WASHINGTON, DC—As the old saying goes, putting a shoe in an oven don’t make it a biscuit.
When he went on the air late Saturday afternoon to offer what he viewed as a magnificent compromise to end the government shutdown, Donald Trump was just trying to sell his same old nativist, anti-immigration malarkey, calling that worn-out shoe a freshly baked biscuit when it’s nothing but a variation on the Shinola he’s been peddling since he first announced his candidacy. You know: the constant Trump dog whistle supporting racist xenophobia and signaling anyone who isn’t white to get permanently lost.
The speech—seemingly timed to distract attention from the women’s marches that for the third year in a row marked the calamity of his 2017 swearing-in—claimed to create a breakthrough in the month-long, Trump-induced government paralysis. It did so by offering Dreamers—those brought here as children by their undocumented parents—a three-year extension of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, as well as three years’ continuance of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for hundreds of thousands who came here to escape from wars or natural disasters. And for these he would get the $5.7 billion he’s been demanding for weeks for his godforsaken wall.
But wait, as columnist Jennifer Rubin asked, “Wasn’t he the one who put DACA and TPS folks at risk, and haven’t the federal courts already given DACA beneficiaries a likely one-year reprieve? Well, yes. A burglar has broken into your home, has taken the silver and is now offering to lease it back to you for three years only—but first, give him a $5.7 billion edifice.”
So big surprise—the “compromise” offered isn’t a legitimate bargaining chip but mostly the same tired litany of demands and grievances he made from the Oval Office on January 8, including, of course, that miserable wall. Or barrier. Or slats. It was as if his henchman Stephen Miller simply made a Xerox copy of that speech, changed a word here and there, then passed it along to the boss figuring that Trump wouldn’t give a damn how virtually identical they were.
And while we’re on the topic of the odious Miller, Julie Hirschfeld Davis at The New York Times reported that as the White House was cooking up this latest scheme, “Mr. Miller intervened to narrow the universe of immigrants who would receive protection, according to people familiar with the internal discussions who described them on the condition of anonymity.”
What’s more, when the actual language of the legislation previewed in Trump’s speech appeared this week, another double-cross was attempted, a trick familiar to anyone who has ever been involved in a labor contract negotiation: in the final drafting, management tries to renege on key provisions by sneaking in significant changes they hope you won’t notice in all that fine print.
According to theTimes, among the bad faith changes added are “provisions to bar Central American children from claiming the status inside the United States, requiring them instead to do so in their own countries . . . Another revision would create a host of new grounds for deeming an asylum claim ‘frivolous,’ including if the migrant seeking protection was also trying to obtain work authorization, had used a fraudulent document—knowingly or unknowingly—or did not file in a timely way.”
So what we’re seeing in the Trump GOP bill is even worse than what El Presidente tried to sell us on Saturday. Bad enough that he nattered through the familiar list of mayhem that he always uses in an attempt to sensationalize and besmirch the reputation of every undocumented immigrant—gang violence, drug addiction, murder, sex trafficking, rape.
And again, just as they did in the January 8 speech, Trump and Miller tried to cloak these hyper-exaggerations with a faux wringing of hands about the humanitarian crisis along the border that they themselves have created, to the accompaniment of counterfeit expressions of sympathy and love.
This time, all mustard gas and roses, Trump announced that he had just sworn-in five new American citizens in the Oval Office and told them, “the beauty and majesty of citizenship is that it draws no distinctions of race, or class, or faith, or gender or background. All Americans, whether first generation or tenth generation, are bound together in love and loyalty, friendship and affection.”
Nice words but humbug coming from this president. Just the day before, here in DC a short distance from the White House, young white boys from a Catholic high school in Kentucky, many of them wearing bright red Trump MAGA hats, felt smugly entitled to sneer and jeer and mock a native American Vietnam vet after they themselves apparently had been hassled by some wing-nut Black Hebrew Israelites, which, sorry, excuses nothing.
The public statement issued by the seeming ringleader of the Kentucky boys, written with the help of lawyers and a public relations firm, is another masterpiece of inauthentic Trump-era rationalization and as the days go by, more video emergesof the charming lads’ loathsome behavior.
Further, as mentioned, Trump’s speech came on the day of the women’s marches around the country, which had their own share of controversy; charges of anti-Semitism that were denied by leaders of the protests. Certainly there was no evidence of any such prejudice in the crowd I was with in DC, but as the demonstrators approached the Trump International Hotel, on either side of the block, anti-choice, anti-Muslim zealots, many of them women, screamed at the marchers and brandished signs reading, “Feminists are terrorists” and “Islam is a religion of blood murder.” Their prime position in front of Trump’s monument to emoluments was no accident. As our real estate salesman president would say, location, location, location . . .
One further insult added to the injury generated by Trump’s Saturday remarks: he insisted, “Illegal immigration reduces wages and strains public services.” In a speech riddled with exaggeration and lies, the idiocy of those words, spoken against the backdrop of a shutdown in which hundreds of thousands across the country are out of work or working without pay, is appalling. And that‘s not counting all those federal contractors and everyone affected by a loss of business or essential services, from storeowners and restaurant workers to grocery clerks and those who may soon find their public assistance gone.
Friday afternoon, I was picked up by a hire car and traveled from Capitol Hill down to Lafayette Square across from the White House. The driver told me she was working many more hours for a lot less money, doing her damnedest to cover for the lost income, business down by two-thirds because of the shutdown.
Her husband works for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). The DC buses and subways are still running, but last week they announced losses of $400,000 in fares and revenue every business day the government stays closed. Layoffs may soon begin.
Paul Wiedefeld, the system’s general manager and CEO, wrote, “President Trump’s shutdown is jeopardizing the health and stability of the entire Metro system. This wasteful, destructive shutdown must come to an end.”
My driver, who in every other way seemed a demure and upright citizen, had a solution of her own: “I’d like to give Trump two hard rights to the gut and a left hook to the jaw.”
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Michael Winship is the Schumann Senior Writing Fellow for Common Dreams. Previously, he was the Emmy Award-winning senior writer forMoyers & Company and BillMoyers.com, a past senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos, and former president of the Writers Guild of America East. Follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWinship.