Here’s one thing we’ve learned: Show Donald Trump pictures of something sad and he melts like the Wicked Witch of the West. Remember early in his term, when after years of him saying Syria’s not our fight Syria’s not our fight, Ivanka allegedly shows him pictures of those poor children being gassed and suddenly we’re bombing the place?
Of course with Trump it’s all about the visual. In this case, all we had for a few days were official ICE photos. Then in the last day or so, more heart-rending video (and, of course, heart-wrenching audio) started appearing.
Tuesday, he brought up Ivanka again, who “has been apparently very affected by this and moved, and asked him to find a way to stop this practice,” as one Republican Congressman described Trump’s closed-door message to them. How touching. Wednesday, when the House didn’t act to save him and his family from his own cruel policy for other families, Trump caved and signed the executive order that he had insisted hours earlier was pointless and impossible.
Quick, somebody show him video of seals dying in the Arctic Circle as the ice cap melts.
That's what we've learned. And what lesson might he have learned? If Trump were anybody but Trump, we might have reason to hope that he would learn that he should not listen to the Mephistophelian Stephen Miller all the time, because Miller would have him issuing bamboo shoots to Border Patrol agents to shove under toddlers’ fingernails. That Corey Lewandowski maybe isn’t giving him the world’s best advice either.
But Trump is Trump. He won’t learn anything from this, for two reasons. First of all it isn’t in his nature. He’s the same corrupt and dishonest person he’s been for at least as long as he’s been in the public eye, and that won’t change. In fact, this whole caving thing might have been a scam.
As Josh Marshall pointed out, Trump’s order violated the now-famous 1997 Flores consent decree; so this will be litigated, as Marshall wrote, and “what will almost inevitably happen is that a court will step in, say you can’t do that and then Trump will announce that the judge is forcing him to keep separating families.” I doubt Trump is that wily, but surely some of the people around him are.
The second reason he won’t learn anything from this is that no force will bid him to learn anything. The contenders here are congressional Republicans and the broader Republican Party. Oh, and Fox News. I guess you see what I mean.
The congressional Republicans got their ya-ya’s out this week: They found an issue on which, for a variety of unique reasons, it was safe to stop sounding like they were living in Moscow in 1951. Here’s hoping that’s the lesson they learned—that they can take on Trump and, if there are enough of them and they stand their ground, the train won’t whoosh them off to Siberia. But that’s not how this is going to roll. Before we know it, it’ll be business as usual. Next week, this will be forgotten, and we’ll be back to “Impeach Rod Rosenstein!”
As for rank-and-file Republicans… One thing we learned this week that we should always remember: A majority of Republicans in this country support prison camps. For kids. That may sound like an accusation, but it’s not. It’s just a statement of fact. All the polls said it.
You might think that they’ll come away from Potus’ flip-flop disappointed, and maybe they will for a while. But they’ll find a way to justify it in their heads. He had to shut down the toddler camps because some local pizza shop was trying to start a child-prostitution ring. Libtards like Paul Ryan (!!) sold the president out. Who knows. It’s easy as pie for people to make justifications in their minds.
There sure wasn’t any sense that anyone was disappointed in Duluth at Trump’s rally Wednesday evening, as he stood up on the stage surrounded by Kevin McCarthy and a couple Minnesota congressmen as the crowd roared their approval at virtually every sentence Trump uttered. They even applaud when he mentioned the executive order he’d signed that day (he did add some stuff about tough borders).
Aaaand then there’s Fox, which introduced the Trump rally last night with the usual gladiatorial hoo-ho. “Enthusiasm not dampened at all!” beamed the Fox reporter from Duluth. He’d interviewed some people outside, and they assured him that Trump knew exactly how this was going to play out from jump street.
And so it will go. And the Republicans will try to push their terrible bills through today. Trump’s family separation policy aside, the immigration debate really consists of three questions: The DACA protections and a path to citizenship for Dreamers; the wall; and the broader issue we’ve been dealing with for a decade, a path to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants of the sort George W. Bush once backed.
It’s always worth remembering that on nearly every poll you can find on these three questions, the Trump-Republican position polls in the 30s. And that’s at best. Here’s a Fox poll that puts support for a path to citizenship at 83-17.
Yet the party in thrall and fear of its leader will keep pushing these malevolent buttons, with the support of a third of the country or less. There are plenty more ghastly ideas where family separation came from. And of course the family-separation saga isn’t close to over—it’s over when every single one of those children is back with his or her parents.
But at least this dark moment in American history will be coming to a close. Humanity won a round. We’ve seen that it can be done. And it will happen again. We who were appalled are the clear, and dare I say moral, majority. Don’t forget it.