The word this morning is that leaders Pelosi and Schumer say Trump agreed to make DACA law as part of a deal that upped funding for “border security” but not for a wall. But Trump came out and said there’s no deal. So it’s all a mess and a big dispute.
I think if you look closely, that’s not quite what happened.
Let’s begin with some critical first principles: Trump remains the same narcissist and predator he’s always been. He will never change. But Trump is also profoundly needy. He craves attention, affirmation and praise. He rails at the “failing New York Times” but there may literally be no public institution whose approval and attention he’s craved more in his whole life. If Democrats can leverage his desire for praise and “wins” to save 800,000 Dreamers they should grab the chance. And I think they can and will do so with eyes wide open.
Here’s my read of what happened last night.
The Democrats came out of the meeting last night saying they’d agreed to make DACA law as part of a bill that would include border security but not a wall. The White House put out a different statement that didn’t say quite the same thing but very conspicuously did not mention the wall.
Was this a “deal” or “agreement”? The Dems didn’t say they had a “deal”, which I take to mean they’d hashed out the specifics and terms. They said they’d agreed to do this kind of legislation: DACA plus Border Security minus Wall. This is basically a semantic difference. The words (deal or agreement) can mean anything you want them to. The key thing in my mind is that if you look closely, I don’t see where they’re really disagreeing on what happened. If Trump or the White House had come out this morning and said, “No way. The price for DACA is the Wall,” that would be a major disagreement. They have not done that.
This is confirmed in my mind by Trump’s morning tweets which are arguing the case for DACA (bizarre! but what’s new? It’s Trump) and talking up the wall but not as a condition but as something that “will continue to be built.” Indeed, he actually restates the terms of what Pelosi and Schumer call the “agreement.”
…They have been in our country for many years through no fault of their own – brought in by parents at young age. Plus BIG border security
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 14, 2017
Note that he says “Plus BIG border security”. No doubt the biggest border security. The best. But it’s not the wall. He’s up talking their deal!
Now, does this mean the Dreamers can breath a sigh of relief and everything’s fine? Of course not. It’s totally possible that Trump might change his mind this afternoon and speed up the deportations. But I don’t think we got here for no reason. Trump wants a “win.” He also wants to be praised. And the relative plaudits he’s getting for coming into line with majority opinion on the Dreamers is having a drug-like effect.
From what I can see, the Dems’ play here is pretty straight forward. Push forward for that deal: DACA plus “border security” minus the wall. If they get it, great. They save the Dreamers. If they don’t, the process will still wreak havoc within the GOP. That coalition damage within the GOP is the second best way to save the Dreamers in 18 months. The first “win” is far more precious. But they’re both important wins in substantive and political terms.