The day after addressing the family-separation disaster he created, Donald Trump bragged yesterday, "I signed a very good executive order yesterday." A report in the Wall Street Journal this morning suggests the president is the only one who's impressed.
Changing, competing and contradictory explanations of the administration's immigration policy spread confusion from Washington, D.C., to the Mexican border, leaving front-line law-enforcement and social-service agencies unsure of what will happen to thousands of children. [...]Meanwhile, the federal government is still wrestling with the prospect of rapidly running out of space, money or both to detain immigrants—especially as family units.Those factors create an immediate tension with prosecution policy. If the Trump administration stops prosecuting all adults for illegal border entry, it could maintain its detention capacity for longer, but paring back prosecutions would also amount to a significant retreat in the eyes of many, including the president himself.
The White House originally said the issue simply couldn't be addressed with an executive order. Officials then threw one together, leaving many in the Department of Homeland Security in the dark, all while ignoring the advice of White House Counsel Don McGahn.
Different agencies within the administration, meanwhile, are under the impression that the executive order means different things -- relevant departments were "gripped by confusion" yesterday -- and the "slapdash nature of the effort" has only intensified the chaos.
Some in the White House aren't even sure why Trump started separating families at the border in the first place. The Washington Post talked to one senior official who said, "[W]e are all utterly confused why we went through this exercise."
What we're left with is a policy failure -- with thousands of isolated children and an administration that's lost without a map. And a political failure -- with Trump's policy generating a public backlash. And a legislative failure -- with Congress unable to pass immigration legislation. And a rhetorical failure -- with the White House changing its story "no fewer than 14 times."
Vox's Matt Yglesias added yesterday:
Trump's response to the crisis at the US-Mexico border ... reminds us that he does not know anything about public policy, diplomacy, constitutional law, or legislative strategy.So you get instead what he's delivered over the past two weeks -- aggressive hostage-taking, lying, trolling, chaos, dissembling, and cruelty -- none of which is going to advance Trump's legislative goals or address the underlying issue of the northward flow of asylum seekers. Even the executive order he signed on Wednesday raises more questions than it will probably solve.All presidents are tested now and again, and Trump is failing massively. It's not quite the first time, and it certainly won't be the last. Being president of the United States is a difficult job, and Donald Trump has no idea how to do it.
It's been a year and a half. Those who assured the public that Trump would grow into the job, and gradually come to terms with his unique responsibilities, were wrong.
If this week proved anything, it's that this presidency is almost certainly getting worse when it comes to trying to govern with some modicum of competence.