“Part of the happiness of life consists not in fighting battles, but in avoiding them. A masterly retreat is in itself a victory.” That quote is from Norman Vincent Peale, the Power of Positive Thinking pastor from Donald Trump’s formative youth.
It wasn’t so much a pivot as a two-step. Or a juke. Or a head-fake. I’m not sure what it was. But it wasn’t a softening. It was the sort of retreat we expect from Trump: confusing and two-faced.
Trump went to Mexico and accomplished what he set out to do. He appeared presidential on a larger world stage outside the U.S. That’s no small feat for a man who said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose a single vote.
Of course, as with so much surrounding Mr. Trump, the day was immediately dogged by questions of candor. Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, claimed that in their meeting he had told Mr. Trump his country would never pay for the wall, while Mr. Trump declared that the two men had never touched on who would shoulder the cost of its construction.
It’s fairly clear that Trump didn’t challenge Nieto on the wall’s cost, although he didn’t publicly declare any result. This is a negotiation, and Trump started by telling Nieto, “I call you a friend.”
In Trump’s post-Mexico speech in Phoenix, he said he loved the Mexican people.
“The fundamental problem with the immigration system in America” is that it serves the needs of powerful and wealthy political donors and politicians, he told the crowd to scattered catcalls. It was a teleprompter speech, and Trump is getting better at delivering them. Trump said this wasn’t a regular rally speech–the stream of Trumpconsciousness he usually delivers.
This was supposed to be a major policy speech, but halfway through it, there was not a hint of policy.
“It’s our right as a sovereign nation to choose immigrants who are the likeliest to thrive, and flourish and love us,” Trump said. Fair enough.
In a parade of horribles, Trump led us through the Sarah Roots and Katie Steinles, murders and crimes at the hands of illegal aliens who were caught and released by law enforcement, highlighting weak enforcement of illegal immigration laws and failures to deport.
Trump claimed that illegal workers, who compete with American workers, draw more from the system than they can ever repay. Of course, Trump would know this, having employed these very people. “In many cases, they’re treated better than our vets.”
The figure of $113 billion keeps coming up, but all the New York Times reporters on the live stream couldn’t figure out where Trump got that number. Maggie Haberman wrote “That figure sounded as if he made it up off-prompter.” It’s actually a good thing when people can’t immediately figure out if Trump reading from the script or making it up on the fly.
One line Trump certainly didn’t write: “Our greatest compassion must be for our American citizens.”
Here’s the policy: “Are you ready?”
Number 1: “We will build a great wall along the southern border.” Where have I heard that one before? No pivot here. “And Mexico will pay for the wall.” Fat chance, snack shack. “They don’t know it yet…” Trump described the wall like a Viagra commercial.
The wall is a combination of the Berlin Wall, the Israeli Gaza Strip barrier with tunnel sensors.
Number 2: “We will end catch and release.” Trump is going to set up enormous trebuchets at the Mexican border capable of launching human bodies all the way to Costa Rica. Or he will just fly millions of people by the planeload to other countries–if they let us do it.
NYT’s Julia Preston wrote “Trump is talking about detaining as many as 300,000 migrants at the border, a big expansion of border detention centers.” For comparison, at the end of WWII, the number of Jews kept as refugees in the same death camps they were “liberated” from was 600,000. Essentially Trump wants concentration camps on our borders, just north of the beautiful wall.
Number 3: “Zero tolerance for criminal aliens. Zero. Zero.” But…if they’re here illegally, then they’re criminals, right? Day one, Trump wants to deport two million aliens. “Day one, my first day in office, those people are gone.”
Ann Coulter is off suicide watch as of this speech.
Trump is certainly not for smaller government…he will triple the number of ICE officers, and set up a new task force within the department. As for Hillary Clinton, “maybe they’ll be able to deport her.” And 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents, with a corresponding increase in facilities. It will take a lot of people to keep 300,000 people confined.
Number 4: “Block funding for sanctuary cities.” As if Ted Cruz never came up with that one.
NYT’s Maggie Haberman: “This isn’t really a police speech is it? It’s red meat wrapped around some expansions.”
Number 5: “Cancel unconstitutional executive orders, and enforce all immigration laws.” Trump will cancel DACA.
Here Trump went off script into a bunch of other “Reasons to vote for Trump.” He spoke right into the cameras for those, not to the right and left for the teleprompter.
Number 6: “We are going to suspend visas” to places where we don’t have adequate screening. “Extreme vetting. I want extreme.” I’m not sure what that is. Body cavity searches? A note from your mother? Without exposing methods and sources of intelligence, where do you get extreme vetting?
We will stop immigration from Iraq and Syria.
“An ideological certification” so we know the people we’re admitting share our values and love our people. Again, how? How do you know the difference between someone who looks and talks like a good America-loving person and a sleeper cell? “Very, very few will slip through the cracks.”
Number 7: “We will ensure that other countries will take their people back” when we deport them. How? Will we fly over in B-2 bombers and drop them? America can be sovereign but other countries have to line up to our wishes. Gunboat diplomacy: “The big bully that keeps getting beat up.”
NYT’s Julia Preston: “Is it true that tens of thousands of criminal immigrants remain in the country and are not detained because their countries won’t take them back and the Supreme Court has ruled they can’t be detained indefinitely.”
Number 8: “We will finally complete the biometric entry/exit tracking system.” As Dwayne LaFontant said in “Over The Hedge,” “prepare for a lot of stinging.”
“Removing visa overstays will be a top priority of my administration.” Trump proposes to create a police state where “your papers, please” is much more common. Of course, there’s this little thing called probable cause and the 4th Amendment. But we must find those 500,000 people before they go dark and melt away.
Number 9: “We will turn off the jobs and benefits magnet.” This means mandatory e-Verify. I’ve used the system. Meh.
Number 10: “We will reform legal immigration to serve the best interests of America and its workers.” Off script: “by the way…we’re going to make great deals.” Talking into the camera again.
And if you business guys take your business and try to leave America, there will be consequence. Sounds very Democrat. Very Bernie Sanders.
To African-Americans and Latinos: “What do you have to lose?” Not the best campaign slogan for those who don’t get “Make America Great Again™.”
And finally “I’ve spent a lot of money on this campaign.” Ending with the big lie. If you believe that one, you’ll believe the other 10 points above.
“Gangs will disappear.” Unicorns will breed in Central Park. The elves will return from Valinor.
“There will be no amnesty.” Unless we work out a “softening.” I do believe one thing Trump said: The message is important. Part of the huge increase in illegal immigration is directly tied to DACA and the way it was presented in Central America. Trump’s message alone will deter some immigration–but the kind of people who are looking for a better life. The criminals won’t care.
Right at the end, talking about Clinton’s lack of stamina, came the one “Believe me” in the speech. I thought Trump might go a whole speech without the phrase, but apparently it’s a compulsion.
Prediction: tomorrow Trump will go on the news shows and double down on tonight. Then Friday, he will walk back most of it. Maybe Trump should go on Dancing With The Stars along with Rick Perry. At least on policy, Trump dances really well.