Kirstjen Nielsen Is Our Duke Of The Week

TPM illustration. Photo by Getty Images/ BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen had a tough week.

She was determined to start it off with a bang, holding a press conference to set the record straight as Americans were inundated with pictures and recordings of distraught children ripped from their parents at the border.

But throughout the press conference, Nielsen lied over and over again, showing an utter lack of compassion for the panicked, isolated babies and their equally panicked parents.

A common theme of her remarks were variations on: “This administration did not create a policy of separating families at the border.” This is a lie, as the practice is the direct result of the administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy for migrants who cross the border without documentation.

She also took a page out of Trump’s playbook and attempted to place the blame on Congress, specifically Democrats. This makes sense because everyone knows that the real power rests with the party shut out of both Congressional majorities and the White House. 

She then made a shocking and humbling admission to the room, that she had not yet discovered the Internet, and thus had not seen the videos of young children in cages or heard their desperate cries for their moms and dads.

In a normal assertion of a very stable genius, she came scarily close to echoing the conspiracy theories of the far right and claimed that videos and audio (which she has not seen or heard) are, in fact, just being used to further the anti-Trump agenda of the videographers. “I think that they reflect the focus of those who post such pictures and narratives,” she said. “We don’t have a balanced view of what’s happening, but what’s happening at the border is the border is being overrun by those who have no right to cross it.”

Finally, she wrapped things up with competence and aplomb by contradicting what other administration officials have said, that these draconian measures are in place to deter other immigrants from entering this dystopian hellscape, and by flying into a snit on top of it.

“I find that offensive,” she said when asked if the policy was a deterrent. “No. Because why would I ever create a policy that purposely does that.”

Good question.

What could have possibly prompted Nielsen’s terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad press briefing? Was she flustered by Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ steady stream of “where r u???” texts until she arrived? Was she frazzled when she realized that she left her “I don’t care” blazer at home?

No, it seems that Nielsen willingly became the face of the family separation crisis and the administration’s indifference.

But hey, at least there was one silver lining for Nielsen in that dumpster fire of a press conference. President Donald Trump sent a congratulatory tweet, telling Nielsen she did a “fabulous job.” As a rule, affirmation from those who humiliate her in Cabinet meetings is highly prized by our DHS Secretary.

As pressure mounted for the administration to deal with the bad optics (and a much lesser priority, the human suffering) of the immigration crisis, Trump signed an executive order asking for the ability to jail families together, rather than keep them in separate pens.

As Nielsen stood in the Oval Office, watching her boss sign with a flourish a document that showed undeniably that she lied on tape about the administration’s ability to address the separations, she felt a budding sense of pride.

She had won over her constant tormentor (for now). In a desperate bid to look “tough enough” to fulfill his toxic notions of masculinity and gender, she had successfully removed her own heart and tossed her credibility in the trash. Sure, she’ll never eat Mexican food again, but it’s a small price to pay for being the poster child of an administration’s nonchalant snatching of young immigrant children from their families.

As Trump swiveled in his chair and she took the signing pen out of his tiny hand, the exchange was complete. Kirstjen Nielsen had traded the lives of helpless immigrant children for the temporary affection of a mercurial, overgrown toddler.

For trading the safety, wellbeing, and happiness of thousands of children for a fancy pen, Kirstjen Nielsen is our Duke of the Week.


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