Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Opinion: 'Amnesty Don' betrays his base

Well, well, well ....

After campaigning for months on an angry, "deport 'em all" theme, President Trump reached a broad if still undefined deal Wednesday night with Democratic leaders in which he will support amnesty for some 800,000 illegal immigrants brought here as children.

They will get legal status. They will get work permits. They will also get a pathway to full American citizenship, which will include the right to vote.

Because as Trump put it in a tweet this morning:

On the one hand, I agree with him. On the other, it's impossible to forget that he himself wanted to "throw out good, educated and accomplished young people," that he had made such a deed a central focus of his campaign.

In addition, Trump has agreed with Democrats not to demand funding for his precious "wall" as a condition of this amnesty, which he wants passed soon. As described by both Trump and his Democratic partners, the final deal would include additional funding for border security, and Trump would continue to at least pretend to seek wall construction through other means.

In fact, in Trump's new telling, "building that beautiful wall" to replace the "little toy walls" now in existence has been redefined to mean repairing and extending those very same "little toy walls." That too is quite a change in policy and tone.

As you might expect, the reaction from the right has been delicious. At Steve Bannon's home site at Breitbart, Trump has suddenly become "Amnesty Don," the man who has shamefully executed "a full-fledged cave on the issue of giving amnesty."

Breitbart commenters were even more blunt:

And then there were these shining examples of conservative leadership:

Trump's new position doesn't by any means guarantee that Republican leaders in Congress will go along with his deal. However, if Trump's six-month extension of DACA ends without congressional action and highly unpopular deportations begin, he will have handed Democrats a mighty powerful weapon to use against GOP incumbents in the 2018 mid-terms.


UPDATE at 4:20 p.m.: It now appears that in response to conservative blowback, Trump is trying to back out of the deal that he had earlier confirmed. As a White House spokesman put it, clarifying nothing, "The Trump administration will not be discussing amnesty. What the Trump administration will discuss is a responsible path forward in immigration reform, that could include legal citizenship over a period of time."

So, no talk of amnesty, but a path to legal citizenship, sure!  It all confirms the thesis below.


Finally, nobody should be under any illusions that this latest iteration is somehow the "real Donald Trump." There is no real Donald Trump. The man is a shape-shifter, becoming whatever he needs to be at any given moment before any given crowd to win applause for Donald Trump. He doesn't "dance with the girl who brought him," as the saying goes. He'll dance with any damn girl who strikes his fancy, including the wives and daughters of his friends.

And if that means that those who put their faith in him feel completely betrayed, then in his mind that's their fault for falling for it.

Which of course it is.


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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.