Eugene Robinson

If you want to know President Trump's position on any given policy issue, the last person you should ask is President Trump. He has no idea what he thinks.

Let me amend that. He does know that he wants more immigrants from places such as Norway and fewer from African nations, Haiti and El Salvador, which he called "shithole countries" in a meeting with lawmakers on Thursday, according to The Washington Post. So in terms of racism, he's crystal clear. On most other things, though, he's fuzzy to the point of cluelessness.

It was an astonishing moment during Trump's televised "negotiation" with congressional leaders on immigration, when U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., asked whether the president would support a "clean" or stand-alone bill providing relief for the estimated 700,000 "Dreamers" who were brought to the United States illegally when they were children. Legislation that would let them stay is known in Washington acronym-speak as DACA.

"We're going to do DACA, and then we can start immediately on the phase two, which would be comprehensive," Trump said. When Feinstein asked again if he would be agreeable to this approach, Trump said, "Yeah, I would like to do that. I think a lot of people would like to see that. But I think we have to do DACA first."

Republicans around the table freaked out. Trump had adopted the Democrats' position and abandoned his own, which is, or was, that any action to help the Dreamers had to be accompanied by tough-on-immigration measures – such as funding for Trump's border wall. (Never mind that Mexico was supposed to pay for the wall, if you believed Trump's campaign rhetoric.)

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., quickly jumped in to clarify that what the president obviously meant by "yes" was "no."

The televised part of the session lasted 55 minutes, and the president seemed uncharacteristically agreeable throughout. As in, agreeable to anything: He actually said at one point that he would sign whatever immigration bill the assembled legislators managed to pass.

On another issue, the White House made clear what it wanted Congress to do about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act: reject a measure that would restrict the government's ability to conduct domestic surveillance of Americans. But on Thursday, Trump undercut his own position with a morning tweet:

"'House votes on controversial FISA ACT today.' This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?"

So it sounded as if Trump might be in favor of limiting potential FISA abuses. But a couple of hours later, the president tweeted again to say, basically, never mind.

When Trump convened a cabinet meeting Wednesday, he had an odd greeting for the media pool that had been admitted to cover the session: "Welcome back to the studio."

Could he actually see the West Wing as a television studio? In December, the New York Times reported something that made my jaw drop: "Before taking office, Mr. Trump told top aides to think of each presidential day as an episode in a television show in which he vanquishes rivals."

Of course, all presidents would rather win fights than lose them; and, since they're politicians, they want to be seen as winning those fights. But seeing each day as an "episode" of a reality-show presidency is a recipe for chaos, inconsistency, discontinuity, incoherence – a recipe for what we've seen in the first year of the Trump presidency.

Needless to say, this is no way to run a country. But it may be all the Trump administration is capable of.

Trump had no ideas for reshaping the health care system, with the result that Obamacare is still in place. He had no ideas for reshaping tax policy except "cut, cut, cut," with the result that Republicans came up with a bill that balloons the national debt while offering caviar to the rich and peanuts to the middle class.

They say ignorance is bliss. Trump must be very happy.

You must be logged in to react.
Click any reaction to login.
0
0
0
0
0

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.