in tip-top shape,” he said. “We call it sometimes tippy-top shape.”

I don’t know why he’d call it that.

Trump went on to say the United States has “never” had an economy as strong as this one, which is ridiculously untrue, before he urged attendees to focus on defense spending in the omnibus bill he signed despite opposing.

Soon after, Trump took the White House Easter Egg Roll in an even more explicitly partisan direction. Time  reported:

The White House Easter Egg roll is an annual event usually insulated from the politics of the day. But President Donald Trump, surrounded by the typical tableau of pastel-attired children and colored eggs, bashed Democrats in response to a question about DACA at his second egg roll Monday morning and boasted about military spending.

“The Democrats have really let them down,” Trump said of DACA recipients after a question from CNN as he colored at a table on the White House lawn surrounded by kids in their Easter finest. “They really let them down. They had this great opportunity. The Democrats have really let them down. It’s a shame. And now people are taking advantage of DACA and that’s a shame.”

There’s obviously no sensible way to take any of this seriously. Trump is the one who rescinded DACA, putting Dreamers’ futures in jeopardy, while Democrats are the ones who’ve offered the president at least six bipartisan DACA compromises – each of which Trump has rejected.

What’s more, the idea that new immigrants are “taking advantage of DACA” doesn’t make any sense, since, as the president really ought to understand by now, new arrivals aren’t eligible under the program.

Or put another way, effectively everything Trump said about immigration yesterday was nonsense, either because the president is ignorant, or because he’s trying to deceive the public with incoherent policy assessments.

Alas, as Trump’s anti-immigration Twitter tantrum reached its third day, the rhetoric at the White House Easter Egg Roll wasn’t an isolated incident. The president isn’t just lying about policy details, he’s even undermining his own talking points, insisting that illegal border crossings are getting worse, despite months of White House rhetoric that Trump’s policies have made things better.

There’s no point in doing another point-by-point fact-check – there are already several good ones to choose from – but this  Washington Post analysis highlighted a point that’s worth keeping in mind.

“There is no strategy. There is no message discipline. There is no process,” the Post’s James Hohmann explained. “Every modern White House plans out policies it wants to roll out months in advance. There is no calendar now.”

Quite right. Trump is clearly just winging it, pushing knee-jerk nonsense without any real forethought or rudimentary understanding of current events. He’s doing this, of course, because he was triggered by things he saw – but didn’t fully understand – in conservative media, where there are pundits who’ve advised Trump to satisfy his base by taking a hard line on immigration.

The result is a confused president who’s adopted a bellicose posture on issues he doesn’t seem to understand.

Donald Trump and Immigration Policy

Trump's line on immigration descends deeper into incoherence