Over the weekend, it struck me that this sick Trump policy of separating parents from their children, and incarcerating children in detention centers, may well be at least part of the unraveling for Trump. I know that’s been said before, and I know we'll have further outrages, but we’re seeing at least some religious organization break off from the GOP (finally) in condemning it, and even some far-right commentators. Though hardly all. AND...the thing is, there’s no easy fix for Trump – either he changes the policy, and angers his base, or he does nothing and the problem swells even worse. And it's pretty terrible now, already. And unlike most Trump disasters, this one has video. Lots of it. And it can and does get replayed. And the video is of children.
Notably, I loved seeing Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and other congressmen following up with what Sen. Jeff Merkeley (D-OR) did the week before, and I think more and more Democratic officials will do the same, go to detention centers where the press will follow them – and either they will be allowed inside (just imagining that senators and congressmen are not "allowed" inside regular federal facilities is galling on its own) and get damning video of the children there and conditions and talk with them, or our senators and congressman won’t get in, and there will be damning video of that.
The audio recording released yesterday by Pro Publica was wrenching, and demeaning of the fascist administration and its enablers in the party and press. (And make no mistake, this is a fascist action, not merely racist by intentionally fitting into the outraged xenophobia on which the administration is built, using the children as a bargaining chip Trump has said to help him get his wall) Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) struggled on camera with being so blunt in her criticism of her fellow Republican senators, but finally burst forth and just spit it out, calling them "Gutless wonders."
If you haven't heard the audio, it's difficult, but important.
As I said, I suspect we'll see more direct action by Democratic officials like Merkeley, Nadler, and Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) who's running against Republican Ted Cruz, and who put together a rally at a Texas detention facility in his own state's backyard. In fact, I wrote a note yesterday to my own congressman, Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) who is terrific. But being terrific is just the bare minimum with these detentions. Perhaps she's been involved with others, but I didn't want to rely on "perhaps." --
Dear Rep. Bass,
The desperation by Republican officials, but especially some in the far-right press has been palpable. Tucker Carlson delivered a terror-filled cry about real "Americans" that was only missing the white sheets, talking about how "This is one of those moments that tells you everything about our ruling class. They care far more about foreigners than about their own people." As if he himself was outraged about the 4,600 Americans who died in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria which he has been silent about. Carlson added, “Don’t for a second let them take the moral high ground. Their goal is to change your country forever.” (I recall during the presidential campaign when Carlson's head almost exploded when a Democratic guest called Trump "fascist." A red-faced Carlson kept shouting, "How can you say this is fascist??!!!" Well, what Carlson himself just said is one reason how.) Just to be clear, only those people living SO profoundly deep in a hole see keeping children with parents as "high ground." Moral or otherwise. And just a quick note: Black people and Mexicans actually live here already. So do Japanese, Pakistanis, Ethiopians, Hawaiians, Iraqis, Iranians, Jews, and the Irish, The country LONG-since changed.
And there was the oft-outraged and desperate Lou Dobbs (who has ranted against St. Patrick's Day -- no, really) who said, "To watch the national left-wing media act in concert, for there to be this serendipity, this just extraordinary coincidence, that all of the living first ladies weigh in on so-called zero tolerance over the same period of time, is - that should be disturbing to everyone." Actually, the simple reality that Laura Bush and Rosalyn Carter are working "in concert" against children being ripped from their parents, and Lou Dobbs believes that that "should be disturbing to everyone" means only that Lou Dobbs has a totally different definition of "disturbing" and "everyone" from...well, pretty much everyone. It also speaks volumes about Lou Dobbs that he can't conceive of people of all perspectives (and there have been) being outraged and horrified by crying children screaming for their mothers.
Or Ann Coulter actually using the sick-mantra carried over from the Parkland mass school shooting and desperately referring to the children being ripped from their parents as "child actors." (Interesting side note: I have long considered Ann Coulter a "human actor.")
Not to worry, in case you think she's alone on this. Trump himself today called the children "crisis actors," trained to say they've come to America out of fear at home. (I have this image of a kid going blank and calling out, "Line!") No word though who's been teaching the crying part, because that's really hard, even for adults, so they have a great future in Hollywood as acting coaches for children.
And then we had dear Laura Ingraham who, as the video below shows, desperately called the detention centers for children "essentially summer camps."
Much as I'd love to write her back on Twitter, she's blocked me, so I can't. So I won't be able to tell her directly that based on her assessment of summer camp, Allan Sherman would have had to rewrite his song --
Where's my faddah?
Where's my muddah?
And my sister?
Where's my bruddah?!
Camp is very
And I have a feeling I was just arrested.
The desperation by these far-right, fascist-enabling pundits to not get overrun by the outpouring tsunami of fury is oozing out of their pores and heard in every screed.
It’s a massively big problem for Trump – and deserves to be. For all I know it will be...well, if not his Waterloo (unlike Napoleon, Trump requires several), one of them. He's slipped through so many, in part because he keeps creating new outrages. But this seems foundational, even if (or sorry, when) a new outrage comes along. The press have begun to seriously push back on his lies about this being a Democratic law, and it’s almost like the dam has broken there. On Twitter over the weekend, Director of Homeland Security Kristjen Nielsen put out a few of her own tweets supporting the action and with the same lies, and she was buried, not just by the general public but public officials. This is not a good look on one's Director of Homeland Security, who you want as far from criticism as possible.
And then yesterday, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was too frightened to do the press briefing herself, so it got delayed until the White House could literally fly in Ms. Nielsen. It didn't go well. The press just weren't having it. At one point, Phillip Rucker of the New York Times twice had to ask her why her boss Trump had expressed absolutely no empathy for the children who've been ripped from their parents. After she danced around some unrelated answer and started to ask for another question, Rucker interrupted and said bluntly that, "You didn't answer my question," and asked it again. Again, she didn't answer what he asked -- and as she jumped quickly to someone else, the frustration filling Rucker's face was blunt.
I'm not remotely alone on this. The conservative editorial board of the Wall Street Journal began their editorial today, "“Are Republicans trying to lose their majorities in Congress this November? We assume not, but you can’t tell from the party’s internal feuding over immigration that is fast becoming an election-year nightmare over separating immigrant children from their parents, This is what happens when restrictionists have a veto over GOP policy.”
And the problem is getting even far worse -- if that was possible. It was reported yesterday that the government has NO PLAN for reuniting parents with their children! In fact, there already are instances of parents being deported back home, yet their children are STILL HERE in detention camps!!
Sen. Merkeley also told a story about what he himself saw. How the administration has said that if only people entered the country at official Ports of Entry they would be dealt with fairly and legally -- but that government officials (which Merkely witnessed) are actually blocking those very Ports of Entry, leaving people the only option of finding other ways in. At which point they get arrested. One man, whose life was under a threat of death because of conditions if he returned home, told officials (Merkeley said) that he was okay being sent back even if it meant he'd be killed, but please keep his child there.
How bad is this all for Trump? Now, toss-in to all this horrible quagmire for the administration that Trump also seems to be going nuts over the Russia investigation. But what gets lost in the morass of that, because they seem like the same, is that he’s actually in the middle of THREE, completely separate legal cases – Russia, Stormy Daniels and (now) the Trump Foundation. And only the first is federal and under the umbrella of pardons.
But in the end, it's this raw action about parents having their little children ripped from them. With no plan to reunite them. And the thing is, not only is it a "damned if he does fix it, and damned if he doesn't" from Trump, the even bigger problem for him is that this won't go away. You don't put spilled milk back in a broken bottle. If later today, Trump signed a document that reversed his own policy separating parents from their children that has caused all this disaster (and no, he's not going to sign that later today, or anytime soon, or perhaps ever -- but even if he did), the public knows that he is the kind of person who CREATED THIS POLICY. He's the person in charge who thought, hey, this is just a grand idea. It's not the sort of thing people forget. No matter when or if the policy changes, Donald J. Trump ordered a policy to separate children from their parents. People do not forget that.
But not to worry, it's not going away any time soon. Trump is not planning to reverse his policy. Reverse it? No, no, this is Trump, of course he's doubled-down. It was reported today that Trump met yesterday with Republican senators and (according to the Republican senators themselves) threatened in a fury to shut down the government if he didn't get enough money to build is wall. I'll wait a moment while you read that last sentence again. Oh, my, yes, that will be a good look. The public just abhors government shutdowns. And to even consider doing one over the issue of separating children from their parents (!!!) shows the Black Hole Trump has created for himself, sucking him into the vortex.
To paraphrase the old movie ad line -- In space, you can't hear the Wall Street Journal scream.
Back in 1968, there was a chant that became prominent during the police riot at the Democratic convention in Chicago. It is apt again today --
The whole world is watching. The whole world is watching.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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