Sublime to Ridiculous
Posted on September 1, 2016
This originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal's Think Tank.
From the sublime to the ridiculous: That’s how Donald Trump’s day went. When he met with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Wednesday afternoon, Donald Trump looked downright presidential.
Journalists were aghast. NeverTrumpers panicked. Some on the left questioned why Hillary Clinton didn’t aggressively bracket the Republican nominee.
And then things went downhill.
Mr. Peña Nieto later tweeted that in their private meeting he had immediately rejected the idea of Mexico paying for the border wall Mr. Trump has repeatedly touted. This conflicted with what Mr. Trump said when he and the Mexican president addressed the media.
Then Mr. Trump went to Phoenix and, amid great anticipation, laid out a 10-point plan that sought to add substance to his immigration plans.
The speech–delivered in a loud, staccato fashion–was repetitive and stretched on for more than an hour and a half. The address and effect were anything but presidential.
The speech didn’t acknowledge essential contributions that immigrants have made to the U.S. economy, historically or today.
It didn’t lay out a realistic path to dealing with the 11 million or so undocumented people who live in the shadows of U.S. communities and neighborhoods.
Mr. Trump’s words and approach effectively suggested that every immigrant who comes to the U.S. is some sort of criminal. People across the U.S. spectrum have concerns about criminal immigrants and crime generally. It’s fine to spend some time on the idea of deporting criminal immigrants. But immigrants–legal or otherwise–aren’t the ones committing most crime in this country, studies have found.
Washington Post polling has found that Mr. Trump is losing among Catholics by 27 points. He is losing college-educated white voters by a similar margin, other surveys suggest. For both of these groups, the idea of “fixing a broken immigration system” does not mean breaking up families and deporting millions of people. It means making repairs or otherwise adopting a rational system that includes a pathway to legalization, and common-sense measures to secure the border.
Mr. Trump exhibited exactly the temperament when he visited with the Mexican president to appeal to voters outside his base of support. But he blew that apart with a bellicose address in Arizona. His campaign lost an opportunity.