Trump’s pivot turned out to be a 360-degree pirouette: back into the mud, where he feels most at home. ~ EUGENE ROBINSON, The Washington Post
I have dreaded having to write this column because I am just about out of snappy Donald Trump rejoinders, although a pundit's recent description of him as "a walking order of deep-fried orange chicken" was pretty good. But my malaise has to do with the glacial speed at which we are heading toward Election Day and more specifically Trump's clocklike "pivots" -- declarations, do-overs, reshufflings, game changers and something or others -- that are greeted by his sycophancy and a news media hungry for a fresh angle as being stop-the-presses developments that will suddenly make him a viable candidate.
This week's pivot concerns rumblings from the Trump campaign that he is poised to come forth with a kinder and gentle immigration policy. This from a man who roared to the top of the Republican presidential race by promising to build a border wall, deport 11 million people and not let in anyone who isn't related to Jerry Falwell.
When I first heard the news, I figured that Trump would propose a wall only half as tall, deportation for only 5.5 million people and perhaps let in a few people of the Jewish persuasion here and there. Surprise, surprise! It turns out the pivot is nothing more than one of Trump's patented exercises in mixed messaging -- on this occasion a vague suggestion to his hitherto unknown Hispanic advisory council and an obtuse reference or two in an interview or three that he might be open to not deporting illegal immigrants outright. Or something.
There are all kinds of problems here, all of Trump's own making, of course.
A real immigration policy change, and I am skeptical that there indeed is one, leaves Trump vulnerable to charges that his original policy was awful, which of course it was, and will not enamor him to his pitchfork brigade, for whom no anti-immigration measure can be too harsh. Same with his halting efforts to reach out but not really reach out to blacks without alienating the racists who got him to the big dance. (Oh, and the reason Trump doesn't hold rallies in black neighborhoods is that they're "not a safe environment," according to a former campaign manager.)
Trump's immigration fan dance leaves open the question of whether he would be proposing anything different than the status quo.
Federal law already allows illegals to apply for citizenship as an alternative to deportation in some instances. And if history serves, Trump's new position -- if he turns out to have one -- probably would stir in a dollop of what President Obama has long proposed (George W. Bush did, too) but merely be a variation on the standard Republican dodge of demanding that immigration authorities enforce existing law without saying exactly what that means.
Then there is the awkward economic reality that at least 8 million of those 11 million illegals have jobs, many have been in the country longer than Melania Trump has, and they do stuff like washing dishes and mowing lawns at Trump's country clubs that we don't want to dirty our hands doing.
The pivot is . . . uh, pivoting while his campaign runs its first general-election TV ad. This dystopian masterwork portrays immigrants as a dire threat to national security, falsely suggests they collect Social Security benefits, and implies they will do bad things to your daughter. On Monday, Trump recommitted to building a border wall during a rally in Ohio, one of the swing states where the ad is running, and on Tuesday campaigned in Texas with the mothers of victims killed by illegal immigrants. Meanwhile, his campaign keeps postponing plans for "a big immigration speech" and newly-minted campaign boss Kellyanne Conway tells reporters that the boss's deportation policy is "to be determined."
For those of you not keeping score, Trump's other pivots have included:
* Committing to chilling out after securing the nomination in May, but instead dissing a judge of Mexican ancestry presiding over Trump University lawsuits and finding vile new names to call Hillary Clinton.
* Firing campaign manager Corey Lewandowski in June and hiring the all-wise Paul Manafort, but then ignoring his pleas to tone down by going on a Twitter bender while his poll numbers tanked.
* Promising to showcase his yugeness at the Republican convention in July but instead delivering a four day prime-time tutorial on fear and loathing that included incitements to violence.
* Replacing Manafort with Stephan Bannon and Conway in August, who sent Trump out on a "sorry" tour that was over before it began and then had him helicopter into flood-ravaged Louisiana dressed like Judge Smalls at the yacht club.
Trump's peanut gallery and the media can grasp at pivot straws all they want, but the reality is that Trump was, is and shall forever be an undisciplined narcissist who is no more capable of making course corrections than the Titanic, so what we end up with is periodic deck chair rearranging as the mighty November 8 iceberg hoves into view.
At this point, confirmed by the latest round of national and state polls coming out of the field about the time the "new" immigration policy crawled out of its crib, Trump has little chance of improving his dismal position with Hispanics, let alone anyone else not locked and loaded with an AR-15, despite smacked-ass helpmate Newt Gingrich declaring that with junkyard dogs Bannon and Conway in the wheelhouse, The Donald will beat Clinton by a "surprising margin."
And yes, the media has finally gotten inside Trump's head, which is another reason he is incapable of changing.
This welcome development is confirmed by the deep-fried orange chicken man turning up the volume on whining that the media won't cut him a break. Recent nasties include stories on his mighty business empire imploding under nearly $1 billion in debt, the gory details of his serial bankruptcies, which by design screw investors while he makes out handsomely, diddling the tax man over the valuation of his country clubs, his ties to American organized crime figures and Russian oligarchs, his failure to cough up a single cent of the charitable contributions he claimed to make on "The Apprentice," and more recently his failure to come through on promised donations for Louisiana flood relief.
Oh, and reports that Melania may turn out to have been one of those illegal immigrants.
POLITIX UPDATE IS WRITTEN BY SHAUN MULLEN, A VETERAN JOURNALIST AND BLOGGER FOR WHOM THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN IS HIS 12th SINCE 1968. CLICK HERE FOR AN INDEX OF PREVIOUS COLUMNS.
© 2015-2016 SHAUN D. MULLEN
IMAGE FROM DONKEYHOTEY/FLICKR. USED WITH PERMISSION.