We’re thinking about that lovely bipartisan meeting the president hosted Tuesday with members of Congress about immigration.
Everybody was impressed by how concerned Trump seemed to be about all the young Dreamers suddenly facing possible deportation.
“I came out feeling the president had made it very clear he wants this resolved ASAP,” said Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the House Democratic whip.
The only problem is that Trump seems to be committed to two totally contradictory ideas on what to do. Is he being your typical pol? Your typical loony person? Something in between?
Right now the real immigration crisis is about the 800,000 young people who were brought here illegally as children and given protection under the Obama administration.
Trump hates calling them Dreamers, so he refers to them as “the DACA population,” after the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protected them. Until he terminated it.
They could be in danger of deportation beginning in March. The Tuesday Trump was very disturbed about this situation. Really, you’d hardly have known that he was the one who created it. He called for “a bill of love” to make things right.
The fix is actually pretty easy. There’s a bipartisan bill floating around the House right now that would protect the Dreamers from deportation and add more money for technology to guard the border. Then later on, if it’s feeling ambitious, Congress could tackle a big immigration reform. That would include a path to citizenship for many of the illegal immigrants here now and some sops to conservatives, like restrictions on their ability to bring in relatives.
And yeah, maybe some wall equivalent. We don’t need to discuss that now. The Dreamers are an immediate crisis.
But even if you thought building a monstrous multibillion-dollar barrier along the border was a good idea, it’s not something that’s going to happen any time soon.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., proposed doing “a clean DACA bill now” followed by a major immigration reform later. Trump thought that was a great idea. “We’re going to do DACA,” he announced, “and then we can start immediately on the phase two, which would be comprehensive.”
So easy, so bipartisan, so ... bill of love. “We’re on the same page,” Trump told the gathering. “We are, we are,” said Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, who had been arguing strenuously against the wall idea.
Then Wednesday the president shouted “No! No! No!” when asked if he’d be open to any deal on the immediately endangered Dreamers that didn’t also involve his Mexican wall.
This was at an appearance with the poor prime minister of Norway, who had to look sympathetic when Trump managed to find ways – in a rather short news conference – to brag about the U.S. trade surplus with her country, say “no collusion” seven times, brag about winning the Electoral College and attack Hillary Clinton. Plus, torpedo the DACA plan.
So Trump, who told those Congress members he would “take the heat” for anything they wanted to do to save the Dreamers, threw up a wall. How do we explain all this?
Here’s an answer. We are well aware by now that there are several incarnations of the president, from the Somewhat Normal Republican Trump (SNORT) to the Nearly Unhinged Trump (NUT). The one we saw at the bipartisan meeting was the Reasonable Chatty Trump, whose pleasant disposition makes up for the fact that the initials don’t spell anything.
The Reasonable version can sit through a fairly long gathering nodding, agreeing, making the occasional joke and appearing to be an excellent listener. When he’s actually not paying any attention at all.
What do you think was actually on Trump’s mind when Feinstein asked that question?
Was he picturing Steve Bannon curled up in the fetal position, crying under his bed?
Or imagining the networks swooning over his warmhearted concern for those ... DACA persons?
Or just thinking about lunch?
Your guess is as good as mine. But the great part of this tactic is that everybody walks away feeling they’ve made a real impression. Until it becomes clear that nothing ever sinks in.
Gail Collins is a columnist for The New York Times. Reach her c/o NYT, Editorial Department, 620 8th Ave., New York, NY 10018. © 2017 New York Times News Service