If ignorance is bliss, Trump must be very happy
WASHINGTON -- If you want to know President Trump's position on any given policy issue, the last person you should ask is President Trump. He has no idea what he thinks.
Seriously, no clue. In office nearly a full year, evidently he has only the most tenuous grasp of the issues that come before him -- including the issues that were central to his campaign. Usually, a president's pronouncements set policy. Trump's words -- however provocative or bizarre -- are often irrelevant.
It was an astonishing moment Tuesday, at Trump's televised "negotiation" with congressional leaders on immigration, when Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., asked whether the president would support a "clean" or stand-alone bill providing relief for the estimated 700,000 "Dreamers" who were brought to the United States illegally when they were children. Legislation that would let them stay is known in Washington acronym-speak as DACA.
"I have no problem ... We're going to do DACA, and then we can start immediately on the phase two, which would be comprehensive," Trump said. When Feinstein asked again if he would be agreeable to this approach, Trump said, "Yeah, I would like to do that. I think a lot of people would like to see that. But I think we have to do DACA first."
Republicans around the table freaked out. Trump had adopted the Democrats' position and abandoned his own, which is, or was, that any action to help the Dreamers had to be accompanied by tough-on-immigration measures -- such as funding for Trump's border wall. (Never mind that Mexico was supposed to pay for the wall, if you believed Trump's campaign rhetoric.)
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., quickly jumped in to clarify that what the president obviously meant by "yes" was "no."
The televised part of the session lasted 55 minutes, and the president seemed uncharacteristically agreeable throughout. As in, agreeable to anything: He actually said at one point that he would sign whatever immigration bill the assembled legislators managed to pass.
On another issue, the White House made clear what it wanted Congress to do about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act: reject a measure that would restrict the government's ability to conduct domestic surveillance of Americans. But on Thursday, Trump undercut his own position with a morning tweet:
"'House votes on controversial FISA ACT today.' This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?"
So it sounded as if Trump might be in favor of limiting potential FISA abuses. But a couple of hours later, the president tweeted again to say, basically, never mind. It was widely speculated that the first, rogue tweet had been prompted by a headline crawling by on "Fox & Friends."