We have more evidence this morning that the Trump campaign is trying to pull off a painful and likely impossible pivot from the mass deportation of 3% of the US population with an Einsatzgruppen-sounding thing called the “deportation force” to something like exactly what Trump and Republicans have been railing about for years: the deportation policy followed by President Barack (oh hell, let’s just say it Hussein!) Obama.
On O’Reilly last night Donald Trump essentially said he’d continue President Obama’s deportation policy, which supporters and immigration critics both agree does not slack on deportations one bit. Only Trump says he’d pursue Obama’s policy “perhaps with a lot more energy.”
Trump: “We’re going to obey the existing laws. Now, the existing laws are very strong … What people don’t know is that Obama got tremendous numbers of people out of the country, Bush the same thing. Lots of people were brought out of the country with the existing laws. Well, I’m gonna do the same thing.”
Please take a moment to regroup and stop laughing because this is a serious topic.
Newly-minted Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway tried to put the best face on it by explaining that crafting good policy takes time. “Immigration is a very complex issue and to get the solutions right, to come out with your specific plan, should not be rushed. He is taking in the wisdom of many different counselors on this issue.”
When Fox’s Megyn Kelly pressed Conway on whether Trump still plans to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US, she said the policy is still “basically the same. First, secure the borders and actually apply and enforce the law. Secondly, you have to deport those who have committed crimes.”
Alas, this is as Trump himself was explaining, basically Obama policy: enforce the current laws and give priority to deporting those who have committed crimes and present a danger to the community.
As I explained last night, campaign’s routinely revise and massage policies as they move from primaries to general election campaigns. But this one will be particularly hard to unwind since the essence of it was its absoluteness. Everybody else up on stage with Trump in those primary debates was saying some version of what he’s trying to say now – in many cases, they were harder core. What Trump used as a brutal cudgel was his willingness to dispense with all the ethical and administrative realities and simply say: they all get deported in a year. No one – none who had hopes of becoming president and needing to enforce an actual policy – could go there. This is unquestionably why the Thursday immigration policy speech was canceled. The campaign can’t figure what it’s policy is. They want to moonwalk their way back to the Bush/Obama policy on deportations. But the gulf is too big. The nonsensical explanations collapse under the weight of their own ridiculousness.