The President’s Easter Sunday

Here is how President Donald Trump spent the morning of Easter Sunday:

  At 8:27 he tweeted, “HAPPY EASTER!”

— Roughly 90 minutes later came this tweet. “Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release. Getting more dangerous. ‘Caravans’ coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!”

— A half hour later, this, “Mexico is doing very little, if not NOTHING, at stopping people from flowing into Mexico through their Southern Border, and then into the U.S. They laugh at our dumb immigration laws. They must stop the big drug and people flows, or I will stop their cash cow, NAFTA. NEED WALL!”

— And, three minutes later, a final tweet, “These big flows of people are all trying to take advantage of DACA. They want in on the act!”

— Then he went to church.

President Donald Trump and Melania Trump arriving for Easter Services at the Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea in Palm Beach, Florida, on Sunday.

Where he apparently learned nothing, at least in the view of Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican who both supports immigration reform and is retiring this year, one of scores of Republicans from vulnerable districts who would rather return to private life than defend Trumpism. “Such a strong message of love and new beginnings from @realDonaldTrump on Easter Sunday…,” Ros-Lehtinen tweeted.

Trump continues to learn nothing about everything. He is probably the most ill-informed president in American history, and he demonstrates no interest in remedying his lack of knowledge. When Trump is not speaking or tweeting from ignorance, he is deliberately misleading the American people on issues of importance. His willful distribution of erroneous information appears to work with true-believing Trumpistas. 

President Barack Obama announcing DACA order in 2012.

Easter Sunday’s series of tweets are just the latest evidence of Trump’s ignorance and/or lying. His last tweet — that “big flows of people” want to sneak across the border “to take advantage of DACA” — is dead wrong. DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program created by President Barack Obama — applies only to immigrants who have lived in the United States since 2007, arrived before their 16th birthday, and were younger than 31 as of mid-2012. DACA applies to a set group with strict paramaters, and anyone coming today is simply not eligible for the program. Trump either deliberately lied in his tweet or is unfamiliar with the program, which is shocking in itself.

Trump’s suggestion that Senate Republicans use the so-called “nuclear option” to pass preferred legislation with a simple majority rather than the votes of 60 Senators to break a filibuster ignores political reality and history. Only 36 out of 51 Senate Republicans voted for a bill in February reflecting Trump’s immigration demands. Employing the nuclear option would not have helped. More importantly, Trump appears unaware of the historical dynamics surrounding the filibuster, a device that aids Republicans far more than Democrats. Gernerally, liberals favor big government and expansion of social services. Doing away with the filibuster would make it easier for Democrats to achieve their goals and would deprive Republicans of a tool to prevent, perhaps, adoption of a single-payer healthcare system when Democrats regain control of the upper chamber. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky understands this; Trump does not. 

The Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington.

Finally, the reference to “catch and release” is erroneous. It is not a law but a policy adopted by immigration officials to open up space in detention centers. Immigrants who are not security risks are released so that more dangerous people can be incarcerated. The White House claims the policy ended when Trump took office.

Trump’s Easter tweet storm demonstrates that his is an improvisational presidency, devoid of strategy and message discipline. The president’s tweets become, by default, the administration’s policy, at least until he tweets again. The Sunday tweets also reveal the significance of proximity in Trump’s White House. Chief of Staff John Kelly was not at Mar-a-Lago, where Trump spent the weekend. But, immigration hardliner Stephen Miller was. And, so was Sean Hannity, an anti-immigrant Fox News provocateur with whom Trump had dinner Friday night and golfed Saturday. Once again, the weekend episode regarding DACA proves that Trump parrots the last person with whom he speaks.

Finally, there is the influence of the cable news shows on Fox, which the president voraciously consumes. The tweet about “caravans” followed closely upon Trump viewing a segment of “Fox & Friends” based upon a BuzzFeed story about a thousand Central Americans, primarily Hondurans, on a month-long trip to the U.S.-Mexican border. The migrants were organized by a group called Pueblos Sin Fronteras, People Without Borders, which seeks to help the dispossessed safely reach the United States by avoiding authorities who would deport them and gangs and cartels who would prey upon them. The procession is now in Mexico, and Trump tweeted Monday, “Mexico has the absolute power not to let these large ‘Caravans’ of people enter their country.” It is typical Trump to want Mexico to stop the immigrants so as to avoid the embarrassment of a confrontation at the U.S. border.

Trump went to church Sunday, but he seems oblivious to the lessons of the Bible on the treatment of  immigrants and refugees. “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt,” Moses tells the Israelites (Exodus 22:20). In Leviticus (19:34), the refugees from Egypt are instructed, “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Again, Moses says, when summing up the law before the Israelites are to enter the Promised Land, “You must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:19). These passages are relevant as this week is Passover, the Jewish holiday celebrating the Exodus.

As for the message of Easter, Trump ignores the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:10), “Blessed are those who are persecuted.” 

Posted April 3, 2018

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