Don­ald Trump’s con­flict­ing mes­sages

From build­ing the wall to the de­por­ta­tion of il­le­gal im­mi­grants, his agenda re­mains in flux

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Don­ald Lam­bro

One hun­dred plus days into his top­sy­turvy pres­i­dency, Don­ald Trump and his ad­min­is­tra­tion are send­ing con­flict­ing mes­sages about the agenda he ran on in his 2016 cam­paign. In many cases, he ap­pears to be back­ing away from the hard­core po­si­tions that ap­pealed to his le­gions of cheer­ing sup­port­ers who cat­a­pulted him into the White House.

In re­cent weeks, Pres­i­dent Trump and his ad­vis­ers have aban­doned key com­po­nents of his plan to de­port mil­lions of il­le­gal His­panic im­mi­grants, sug­gest­ing that many or even most of them will re­main in this coun­try.

His cam­paign pledge to build “an im­pen­e­tra­ble, phys­i­cal, tall, pow­er­ful, beau­ti­ful south­ern bor­der wall,” seems to be crum­bling among Repub­li­cans on Capi­tol Hill.

And it is now clear that his end­lessly re­peated prom­ise to make Mex­ico pay the tens of bil­lions of dol­lars the wall would cost to build isn’t worth the pa­per it was printed on.

In­stead, he’s plead­ing with Congress to in­clude a bil­lion dol­lar down pay­ment in the 2017 fed­eral bud­get that is now be­ing taken up in the House. Mean­ing that tax­pay­ers will foot the en­tire bill.

Con­ser­va­tive talk show fire­brand Rush Lim­baugh, who was one of Mr. Trump’s staunch­est sup­port­ers through­out his cam­paign, isn’t happy with the pres­i­dent’s flip-flop on this is­sue.

Mr. Trump was “cav­ing on his de­mand for a measly $1 bil­lion in the bud­get for his wall on the bor­der with Mex­ico,” Mr. Lim­baugh told his ra­dio au­di­ence this week.

His switch­board lit up with an­gry phone calls. “I’m afraid he’s start­ing to dip his foot into the swamp,” said one caller. An­other said he feared that Mr. Trump would just con­tinue to “kick this can down the road.”

Mean­time, Republican con­gres­sional lead­ers are no longer talk­ing about build­ing a 2,200 mile wall. In­stead, the talk is all about beef­ing up se­cu­rity along the bor­der with drones and other sur­veil­lance gear and per­son­nel.

Even Mex­ico’s pres­i­dent Felipe Calderon is now say­ing nice things about Mr. Trump’s in­creas­ingly softer tone on the bor­der is­sues. “I be­lieve that the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion af­ter 100 days has been more moderate than was ex­pected,” he said. “And I think we need to re­in­force such be­hav­ior.”

Mr. Trump ran flat out by re­peat­edly con­demn­ing China as a “cur­rency ma­nip­u­la­tor,” but now says that des­ig­na­tion no longer ap­plies to them.

He preached “Amer­ica First” in his cam­paign, a po­lit­i­cal cry in World War II from Amer­i­cans who op­posed our en­try into the war, urg­ing that we re­treat from in­sti­tu­tions like NATO that he said had be­come ob­so­lete. And he was crit­i­cal of cor­po­rate wel­fare pro­grams like the Ex­port-Im­port Bank.

But now he op­poses Republican ef­forts to abol­ish the Ex-Im bank and stoutly de­fends mem­ber­ship in NATO, say­ing that a mus­cu­lar Europe is “very, very im­por­tant to me as pres­i­dent of the United States” and “very much to every­body’s ad­van­tage.”

Per­haps nowhere is the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s back­track­ing more sur­pris­ing, and con­fus­ing, than the grow­ing in­ter­nal de­bate about whether il­le­gal im­mi­grants, other than those who have com­mit­ted crimes, should be de­ported.

That de­bate has cen­tered on “dream­ers,” il­le­gals who were brought here when they were very young by their par­ents. Many are now near­ing their 20s and some are ei­ther at­tend­ing col­leges or ex­pect­ing to en­ter soon.

They come un­der the pro­tec­tive De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals (DACA pro­gram en­acted un­der Pres­i­dent Obama.

In an in­ter­view with the As­so­ci­ated Press last Fri­day, Mr. Trump ap­peared to sup­port the “dream­ers” pro­gram, say­ing they should “rest easy” and not be con­cerned about de­por­ta­tion.

When At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions was asked about the pres­i­dent’s re­mark on ABC’s “This Week” on Sun­day, he said, “There’s no doubt the pres­i­dent has sym­pa­thy for young peo­ple who were brought here at early ages.”

But when the pro­gram’s host, Ge­orge Stephanopou­los, asked if Mr. Trump’s re­mark meant that they could re­main in the coun­try, Mr. Ses­sions said this:

“Well, we’ll see. I be­lieve that every­one that enters the coun­try un­law­fully is sub­ject to be­ing de­ported. How­ever, we’ve got — we don’t have the abil­ity to round up every­body, and there are no plans to do that.”

Mr. Trump’s Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary John F. Kelly went even fur­ther in an in­ter­view on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sun­day. Th­ese peo­ple were here “un­law­fully,” he ac­knowl­edged, but added, “we are not tar­get­ing — my or­ga­ni­za­tion has not tar­geted th­ese so-called dream­ers, DACA.”

Then, in a stun­ning turn­about, Mr. Kelly ad­dressed the broader im­mi­grant com­mu­nity: “If you are sim­ply here il­le­gally, we don’t re­ally have the time [to] go af­ter you. We’re look­ing for bad men and women.”

The pres­i­dent made many du­bi­ous prom­ises in his cam­paign, but now he’s hav­ing trou­ble with an­other wall, con­structed by our Found­ing Fathers, and made up of three, to­tally in­de­pen­dent branches of gov­ern­ment.

They were de­signed to deal with the very sit­u­a­tions we face to­day in the Age of Trump.

Don­ald Lam­bro is a syn­di­cated colum­nist and con­trib­u­tor to The Wash­ing­ton Times.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY M. RY­DER

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