Politics & Policy

Immigration Hawks Lick Their Wounds after Trump’s About-Face

(Reuters photo: Joshua Roberts)
The president appears to have given Democrats their way on DACA without getting anything conservatives wanted in return.

‘At this point, who doesn’t want Trump impeached?” — Ann Coulter tweet, 7:05 a.m., September 14, 2017.

“If reports true 100%. I blame R’s. They caused this. They wanted him to fail and now pushed him into arms of political suicide — if true.” — Sean Hannity tweet, 12:11 a.m., September 14, 2017.

“Flounder, you can’t spend your whole life worrying about your mistakes! You [fouled] up . . . you trusted us! Hey, make the best of it!” — Eric “Otter” Stratton, Animal House, 1978.

Before I continue, let me answer Ann Coulter’s question: Me. I don’t want Trump impeached, at least not until he does something clearly impeachable. Impeaching him for policies you don’t like or even for political malpractice would simply be a time-wasting tantrum. And I say that as a consistent critic of Donald Trump, going back to his flirtation with running on the Reform-party ticket in 2000.

That said, Coulter’s reaction is understandable and even a little praiseworthy. After all, she wrote a book — a whole book! — in 2016 called In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome! But unlike a lot of her compatriots in the Trump Army, Coulter was driven by a policy position, not an infatuation. Or perhaps she was infatuated, but her commitment to the policy was greater than her commitment to the man.

The policy in question: immigration. To wit, Coulter thinks we’ve had enough of it. That goes for the children brought here by illegal immigrants, commonly referred to as “Dreamers.” President Obama created a program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, that unconstitutionally (according to most conservatives, including the attorney general) granted a kind of de facto amnesty to the Dreamers, giving them work permits and legal residence.

On Wednesday night, Trump had dinner with the Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, Representative Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer. These two famously partisan Democrats came out of the dinner announcing that they had struck a deal with the president to make DACA permanent without providing any funding for Trump’s cherished border wall.

Trump, witnessing the blowback, which included the new nickname “Amnesty Don” in a headline at Breitbart News (which until recently had been the Pravda of MAGAland), insisted in a tweet that no deal had yet been made. But then he went on to sing the praises of DACA in a series of tweets, making it clear to all that he wants the Dreamers to be legalized and the DACA program made permanent.

In other words, he threw his biggest supporters under the Trump train.

The author of The Art of the Deal essentially tossed his best chip into the pot as if it were the ante.

Now I should say, I think Trump is right on the policy. It would be stupid and cruel to deport a bunch of people who came here as little kids and have since assimilated into the only country they’ve ever known. A large majority of Americans, including a majority of Trump voters, agree with Trump (and Schumer and Pelosi) on the policy. A poll this week found that only 12 percent of registered voters want these people deported. Coulter and former Trump adviser (and current Breitbart publisher) Steve Bannon speak for that 12 percent.

The majority of immigration hawks, however, considered DACA to be the president’s most valuable negotiating chip. He could have gotten funding for the wall — or perhaps E-Verify, or portions of Senator Tom Cotton’s immigration-reform legislation, the RAISE Act — passed in exchange for making DACA permanent. Instead, the author of The Art of the Deal essentially tossed his best chip into the pot as if it were the ante.

This poses a crisis for two different kinds of Trump true believers. The “nationalists” honestly believed he was one of them. Meanwhile, the super-fans honestly believed Trump was the greatest negotiator and strategist the world had ever seen. Both of these notions were delusions. Oh, I’m sure Trump believes much of his America First talk, but that’s talk. What really matters to him is praise. It was only a matter of time before the moth flew to the glow of public opinion.

The sad thing is that both delusions were obvious from the moment he descended his golden escalator at Trump Tower. It will be interesting to see how the true believers follow Otter’s advice and make the best of their foul-up.

    READ MORE:

    Donald Trump’s DACA Comments Further Divide Republicans

    Trump’s Deal with Dems Threatens the GOP

    Was Trump’s DACA Flip Surprising?

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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