When Donald Trump does something stupid, it’s usually spontaneous, some from-the-hip salvo, an ill-considered suggestion, like his tweet Sunday musing that unless North Korea starts behaving we might have to suspend trade with China, which would gut the American economy more thoroughly than a Korean nuke to Sacramento.
But the six-month fuse Trump lit Tuesday spiking the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival act is a sort of calculated genius. I’m not saying his executive order is the right thing to do; it isn’t. Tugging away the legal status of hundreds of thousands of young people who are trying to carry on with their daily lives is bad policy, bad economics and morally wrong.
The president is doing the wrong thing in a clever fashion, for a change, or at least more clever than Trump usually does things, which is setting the bar low.
Let’s unpack Trump’s latest jaw-dropper. First, by issuing an executive order nullifying Barack Obama’s 2012 edict providing immigrants who were brought to this country as children, dubbed “Dreamers,” relief from deportation, he blows a big kiss to his alt-right base. The “Make America Great Again” crowd, who, if not all haters, do their own dreaming about a return to a legendary time when white Protestants ran everything.
Plus they love reversing anything that Obama ever did in office, even if it means losing their own health insurance.
Trump’s fans were already giddy from the pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of ignoring court orders that he respect the rights of Hispanic Arizonans.
His pardon puts the lie, yet again, to a popular sophistry. Bigots pretend it is their loyalty to law and not mere fear that inspires their opposition to immigrants. A college student who came over in her mother’s arms is a CRIMINAL who broke the LAW and has to be immediately deported to a Mexico she hasn’t seen since infancy. But good old Sheriff Joe? Just doin’ his job, putting brown-skinned folks in what he himself bragged was a “concentration camp.”
Second, Trump did not merely void DACA. Instead, he sent it whistling across the bow of Congress, deliberately.
“Congress, get ready to do your job – DACA!” Trump taunted on Twitter. He’s been railing against Congress for weeks for failing to overturn Obamacare, for turning its back on his insane Great Southern Wall and, in general, not glorifying Trump sufficiently.
Had Trump merely voided the act himself, the blame would be his alone. Now he sends the issue sizzling into Congress’s court — like a tennis ball off Rafael Nadal’s racket — for them to return, if they can, while he smirks and strolls off to bask in the glow of another rally.
Congress should have solved this problem years ago but didn’t because Congress is stuffed with as many fearful, short-sighted, change-averse nitwits as any Trump rally. Our wasp’s nest of lawmakers could solve it now except a) they can’t solve anything, and b) they come from and represent the same terrified rustic mob that elected Trump in the first place.
Still, panic is premature. There was a loud bang over health care, too, but when the smoke cleared the toe was still there. Maybe doing wrong makes the hand shake. Our president has shifted his policy pistol, squinted down the barrel, and is taking a bead on the country’s future. While highly worrisome, now is not a time for despair. Our current political situation is so chaotic and counterintuitive that what seems a disaster Tuesday could be an opportunity on Thursday. Every circus comes to an end.
You don’t need me to underline how cruel this is to nearly a million fellow residents of this once-great land. But I can’t help observing that Trump dropping this mess into Congress’s lap, on top of dealing with Hurricane Harvey and half an alphabet’s worth of storms to come, might ultimately have good effect. First, Congress might not get around to the other mistakes it plans to make, starting with tilting the tax code even more in favor of the rich. Second, who knows, Congress might actually pass the law freeing these 800,000 would-be Americans from their legal chains.