Here’s Trump last night on Hannity commenting on BuzzFeed’s scoop about what he did and didn’t say to the Times editorial board about immigration. The key bit starts around halfway through. If you read my post yesterday, you know what he probably said — something along the lines of what he said to Byron York in January, that his positions are strongly held but “That doesn’t mean that at some point we won’t talk a little bit about some negotiation.” Hannity asked him how much negotiation he’d be willing to consider. Maybe I’d be willing to make the wall two feet shorter, Trump joked, but not building the wall? Not negotiable. How about legalizing some of the illegals who are here, Hannity asked? They’re going to “go out,” Trump replies, “but we will work out some system that’s fair.” If you’re probing for spots where Trump might let border hawks down, that’s much more likely than him caving on the wall. He can’t back down on the wall; it’s the centerpiece of his campaign, practically a metaphor for Trumpism. He could, however, accept some sort of legalization as the price of Democratic cooperation on the wall, especially since no one takes his ridiculous “touchback” amnesty for deported illegals very seriously anyway. That would be a fine irony to this election — if President Trump, the supposed wrecker of the GOP establishment’s hoped-for rapprochement with Latino voters, ended up signing some form of comprehensive immigration reform once in office.
His campaign chairman told CNN yesterday that Trump won’t back down on mass deportation (“we have a plan”) but don’t count my scenario out. Michael Brendan Dougherty’s forecast of how a Trump presidency might go seems plenty plausible:
Trump University is exactly the type of venture that foreshadows the Trump presidential campaign. Trump sold people on the institution with videos of Trump making extravagant promises about the quality of the school compared to his own Wharton, but it turned out to be a fleecing operation of the worst sort. The leaders of Trump University were given instructions on how to get potential students to go deeper into debt. A Trump presidency would yield for its supporters the same rotten disappointment.
Trump can and likely will win the Republican nomination shortly. Hillary Clinton, an extraordinarily weak campaigner, will win the Democratic nomination, making a Trump presidency a real possibility. If he wins, my expectation is that by the end of Trump’s first term, perhaps 50 miles of wall would be half-constructed on the border, not paid for by Mexico. Trump would likely institute his “touchback” amnesty plan, and some thousands may take advantage, but millions of illegal immigrants would probably prefer to live as they have in the United States, and overall immigration enforcement would relax.
American foreign policy would turn on public opinion, causing Trump and his hyper-aggrieved sense of honor to involve our nation in military commitments he doesn’t bother to understand or have patience to see through. His strategic absence of mind may be accompanied by his relish at instituting things “worse than waterboarding” as he promised. By 2020, no major trade deals will have been renegotiated and the de-industrialization of the American nation will continue at the rate jobs can be outsourced and machines can replace human labor.
It depends on what Trump does when he faces Democratic opposition in Congress. The only sure thing about next year is that the Senate will be bluer than it is now — maybe only a little bluer, with the GOP clinging to its majority, or maybe a lot bluer, with Chuck Schumer in command. Either way, Democrats will have more than enough votes to filibuster anything and everything they like. Trump would need a Reagan-esque landslide to claim a mandate that might cause some of them to roll over, but a Trump landslide is pretty much the only outcome this fall (barring some sort of force majeure, like another sharp economic downturn) that seems radically unlikely. What happens when he tells Congress “Fund my wall!” and Schumer responds with a double-handed flipping o’ the bird? What does the great dealmaker do at that point to obtain Democratic cooperation? I’ve seen a thousand Trump interviews over the past eight months and can’t recall him ever once being asked how he’d counter Democratic (not to mention conservative) obstructionism. Or maybe he was asked and gave his usual “Don’t worry, trust me, it’s gonna be beautiful” non-answer and I forgot.
Anyway. The only way the “secret” Times audio does any damage, assuming it’s ever released, is if he said something unusually forthright about being willing to come off his insistence on mass deportation. He will come off it once in office but he needs to stick on that as a candidate, which is why he told Hannity here that illegals will need to “go out” first before legalization is addressed. Even so, one of the great mysteries of the campaign to me is why Trump supporters have so placidly accepted his plan for a touchback amnesty in the first place. If the point of Trumpism is to eliminate foreign competition for American jobs, why the fark would you readmit legally most of the foreign workers you just went to the trouble of deporting? If Trump voters aren’t willing to ditch him over that, what could he possibly have said to the Times that would peel them off?