At Mass on Sunday, Catholics around the world heard the gospel parable of the Good Samaritan: It is the story Jesus told of a Samaritan encountering on the road a Jewish man—a foreigner to him—who had been beaten and left for dead. While others walked by and let the man suffer, the Samaritan stopped, dressed his wounds and took him to safety despite their deep cultural differences.
At about the time that gospel was being proclaimed, President Trump tweeted out his already-famous, incendiary declaration that young Democratic congresswomen criticizing America should “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
The contrast in those Sunday messages was striking. So too was the evolution in Republican rhetoric from the days of Ronald Reagan, an earlier GOP president who, in his farewell address, talked of America as a “shining city” that was “teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace” and whose “doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”
Mr. Trump’s tweet came at a time when the country already was pained by television images of illegal immigrants packed into chain-link pens at the border, and while the immigration and Customs Enforcement agency was beginning a wave of raids to round up undocumented immigrants.
There is a root cause for all this: The country is being riven by a seething immigration debate, left unresolved by successive administrations and Congresses. Put bluntly, the immigration system is broken and needs fixing, yet the emotions now being stirred probably are making it less likely, not more likely, that it will be fixed any time soon.
In his message, Mr. Trump was referring to a group of young congresswomen known as “the squad”—Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. All are minorities and, despite the implication of the president’s tweet, three of the four were born in the U.S.
Ironically, the four outspoken progressives had been a far bigger problem for fellow Democrats, and specifically for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, than for Mr. Trump. They have incensed fellow Democrats by charging them with racist behavior, encouraged progressives to challenge incumbent Democratic lawmakers, and undercut the party’s attempts to modulate its message to win back moderate and working-class voters who drifted toward Mr. Trump in 2016.
In fact, comments by Trump allies suggest they would like to make those controversial congresswomen the new face of the Democratic party in the eyes of middle-of-the-road Americans.
The president’s attack on the congresswomen had significant racial overtones, because all four are women of color. But the policy debate running beneath the charged rhetoric is over immigration.
The nuts and bolts of the immigration problem now riveting the country are relatively simple. Rampant social violence and economic dislocation are compelling working men and women in Central America to seek a way out. Current immigration law and court rulings have created a muddle over when and how such people might seek asylum in the U.S., and what should be done with them when they do so.
The asylum option is drawing northward thousands of immigrants. A sensible U.S. policy solution would be to
- clarify the law’s provisions about asylum,
- establish a more sensible system for handling asylum seekers and their families, and
- provide more help to Central American nations to reduce the problems that compel people to leave in the first place.
As U.S. officials and lawmakers have concluded at various times in the past, the price of helping Central American nations solve their problems there is probably lower in the long run than is paying the financial and social prices of having the problems land here.
Nearly lost in the process is a recognition of the considerable contribution immigrants make to American society. The New American Economy is an organization, funded by business leaders, that has set out to document the contributions immigrants make to U.S. economic growth. On its website, it estimates the impact of immigrants by state, and even by city.
Example: The Kansas City metropolitan area has 140,442 immigrant residents, who pay $1 billion in taxes, have $3.1 billion in spending power, and include 9,625 immigrant entrepreneurs.
Mr. Trump’s supporters often point out that his administration supports legal immigration, and is fighting illegal immigration, which is true. Presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner has overseen the drafting of an immigration proposal that would boost border security while also setting up a merit-based immigration system that would keep the number of legal immigrants at current levels while shifting the mix more to those with needed job and technical skills.
But the congresswomen Mr. Trump targeted also are here legally, a sign of how fast rhetoric can slide downhill.
Are you bothered by fake news, systematic misinformation campaigns and Facebook “dark posts” — micro-targeted ads not visible to the public — aimed at African-Americans to discourage them from voting? You must be one of those people “upset about ideas” you disagree with.
Are you troubled when agents of a foreign power pose online as American Muslims and post incendiary content that right-wing commentators can cite as evidence that all American Muslims are sympathizers of terrorist groups like the Islamic State? Sounds like you can’t handle a healthy debate.
Does it bother you that Russian actors bought advertisements aimed at swing states to sow political discord during the 2016 presidential campaign, and that it took eight months after the election to uncover any of this? Well, the marketplace of ideas isn’t for everyone.
.. bias in the digital sphere is structurally different from that in mass media, and a lot more complicated than what programmers believe.
.. what matters most is not the political beliefs of the employees but the structures, algorithms and incentives they set up, as well as what oversight, if any, they employ to guard against deception, misinformation and illegitimate meddling.
.. by design, business model and algorithm, Facebook has made it easy for it to be weaponized to spread misinformation and fraudulent content.
.. this business model is also lucrative, especially during elections. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, called the 2016 election “a big deal in terms of ad spend” for the company
.. Facebook responds to such pressure as much of the traditional media do: by caving and hiding behind flimsy “there are two sides to everything” arguments.
.. Even the conservative pundit and wild-eyed conspiracy theorist Glenn Beck, of all people, has expressed befuddlement at the charge that Facebook censored conservative content.
.. He has correctly pointed out that Facebook had been a boon for right-wing groups, especially of the alt-right and Breitbart variety
Reince Priebus says that one of his most important tasks as Donald Trump’s chief of staff will be to establish “some level of order within the White House.”
That, of course, has been the central mission of everyone who has held this post in the past, but it is certain to be a particularly daunting challenge with a president who regards chaos as a management tool.
.. the 44-year-old Priebus will be at the center of an experiment to determine whether Trump’s singular style of leadership — honed in his family business, displayed on reality television, and used with devastating effect in a presidential campaign that defied every expectation — will transform Washington as Trump promised or prove ineffective when applied to the more complex work of presiding over the massive federal government.
.. “The president has to make it clear that Reince is first among equals,” said Ken Duberstein, who served as chief of staff under Ronald Reagan. “You’ve got to empower somebody on the staff.”
.. “The chief of staff, I think, has the responsibility to be all-knowing — to decide what the president should know, what he needs to know, what he doesn’t need to know,”
.. But Trump is also known for being swayed by the last person he has talked to, especially if the advice is accompanied by flattery.
.. “Reince has this kind of ‘aw, shucks’ demeanor, but he’s pretty tough,” said former RNC chairman Ed Gillespie.
.. in the wake of The Washington Post’s Oct. 8 revelation of a 2005 tape in which Trump was heard making lewd comments about women and boasting of groping them. The distraught party chairman reportedly urged the GOP nominee to drop out of the race, or face losing it in a landslide.
.. Early on, Priebus used some of those sessions to urge Trump to tamp down his incendiary and divisive rhetoric. That turned out to be futile.
.. it also turned out to be what Priebus called “a perfect marriage.”
.. “It just turns out that the president-elect’s message was ringing extremely true to the electorate and we had the data and the infrastructure to back it up.”
.. One of this most important projects was bringing aboard key party leaders in Priebus’s home state of Wisconsin, which had gone for Sen. Ted Cruz
.. Priebus “was the ultimate diplomat,” said Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whose own 2016 presidential hopes had fallen early victim to Trump. “Paul’s support was critical to sending a message, not just to House members, but just overall Republican voters. Reince was just tenacious.”
.. Priebus has more often than not gotten his way on key administration hires.
.. RNC communications director and Priebus confidant Sean Spicer as press secretary. Katie Walsh, currently Priebus’s chief of staff at the RNC, is considered likely to become a deputy White House chief of staff.
.. His first name is short for Reinhold.
.. took his future wife, Sally, to a party fundraiser on their first date.
.. He became RNC chairman in 2011 at a desperate time for the party, which was $24 million in debt. It had a little more than $350,000 cash on hand and a $400,000 payroll due six days later — a situation so dire that, early on, he had to help float it by maxing out two personal credit cards to pay his travel expenses.
.. When you don’t have the White House and you don’t have the Congress, dialing for money is just hard as hell, and he just kept doing it, and he didn’t have anybody helping him,” said lobbyist Richard Hohlt. “He loved the job.”
.. By the end of 2012, the RNC has $3.3 million in the bank and no debt.
.. Priebus shares one thing with the president-elect: little apparent need for sleep. Walker marveled at how he has texted Priebus at 11 p.m. on a Saturday, gotten an immediate response, and then awakened to a follow-up sent at dawn.
That means that when the future president is firing off tweets in the wee hours, as is his wont, his chief of staff will probably be up and seeing them.
.. Among his queries: How do you involve Cabinet officials, and make sure they are pursuing the president’s agenda, rather than their own?
.. How do you control who gets the president’s ear?
What is paramount, said former chief of staff Card, is that no one be allowed to make end runs around Priebus.