If you’ve been awake at all during this campaign season, you might have noticed has been immigration. Love him or hate him, Donald Trump has single-handedly moved the Overton Window to the point where any suggestion that we don’t frog-march 11 million illegals out of the country is pretty damned reasonable. There have been all kinds of arguments about the impracticality of such a solution. The obvious way of dealing with the problem is tightening the screws on employers to make it very painful to take a chance on employing an illegal and then Mitt Romney’s famous self-deportation will take place. (For the record, I am 100% in favor of Romney’s position.) But Trump’s proclamation leaves uncomfortable images of roundups, door to door searches, and packed boxcars.
As it turns out, Trump, himself, doesn’t even believe in his own plan. Gail Collins obliquely hinted as much in the New York Times over the weekend:
The most optimistic analysis of Trump as a presidential candidate is that he just doesn’t believe in positions, except the ones you adopt for strategic purposes when you’re making a deal. So you obviously can’t explain how you’re going to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, because it’s going to be the first bid in some future monster negotiation session.
That hint may have a documentary basis that will not be released because of the nature of the off-the-record deal Trump had with the New York Times. Via Ben Smith and the pseudo-tabloid-and-cat-gif website BuzzFeed:
The New York Times is sitting on an audio recording that some of its staff believes could deal a serious blow to Donald Trump who, in an off-the-record meeting with the newspaper, called into question whether he would stand by his own immigration views.
Sources familiar with the recording and transcript — which have reached near-mythical status at the Times — tell me that the second sentence is a bit more than speculation. It reflects, instead, something Trump said about the flexibility of his hard-line anti-immigration stance.
So what exactly did Trump say about immigration, about deportations, about the wall? Did he abandon a core promise of his campaign in a private conversation with liberal power brokers in New York?
If you are shocked by this, please don’t tell me. I’d still like to not laugh when I hear your name. Since this election season has started I’ve learned more than I had any desire to know about Trump’s business practices. It doesn’t matter where you look, the failed Trump Casino in Atlantic City, the Trump golf course in Scotland, Trump Vodka, Trump Mortgage, it all starts out with a huge, dare I say “yuge”, over promise or absolute position beyond the point of reason. Then the backs off gradually through negotiation to accepting something much less. Often, he accepts nothing at all.
The same, more likely than not, applies to his immigration policy, to the extent that he has one. He started out with a maximalist, take-no-prisoners opening position to energize voters who have grown tired of the latest kowtow to illegal immigrant groups. He knew full well that deporting 11 million people was never in the cards. Who cares? He’ll be president when he gets to the point where actual policy is being developed. Then he’ll negotiate something Chuck Schumer and his buddies at the US Chamber of Commerce like.