Trump is right; doesn’t al­ways get square deal

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OPINION - Thomas Walkom Thomas Walkom is a na­tional af­fairs writer for Torstar Syn­di­ca­tion Ser­vices.

Don­ald Trump likes to por­tray him­self as the vic­tim. The pur­vey­ors of “fake news,” he says, un­der­mine him be­cause they can­not ac­cept that he won the U.S. pres­i­dency.

His para­noia isn’t en­tirely mis­placed.

Trump doesn’t al­ways get a square deal. Ac­tions that would be lit­tle-no­ticed in other pres­i­dents can be blown out of pro­por­tion if Trump is in­volved.

Those that fit the dom­i­nant nar­ra­tive - that he is a racist and a boor who won of­fice only be­cause of help from the Rus­sians - are em­pha­sized.

Those that don’t fit are down­played.

Last week, the pres­i­dent made news twice on the im­mi­gra­tion front. First, he was chas­tised for throw­ing his sup­port be­hind a bill that would cut le­gal im­mi­gra­tion into the U.S. in half over 10 years and give pri­or­ity to well-ed­u­cated English speak­ers.

His crit­ics ac­cused Trump of bias. A Wash­ing­ton Post anal­y­sis noted that Trump’s Ger­man-speak­ing grand­fa­ther might have been barred from en­try to the U.S. had th­ese cri­te­ria been in place when he first ar­rived in 1885.

In fact, the im­mi­gra­tion bill Trump sup­ports is mod­elled on Canadian leg­is­la­tion that is gen­er­ally re­garded to be free of racial bias. It would as­sign points to would-be im­mi­grants for cer­tain skills, in­clud­ing the abil­ity to speak English. Those who pass the point thresh­old would be el­i­gi­ble to en­ter.

The aim is to give pri­or­ity to im­mi­grants who can adapt quickly and who pos­sess skills the coun­try needs.

Later in the week, Trump made news again. His tough line on im­mi­gra­tion has been blamed for the surge of Haitian refugee claimants en­ter­ing Que­bec from the U.S.

Here, too, the re­al­ity is more com­pli­cated.

Fol­low­ing the dev­as­tat­ing earth­quake in Haiti in 2010, both Canada and the U.S. gave tem­po­rary refuge to dis­placed cit­i­zens of that coun­try. In the U.S., close to 60,000 Haitians took ad­van­tage of this so-called tem­po­rary pro­tected sta­tus. In Canada, the num­bers were much smaller.

In both coun­tries, the pro­gram was to be only tem­po­rary. Canada ended its ver­sion in Au­gust 2016, leav­ing 3,200 Haitians fac­ing pos­si­ble de­por­ta­tion. The U.S. was to have ended its ver­sion this May, but the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion ex­tended the dead­line to next January. Some Haitians af­fected by this de­ci­sion are crossing into Canada to try their luck here.

Does the pres­i­dent’s de­ci­sion to end a tem­po­rary hu­man­i­tar­ian pro­gram make him a monster? Per­haps. But if so, Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau is equally mon­strous. Yet that is not the rap he faces.

Fi­nally, an­other Trump story. This one, from the Wash­ing­ton Post, fea­tured what were said to be tran­scripts of Trump’s phone calls ear­lier this year to Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent En­rique Pena Ni­eto and Australian Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull.

The Post re­fers to Trump’s com­ments as “jaw-drop­ping.” In fact, most are not. A full read­ing of his con­ver­sa­tion with Pena Ni­eto shows the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent act­ing firmly but po­litely.

The lead­ers ad­mit can­didly that Trump’s in­sis­tence that Mex­ico pay for a wall along the U.S. southern bor­der has put both pres­i­dents in a po­lit­i­cal bind. Pena Ni­eto can­not agree to pay if he is to have any cred­i­bil­ity with Mex­i­can vot­ers. Yet if Trump is to re­main cred­i­ble with his, Mex­ico must pay.

The so­lu­tion they reach is clas­sic: They agree not to talk about the wall. They also agree that other is­sues, in­clud­ing trade be­tween the two coun­tries, are far more im­por­tant. Is this nuts? Trump’s con­ver­sa­tion with Turn­bull is more fraught. Turn­bull raises the is­sue of the 1,250 mi­grants from Iran, Pak­istan and Afghanistan de­tained by Australia that for­mer pres­i­dent Barack Obama promised to re­set­tle in the U.S.

Trump replies that he is still against the deal, which he says will make him look like a “dope.” But, he grudg­ingly says, he will hon­our it any­way. The two ar­gue. At one point, Trump notes that his con­ver­sa­tion with Turn­bull is the “most un­pleas­ant” tele­phone call he has had all day.

Still, it ends po­litely. Turn­bull thanks Trump. Trump thanks the Australian leader. The two hang up.

Cer­tainly, it is not the friendli­est of in­ter­ac­tions. But Trump, for all his many faults, didn’t go too far.

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump

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