President Donald Trump’s pre-election campaign of fear and loathing crested this week with a latter-day version of the infamous “Willie Horton” political ad of the 1980s.
The Horton ad highlighted a recidivist African-American felon and was widely condemned as playing to racist fears. So what was at the top of Trump’s Twitter feed on Halloween? Footage of a grinning, twice-deported Mexican immigrant being sentenced to death for killing two California law officers, with a Trump admonition: “It is outrageous what the Democrats are doing to our Country.”
The fact that Democrats had nothing to do with this man — or that undocumented immigrants actually commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans — is apparently of no matter as Trump stumps for Republican candidates around the USA. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., called the ad “sickening” and “just a new low in campaigning.”
GINGRICH: President Trump is reflecting anger, not creating it
“Be afraid, be very afraid” is a time-honored political trope. But Trump is taking it to whole new levels:
►When a few thousand migrants broke through Guatemalan border fencing to enter Mexico last month and began hiking to the United States to seek asylum, it might have been prudent to supplement the Border Patrol agents and 2,000 National Guard troops already on hand with a few hundred active-duty service members for logistical support (they’re barred by law from any enforcement action). But that wasn’t dramatic enough for Trump. He declared a national emergency, described the migrants as invaders, and dispatched 5,200 troops to the border, with an additional 8,000 to possibly follow. That would create an army larger than the U.S. employs against the Taliban and terrorism in Afghanistan. It would also be enormously expensive; a government study found that a 2006 troop deployment to the border cost $120 per person per day.
►Adding to his anti-immigrant theatrics, Trump resurrected an unworkable campaign promise to deny citizenship to babies born in the USA to undocumented immigrants, a birthright that most legal scholars say is guaranteed by the 14th Amendment and a subsequent Supreme Court ruling. Trump boasted he could alter the Constitution with an executive order. Such an order, until blocked by a federal judge, could create a new underclass of infant children in legal and administrative limbo.
►With health care emerging as a top election issue, Trump shamelessly promises at rallies to safeguard coverage of pre-existing conditions. Except he has done precisely the opposite, working unsuccessfully to undermine Obamacare’s pre-existing coverage guarantee and adopting the same sort of “Mediscare” language that Democrats used to wield against Republicans.
Perhaps the most cynical ploy was promising on Oct. 20 a 10 percent middle-class tax cut by this week. Of course, that hasn’t happened. For one thing, Congress, which would have to approve the cut, is out of session. So Trump simply shifted gears and vaguely promised something after the election. The tax proposal, which came as news to legislators and even some White House staffers, is a grasping giveaway after his No. 1 legislative achievement — a $1.5 trillion tax cut package disproportionately benefiting the wealthy — landed with a deficit-swelling thud.
These flailing election gestures by the president range from prejudicial to unworkable to unaffordable. They represent sound and fury that ultimately signify little of substance. Thoughtful voters will see right through them.
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