SAN DIEGO – Some people believe that Donald Trump is a Democratic mole who is in the Republican presidential race to scare away voters from the GOP and torpedo otherwise-promising Republican contenders by getting them to co-sign crazy.
Those who believe that Trump is a Democrat in Republicans’ clothing will wince at the question that NBC News’ Kasie Hunt put to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker this week at the Iowa State Fair:
“Do you think birthright citizenship should be ended?”
Trump does. Supposedly. Although since the real-estate tycoon is a master manipulator who has over the years changed position on a variety of issues, no one can be sure what Trump believes about anything.
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The candidate’s nearly 1,900-word policy paper on immigration suggests hitting “delete” on the 14th Amendment to ensure that the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants are no longer granted citizenship at birth.
Conservative commentator Ann Coulter – who pollutes the immigration debate with her ridiculous rants – tweeted approvingly:
“I don’t care if @realDonaldTrump wants to perform abortions in White House after this immigration policy paper.”
Stay classy, Ann.
Anyone who passed eighth-grade civics will know that changing the Constitution is nearly impossible because it involves getting the support of two-thirds of Congress and three-fourths of the states. Anyone who has followed the immigration debate will note the irony that many of those who consider U.S. citizenship sacred when denying it to the undocumented suddenly consider it less sacred when stripping it away from their offspring. And any lawyer who was not absent the day they taught law in law school will tell you that, if you want to pick a fight with the judicial branch, this is the wrong battle. The courts have defended birthright citizenship without fail.
Besides, conservatives always talk about how they want to protect the Constitution. So now we have to destroy the founding document in order to save it?
Trump’s immigration proposals are a hot mess that can be summed up as follows: Build a wall, enforce the law, and protect the jobs of Americans.
But who can be sure that any of this is real?
President Barack Obama promised to make immigration reform a top priority, tried to explain away record numbers of deportations by claiming that he lacked the executive power to halt them, insisted that his administration was only deporting dangerous criminals and not hardworking people looking for a better life, and pledged that thousands of women and children refugees from Central America would be treated humanely.
None of this was true. It was all one big con job intended to fool the Democratic base.
Likewise, Trump’s policy paper is a mixture of bluster, generalities and vagueness. You hear what you want to hear.
As when Trump tells Chuck Todd, moderator of NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “We’re going to keep the families together. But they have to go.”
This isn’t the same as declaring that you would forcibly remove entire families. One could do what Obama did: Deport undocumented parents, and hope their U.S.-born children follow.
Those on the right who take Trump at face value on immigration will likely be just as disappointed as those on the left who were taken in by Obama.
This brings us back to the idea of ending birthright citizenship, which is catnip to the nativist wing of the GOP.
So when NBC’s Hunt asked Walker if he wanted to jump onboard Mr. Trump’s Wild Ride, the governor said uncomfortably:
“Yeah, to me it’s about enforcing the laws in this country. And I’ve been very clear, I think you enforce the laws, and I think it’s important to send a message that we’re going to enforce the laws, no matter how people come here, we’re going to enforce the laws in this country.”
No one who has studied Walker’s multiple choice positions on whether we should give the undocumented legal status would agree that he has been “very clear” on immigration.
What is clear is that Walker, and the other GOP contenders, would likely never have been dragged into the thorny debate over birthright citizenship if not for Trump. And now with his spineless “me-tooism,” Walker has disqualified himself from the race. Moderates won’t go near him, and the folks who agree with him are with Trump anyway. That’s a recipe for losing.
Thanks for playing, Governor. You’re done.
Republicans, beware of the Trump trap. Things are not what they seem. Every policy proposal is really a character test. And a presidential campaign is a terrible thing to waste.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.