Trump: "What I'd like to do is a comprehensive immigration plan"

How many times does he need to express interest in comprehensive reform before we start believing him? Because he’s done it a lot, you know.

Best-case scenario: He understands now that this is the “correct” thing to say to the media to keep them off his back on amnesty, and more importantly he understands that there’s no pressure at all on him to deliver. The right isn’t going to hassle him about it and the left knows only too well that getting a comprehensive immigration bill through Congress is only slightly less difficult than Middle East peace. Bush was all for it and couldn’t make it happen; Obama was all for it and couldn’t make it happen (with a filibuster-proof majority!). Trump can pretend to be all for it and then duly ignore it for four or eight years as needed. Would a guy who’s contemplating reducing legal immigration really be thinking of ways to legalize illegals? C’mon.

Worse-case scenario: He really is all for it.

The president was asked about Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly’s comments to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that President Obama’s amnesty for illegal immigrants who arrived as minors, DACA, might be terminated due to legal challenges from Republican states.

“It’s a decision that I make and it’s a decision that’s very very hard to make. I really understand the situation now,” President Trump replied. “I understand the situation very well. What I’d like to do is a comprehensive immigration plan. But our country and political forces are not ready yet.”…

Trump added, “There are two sides of a story. It’s always tough.”

“I really understand the situation now”? Immigration was his policy bread-and-butter during the campaign!

John Kelly did indeed tell Hispanic members of Congress this week that there are no guarantees of DACA surviving in court, and in fact wouldn’t even commit to having the administration defend the program even though Trump’s kept it going during the first six months of his presidency. That’s one way for Trump to get out of the DACA trap that has him caught between amnesty fans on the left and border hawks on the right — let the courts strike it down as unconstitutional and then blame the whole thing on Obama. Another possibility, though, is that he and Kelly are dangling DACA as leverage to get Democrats to the table on comprehensive reform. That’s been the big mystery in Trump continuing Obama’s amnesty for DREAMers: Why not get something in return for it? Threaten to make it go away and maybe Chuck Schumer will decide that it’s time to make some concessions on security after all. Maybe Trump belatedly figured that out and now he’s trying to throw the fate of DACA into doubt — while reminding the other party that he’s open to comprehensive reform if they want to make him an offer.

He made these comments, by the way, while on Air Force One en route to France, which produced one of the longest handshakes in modern world history this morning. I think Macron’s charm offensive with Trump these past few days is a shrewd way to entice him into reconsidering his decision to pull out of the Paris accord. Merkel’s relationship with Trump is already too strained for effective persuasion but Macron’s starting with a clean slate. He seems to understand that flattery, in this case replete with lots of pomp and circumstance as an honored guest on Bastille Day, is a crucial tool in getting the president to like you and consider you a “friend” to whom he might do “favors,” like rethinking America’s climate-change policy. The personal is political, especially with Trump.