Thursday, September 14, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He took at least seven different positions on an agreement he made with Democrats last night on the subject of a legislative replacement for DACA.

Last night, after a dinner meeting, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced that they had reached an agreement with Trump to enshrine DACA protections into law--without agreeing to fund the border wall that Trump promised at every rally during the campaign. "We agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s acceptable to both sides," Schumer and Pelosi said in a joint statement.

What followed this morning takes some explaining.
  1. Within minutes, Sarah Huckabee Sanders downgraded the "agreement" to a "discussion" and explicitly denied that the border wall had been taken out of the picture.

    This morning at 6:11, Trump more or less confirmed Sanders' tweet, saying that there was no deal yet and that "massive border security" would have to be a part of any deal.
  2. Then at 6:20, Trump suggested that "The WALL" really meant any border construction, including routine maintenance and rebuilding.
  3. Then at 6:33, Trump called for something that sounds almost exactly like DACA: "Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!....." (Trump apparently meant this rhetorically, and was not intending to call attention to the fact that he had just ordered exactly that.)
  4. On the plane to Florida, Trump corrected a reporter who asked if he favored "amnesty." He replied, "The word is 'DACA.'" (Previously, Trump had called DACA an "illegal amnesty.")
  5. On landing, Trump stressed the absolute centrality of "the wall" to any negotiation: "Very important is the wall. We have to be sure the wall isn’t obstructed. Very important is the wall. We have to be sure the wall isn’t obstructed because without the wall I wouldn’t do anything."
  6. Then in the following sentence, he stressed that "the wall" was not relevant to this particular negotiation: "It doesn’t have to be here, but they can’t obstruct the wall if it’s in a budget or anything else.” (Trump does not control what goes into budget legislation.)
  7. Then he walked back his apparent offer of amnesty: "We’re not looking at citizenship. We’re not looking at amnesty."
To summarize, Trump made an agreement that was not a deal but a discussion. It hinged on the construction of "massive" new physical sections of wall, or the renovation of existing border fences, or on nothing to do whatsoever with walls. Trump is against DACA, which he regards as an illegal amnesty, but is for keeping DACA recipients around in a status exactly like DACA, which he regards as a synonym for amnesty, which he's opposed to. Instead, he wants a special work-permitted, non-citizen, non-deportable status, which is exactly what DACA was, which he ended last week.

So what?

  • A president who knows (or cares) what his position is on a subject doesn't get this visibly confused about it.