Via Politico, does it matter if he’s right or not? Will it cost Trump a single vote either way? So loyal are his supporters that the guy could pledge mass amnesty tomorrow and the spin would be that he’ll “get things done” or that he’s “playing eight-dimensional chess.”
But let’s play Rubio’s game and pretend like that matters. Is he right? Well, Trump did say this after the 2012 election:
“Republicans didn’t have anything going for them with respect to Latinos and with respect to Asians,” the billionaire developer says.
“The Democrats didn’t have a policy for dealing with illegal immigrants, but what they did have going for them is they weren’t mean-spirited about it,” Trump says. “They didn’t know what the policy was, but what they were is they were kind.”…
“He had a crazy policy of self deportation which was maniacal,” Trump says. “It sounded as bad as it was, and he lost all of the Latino vote,” Trump notes. “He lost the Asian vote. He lost everybody who is inspired to come into this country.”
Self-deportation is mean-spirited and maniacal because it offends people who are inspired by the idea of migration to America? That does sound like something an amnesty fan would say. What about Trump’s alleged support of the DREAM Act? There’s evidence of that too, although it comes from DREAMers themselves. Here’s their account of a meeting with Trump in 2013:
But he also kept asking, “Can’t you just become a citizen if you want to?” No, we can’t, the activists said, there’s no process for that. Trump was reflective, the activists said…
Trump said he knew the work of undocumented people is what makes his golf courses and hotels great.
“At the end of the day, what we’re looking at is a value proposition for America,” Tijerino said to Trump at the end of the meeting, referring to immigration legislation.
“You’ve convinced me,” Trump said to the delight of the activists in the room.
“We all smiled at each other and said, ‘Wow, we did it, we got this guy to change his mind,’” Pacheco said.
If you believe Pacheco, then yeah, he was soft on DREAMers too. On the other hand, less than six months after criticizing Romney for pushing self-deportation, Trump spoke at CPAC in March 2013 and sounded pretty darned hawkish in opposing a path to citizenship for illegals: “The fact is,” he said, “11 million people will be voting Democratic.” That cuts against Rubio’s claim that Trump only changed his position recently, in order to run for president.
But maybe we’re looking at Trump’s positions on the issue the wrong way, as clear-cut flip-flops from position A to position B. More likely, I think, is that the guy simply hasn’t formulated a clear, consistent policy on legalization in his own mind, which makes him susceptible to tilting in confusing ways when he comes under pressure from a questioner. For instance, here’s an already famous exchange with O’Reilly from just this past summer:
Bill O’Reilly: Now, the 15 million illegal aliens already in the United States, what do you do with them?
Donald Trump: I think right now you’re going to have to do something. It’s hard to generalize, but you’re going to have to look at the individual people, see how they’ve done, see how productive they’ve been, see what their references are, and then make a decision.
Bill O’Reilly: All right, on a case-by-case—going to take a long time and a lot of people.
Donald Trump: A long time, but you know, you have some great, productive people that came.
You have to give them a path. You have 20 million, 30 million, nobody knows what it is. It used to be 11 million. Now, today I hear it’s 11, but I don’t think it’s 11. I actually heard you probably have 30 million. You have to give them a path, and you have to make it possible for them to succeed. You have to do that.
A path? A path to what? Note well: He said this weeks after the comments in his announcement speech about Mexican rapists that turned him into an overnight hero among border hawks. A few weeks later, he was telling Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” that we need to deport all illegals — something not mentioned by the immigration plan on his own campaign website. Then he had that hiccup at the debate last week where he seemed not to know that the website described Rubio as “Mark Zuckerberg’s personal senator” and appeared open to H-1B visas even though his official policy is witheringly critical of expanding them for low-skilled workers in STEM industries. Trump’s “vision” for immigration policy is straightforward on basic security — build a wall, reduce the number sneaking across the border — but in terms of legalization, it may amount to whatever happens to sound good on a particular day.
Convenient of Rubio to attack him on that, no? Presumably the idea here is to make his own big weakness everybody else’s weakness too. If everyone onstage is a flip-flopping hypocrite on immigration, including Donald Trump, then Rubio’s own flip-flop theoretically doesn’t sting as much. Here he is this morning attacking Trump, and here’s a golden oldie from the 2010 Senate campaign of Rubio dismissing “earned citizenship” — a key plank in his own Gang of Eight bill — as code for amnesty.