Wednesday, October 31, 2018


I see that I'm supposed to despise Jonathan Swan of Axios for his story yesterday about the White House proposal to end birthright citizenship.

I believe this is what happened. I agree that Swan was used to advance the hard-liners' agenda, and to inject this message into the conversation as Election Day approaches.

But why is that horrifying? I don't agree that the executive order is now inevitable -- whether or not tests would show that the president is clinically attention deficit disordered, he obviously loses focus a lot. (Where's that infrastructure plan?) He could easily lose focus on this. We have no idea whether the executive order is inevitable nowwill really happen.

Conversely, we have no idea whether it was inevitable before the interview. It's possible that the president was already determined to issue the executive order -- or would have done so on a sudden whim whether or not the interview took place. If that had happened, the order would have landed with little or no warning. Now we know it's under consideration in the White House. Isn't that how this is all supposed to work -- the press informs the public so the public can assess what elected officials intend to do and weigh in? Isn't it good to know about this executive order long before the White House has it ready to be issued?

I know what the answer to that is: No, it's terrible, because Trump is using this to sway the midterms. Swan enabled Trump to throw out another chunk of red meat, and now the mighty Republican electoral juggernaut will be even more powerful.

Do we have any evidence that that's the case?

A 2017 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that 65% of respondents want birthright citizenship to continue. Republicans know it's not obviously a winning issue for them. Rick Scott, who's in a tight Senate race in Florida, walked away from a Miami Herald reporter when asked about the proposal yesterday. Other GOP politicians and operatives are clearly anxious:
Matt Viser writes ...: "Trump’s sharpened tone creates potential complications for some Republican candidates, particularly those in centrist suburban House districts where many GOP voters have grown uneasy about the president, as Trump embarks on a final week of nearly nonstop rallies where immigration is likely to be a frequent topic."

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told WVLK radio that Trump “cannot end birthright citizenship with an executive order . . . I think in this case the 14th Amendment is pretty clear, and that would involve a very, very lengthy constitutional process.”

... Swing state candidate on edge: “I understand the President's frustration on immigration and border security because I am frustrated, too,” Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), in a tough reelection race, said in a statement that didn't mention birthright citizenship.

... It's Newt [Gingrich]: “I do not believe the 14th Amendment requires a constitutional amendment . . . but I think that this is late in the campaign ... this is too big of an issue for the president to jump and actually do anything so I think he's just expressing his opinion. But I would hope he'd ask Congress to hold hearings before he decided what path to take,” he told reporters.
We've been hearing for weeks that the all-powerful GOP noise machine has found the magic weapon to destroy the blue wave. Kavanaugh. The caravan. Now this. And in all this time the numbers for Democrats, at least in House races, have barely budged. Democrats are still strong favorites to regain control of the House. This won't change that. Plus, it's good we were forewarned about this. So why is Swan the villain?


And to respond to a likely criticism of this post: Yes, the president has managed to distract us from the terrorism we learned about last week, and from his own awful responses to it -- but he's distracted us with something that's also divisive. How does that help him?

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