When the going gets tough, despots become masters of distraction.
“Don’t look at that problem over there!” they insist, “look at the bright, shiny object over here!”
And so it goes with President Trump.
With the country on edge, a Justice Department investigation moving ever closer to his inner circle and multiple accusations by multiple women of a sexual nature, Trump has tried to shift the focus to a topic that has never failed him as a politician: immigration.
Yes, once again he is telling the American public that “there are bad people trying to cross our borders that want to hurt you and I am the only one who can keep you safe.”
The world has heard this before — often to disastrous ends.
And this latest episode started at a time that is supposed to be a period of prayer and grace: Easter weekend.
The President, left to his own devices at a time when he was not happy with the way his administration (not to mention his personal life) was being portrayed in most of the nation’s traditional media, turned for inspiration to his favorite source, the one broadcaster who is always on his side.
Sitting at his Florida residence on Easter Sunday, he saw a story about a “caravan” of thousands of people from Central America making their way across Mexico with the intention of crossing the US southern border.
That was all he needed to hear. He reached for the presidential smartphone and started to tweet.
Never mind that this “caravan” was actually a pilgrimage organized by activists seeking to draw attention to the plight of the victims of violence running rampant in the cities and villages of places like Honduras and El Salvador.
Never mind that the folks trying to make their way across Mexico are predominately women and children… and that their hope is to somehow find refugee status somewhere.
Nope. Donald Trump is not one to let the facts get in the way of a good 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!
And Happy Easter to you too, Mr. President.
The essence of what he is saying is would-be illegal immigrants with dastardly aims are headed to the United States, and it is is all the Democrats fault. He calls for the end of laws that permit applicants for asylum to remain here pending a hearing… and he vows there will be no agreement to extend a program that has provided temporary legal status to hundreds of thousands of teens and young adults who came to this country illegally as small children and know no other home.
All this because he saw a headline on the “Fox and Friends” television program: “CARAVAN OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS HEADED TO U.S.”
And it seems the more he watched, the more outraged the President became:
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!
It was strange to see all this vitriol in the hours before he showed up at church for Easter morning services. And it immediately became clear that his fingers were moving faster than his brain. Another tweet said “big flows of people are all trying to take advantage of DACA. They want to get in on the act.”
And that shows that even if he claims to be the know-all leader of the United States, he has no idea how the DACA program really works.
DACA — or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — is available only to immigrants who have been in the United States since 2007. It’s misleading at best and an outright lie at worst to suggest anyone trying to enter the US today would be eligible.
It also probably isn’t a good idea to accuse a neighboring country and ally of doing nothing to stop people from illegally crossing the border. Mexico’s foreign minister responded to the tweet storm by suggesting President Trump should rely less on inaccurate news reports.
But the President is on a roll… he knows a good distraction when he sees one… and as the 2016 election proved, he knows how to energize his base.
Already, he has ordered the military to send personnel to bolster the border patrol. His predecessors did this from time to time, largely as part of anti-narcotics efforts. But Trump says these troops will take the place of his border wall which he swears will still be built.
Meanwhile, the caravan of activists and would-be refugees has splintered along their difficult journey. Trump is taking credit for that, of course, and has vowed to get even tougher on those who try to enter this country — even those who fear they and their children will be forced to return to hell.
Trump’s message to those who seek refuge is clearly “not here” even though America is a nation of immigrants, most of whom came here in search of a better life.
It is a message that we are bound to here again and again as the United States approaches elections in November that will determine which political party controls Congress.
The president is already in campaign mode… and it appears his Easter Sunday Twitter rant was only the beginning.
A few days later, he went to West Virginia – one of his strongholds of support. While there, he referred to the caravan crossing Mexico as a hotbed of rape, saying “women are raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before. They don’t want to mention that.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders later alleged that the media was covering up the fact that women and girls were being brutally victimized on the trip north. She cited the Los Angeles Times as her source.
What the LA Times actually wrote was these women chose to travel with the caravan because there would be safety in numbers. Their fear is what would happen if they had to travel alone.
Fear. It’s a powerful thing.
It can force a mother and her children to flee for their lives.
And in the hands of a politician, it can become a potent tool. All you need to do is find a scapegoat.
Like a refugee mom.