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Rosemary Westwood: Trump's surprising statements on DACA stings his base

The president’s penchant to speak off the top of his head swings, it’s clear, both ways. This isn’t the first time he’s broken with GOP policy or even his own campaign promises.

President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with lawmakers on immigration policy in the Cabinet Room of the White House Tuesday.

Evan Vucci / The Associated Press

President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with lawmakers on immigration policy in the Cabinet Room of the White House Tuesday.

The U.S. political right is ripping into the president.

This week revealed “a completely different Donald Trump” on immigration policy — arguably the president’s signature issue after he launched his campaign by claiming Mexico is “bringing ... their rapists” to the U.S. — and not in a good way for Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

While some marvelled at Trump’s mild tone on Tuesday during a highly unusual immigration-reform debate between lawmakers from both parties, Trump’s base, Carlson among them, looked on in outrage.

Here was their champion of the border wall talking about amnesty for “Dreamers” — young people brought to the U.S. as undocumented children who receive protection from deportation under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy).

“In a remarkable twist, the president held a televised meeting with the very swamp creatures he once denounced,” Tucker bristled during his show that night. “He told them he trusted them to craft immigration policy, without his input. Then he suggested he’d be willing to accept any deal they produced, even a bad one.”

Right-wing political celebrity Ann Coulter slammed “the DACA lovefest.” Fox commentator Michelle Malkin warned that if Trump “reneges on this promise” of zero amnesty for undocumented immigrants, “it will be hell to pay, not just for Donald Trump but for the entire Republican party.”

Trump’s base has often cheered his loose-cannon leadership, most prominently displayed on Twitter, as part of his no-prisoners, anti-political-correctness brand of politics.

But the president’s penchant to speak off the top of his head swings, it’s clear, both ways. This isn’t the first time he’s broken with GOP policy or even his own campaign promises.

He’s also guiding the debate from a position of misinformation. Critics noted Trump had little of substance to say about immigration policy this week, and he’s repeated immigration myths, having for example claimed 10 times (by the count of Daniel Dale, Washington bureau chief for the Toronto Star) that governments “give you the people they don’t want” through the diversity visa lottery, also known as the green card lottery. That’s a typical Trump claim, without merit, whether he’s talking about legal or illegal immigration.

Why Trump is so prone to shifting positions is unclear. Is it the influence of liberal-by-Trump-standards Ivanka and Jared butting up against conservative advisers Stephen Miller and (formerly) Steve Bannon? Trump’s own desire to be generally liked (at least above his 40 per cent approval rating)? Or a function of his preference for grand claims over nitty-gritty details?

Whatever the cause, Trump quickly sought to ease critics. “Our country needs the security of the Wall on the Southern Border, which must be part of any DACA approval,” he tweeted in the evening. A few hours later he made a point of praising immigration officers.

What he says next is anyone’s guess.

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