Trump’s Chicken Game

Trump is using children as a neogiating tool:

President Trump has calculated that he will gain political leverage in congressional negotiations by continuing to enforce a policy he claims to hate — separating immigrant parents from their young children at the southern border, according to White House officials.

On Friday, Trump suggested he would not change the policy unless Democrats agreed to his other immigration demands, which include funding a border wall, tightening the rules for border enforcement and curbing legal entry. He also is intent on pushing members of his party to vote for a compromise measure that would achieve those long-standing priorities.

Trump’s public acknowledgment that he was willing to let the policy continue as he pursued his political goals came as the president once again blamed Democrats for a policy enacted and touted by his own administration.

“The Democrats are forcing the breakup of families at the Border with their horrible and cruel legislative agenda,” he tweeted. After listing his demands in any immigration bill, he added, “Go for it! WIN!”

Exactly what game is Trump playing here? Does he think that Democrats will be so appalled at his policy that they will give him whatever he wants to stop it? Or does he think he actually can persuade the public to think the policy is the Democrats’ fault, so that he can use public opinion as leverage? Don’t ask which is more likely; ask yourself how Trump might see this. I’m honestly not sure.  And I haven’t seen any polling on this topic yet.

Democrats have latched onto the issue and vowed to fight in the court of public opinion, with leaders planning trips to the border to highlight the stories of separated families, already the focus of news media attention. Democratic candidates running for vulnerable Republican seats also have begun to make the harsh treatment of children a centerpiece of their campaigns.

The policy has cracked Trump’s usually united conservative base, with a wide array of religious leaders and groups denouncing it. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Southern Baptist Convention issued statements critical of the practice.

The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, who delivered a prayer at Trump’s inauguration, signed a letter calling the practice “horrible.” Pastor Franklin Graham of Samaritan’s Purse, a vocal supporter of the president’s who has brushed aside past Trump controversies, called it “terrible” and “disgraceful.”

So maybe this is the bridge too far; Trump finally is doing something so horrible that even Franklin Graham can’t make excuses for it. But it strikes me that Trump is using the suffering of children to play chicken. Who is going to swerve first?

Things got really bizarre when both Jeff Sessions and Sarah Sanders cited the Bible as an excuse for the policy. WTF? Sessions said on Thursday,

“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes,” Sessions said during a speech to law enforcement officers in Fort Wayne, Ind. “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves. Consistent and fair application of the law is in itself a good and moral thing, and that protects the weak and protects the lawful.”

Next time a bunch of Fetus People zombies picket an abortion clinic, I want to see counter-protesters carrying signs saying “ROMANS 13.”

And then later when reporters asked Sarah Sanders about it, she said,

Pushing back, Sanders said: “I’m not aware of the attorney general’s comments or what he would be referencing, [but] I can say that it is very biblical to enforce the law. That is repeated throughout the Bible.”

A whole lot of people have pointed out that this cherry-picking of Paul’s words is a distortion of what he probably meant, and there are all kinds of examples of righteous civil disobedience in the Bible. And don’t get me started on why the Bible is irrelevant to government policies. See also This isn’t religion. It’s perversion.

Paul Waldman thinks that the administration is trying to blame Democrats to deflect criticism.

The ghastly prospect of children being torn from their parents’ arms wasn’t an unintended consequence of this policy, it was central to its intention. The cruelty of the policy would provide a deterrent to those contemplating coming to the U.S. border. That was the point. As Kelly said on May 11, family separation is “a tough deterrent.”

But as more and more journalists went to the border to see this “new initiative” in action, the administration’s rhetoric shifted. Now it began saying it wasn’t a new initiative at all, just an enforcement of existing law — and since Democrats (who, you might remember, control nothing in Washington) haven’t changed that law, it’s their fault.

But my Facebook friend Jeffrey Feldman expressed the view that the Bible reference was also part of a deliberate strategy.

Please read the whole post. What Jeffrey says here is that the child snatching policy is just one part of a plan to keep us all under the thumb of authoritiarianism, and it’s going to take more than winning a few elections to stop it.

Trump’s comments yesterday make me think that creating this horrible policy and then blaming Democrats for it is all of a piece.  Trump is trying to play chicken. He thinks the Democrats will swerve first and give him what he wants, including funding the stupid wall. He also probably thinks that being cruel to Latino families will play well with his base. And he’s probably right about that.

Update: The White House has released a document titled “Results of Congressional Democrats’ Dangerous Immigration Policies” that actually begins,

CONGRESSIONAL DEMOCRATS’ FAMILY SEPARATION POLICY: Too many American families have been permanently separated from loved ones lost to illegal alien crime.

More Orwellian than Orwell.