When asked about how he would deal with the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already here in the United States, Donald Trump has always had one simple, blunt, crowd-pleasing answer:
"They have to go. They have to go."
When opponents such as Jeb Bush argued that mass deportation was inhumane, Trump scoffed at them as "so weak." When he was told that it was impractical to try to ferret out and uproot so many people, he brought up Operation Wetback, the attempted mass deportation back in the '50s, as a model that he would emulate.
Remember his campaign announcement?
"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. ... They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people. But I speak to border guards and they tell us what we're getting. And it only makes common sense. It only makes common sense. They're sending us not the right people."
No longer. Down in the polls and his bigotry hanging around his neck like an albatross, he now talks of all the great people, good, hard-working people from Mexico. In a town-hall meeting in Texas last night, with fan boy Sean Hannity at his side, Trump channeled Jeb Bush himself in describing his new approach to illegal immigrants:
"They'll pay back taxes. They have to pay taxes, there's no amnesty, as such, there's no amnesty, but we work with them. Now, everybody agrees we get the bad ones out. But when I go through and I meet thousands and thousands of people on this subject, and I've had very strong people come up to me, really great, great people come up to me, and they've said, 'Mr. Trump, I love you, but to take a person who's been here for 15 or 20 years and throw them and their family out, it's so tough, Mr. Trump,' I have it all the time! It's a very, very hard thing."
That's not amnesty, insists Trump, yet it is certainly amnesty as he and others have defined it and derided it for the past few years. Suddenly he wants to focus on deporting the criminals, just as Obama has done, while giving legal status to "the good ones" so they can stay here, just as Obama has tried to do.
"What people don't know is that Obama got tremendous numbers of people out of the country," Trump explained Monday. "Bush, the same thing. Lots of people were brought out of the country with the existing laws. Well, I'm going to do the same thing."
The payment of back taxes as the price of legalization is also right out of the Obama approach and the plan pushed by Marco Rubio and the rest of the Gang of Eight. And the man who a year ago was arguing that children born here to illegal immigrants were not U.S. citizens and ought to be booted back to where they didn't come from is now suddenly expressing deep sympathy for those who have been here 15 or 20 years and have built families and lives here.
I guess you could applaud Trump for his change of heart, but that implies the existence of a heart in the first place. This position is no more sincerely held than his previous position. This is the act of a soulless grifter who knows the con is falling apart just short of the payoff, and who is desperately shifting stories in an attempt to patch it together.
And it's interesting. At the virulently anti-immigrant Breitbart.com, where Trump's new campaign CEO used to preside, you have to search hard to find any mention of Trump's monumental betrayal. There's no mention at all on Drudge. It's as if it never really happened, as if they don't believe for a moment that this "new Trump"is for real.
Well, I don't believe it either.