Michael Barone - Tough year 2 ahead for Trump

As we reach, gingerly, the anniversary of Donald Trump's inauguration as president, none of the disasters feared by critics has come to pass. The economy has turned at least mildly upward rather than plummet to depression. The executive branch has obeyed court orders. No military disaster has occurred. Fears that seemed plausible to many have proved unjustified.

In some important respects, Trump and the congressional Republican majorities have made important changes in public policy — in appointing judges, dismantling regulations, cutting tax rates and changing the tax system. You don't have to agree with his opponents and critics to understand how they must be infuriated that such a narrow electoral result has proved to be so consequential.

But Trump has not yet delivered on what The Wall Street Journal's Gerald Seib correctly identifies as his signature issues in his 2015-16 campaign — immigration, trade and infrastructure. And it's far from certain how and whether he will do so.

Take immigration, currently much in the news. Trump's decision in September to withdraw Barack Obama's probably illegal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program in March has given him leverage over Democrats. They want a statute legalizing the presence of the 700,000 or so people brought illegally to the country as children, and he needs some Democratic votes.

But he has veto power and therefore is positioned to demand other changes Democrats don't want — such as an end to extended-family chain migration and the visa lottery, moves toward a skills-based immigration system like Canada's and Australia's, mandating E-Verify to determine the status of job applicants, and, of course, the border wall.

Unfortunately, Trump is not always clear about these things. He told people at a bipartisan congressional meeting that he'd sign anything they want, but at the next meeting, he indicated — reportedly in scatological terms — that he wants no part of the package put together by Democrat Dick Durbin and Republican Lindsey Graham.

In the process, he seemed unaware that we tend to get high-skilled immigrants from many "s—-hole countries," from which brainy people naturally want to escape. And it's not clear he appreciates that we've been getting a generally higher-skilled immigrant inflow since the Great Recession than we did before.

Some Democrats, perhaps misled by biased press coverage, are willing to risk a government shutdown rather than compromise on DACA. Some want to flay Trump as a racist in the hope that he'll cave. Some Republicans oppose the reforms Trump purportedly seeks. It's a negotiation with many moving parts, on which the press is an unreliable narrator and in which the president often seems to be practicing something other than the art of the deal.

Meanwhile, offstage, negotiations are ongoing with Canada and Mexico on revising NAFTA. The chief danger here is that overweening American demands could affect Mexico's July presidential election. Currently leading the polls is the left-wing Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who tied up Mexico City's streets for months with demonstrators protesting his narrow loss in the 2006 election.

AMLO, as he is called, is a particularly formidable candidate because as mayor of Mexico City, he showed a rare capacity to deliver on promises, and seeing as there's no runoff, he needs only a plurality in this multi-candidate race to win. If elected, he'd probably be more hostile to the U.S. than any Mexican president over the past 70 years. That's not a desirable outcome — and one the Trump administration should take some pains to avoid.

Then there's infrastructure, one issue on which it has been possible to imagine bipartisan agreement. Democrats have spoken derisively of the Trump campaign's mutterings about public-private partnerships, which have been employed to great benefit in Canada and Europe; private investors are unlikely to back bridge-to-nowhere boondoggles.

It's not clear that either the administration or the opposition appreciates that the real need here is not so much for shiny new projects as it is for effective maintenance of existing facilities. Take a look at the New York subway if you need convincing.

Then there's the question of whether Democrats want to be seen cooperating with Trump on anything. Certainly, their party's base doesn't. Many Democrats seem determined not just to win the next election but to overturn the most recent one. Put that together with Trump's chaotic negotiating style and considerable ignorance of specifics and you can see how his second year could turn out worse than the first.

(Michael Barone is a senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and longtime co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.)

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Froma Harrop - Republicans don't really want to fix immigration

President Trump and the Republican leadership have made clear that they have no intention of repairing our chaotic immigration system. Why not? Because illegal immigration is a problem that bothers most Americans. Fix it and all these politicians have are tax cuts for the rich, environmental degradation, soaring deficits and the loss of health care.

As a campaigner, Trump learned that when audience passion flagged, he could demand a wall with Mexico and his folks would jump to their feet. The week that America went into convulsions over Trump's racist vulgarities about certain immigrants is a week we'll never get back again. But it did cancel right-wing displeasure over his seemingly constructive comments on immigration reform a few days earlier.

"Is Trump a racist?" the TV commentators kept asking. He said racially disgusting things as a candidate and again as president. Asking whether he's a racist deep in his cheesecloth soul is a pointless exercise.

Trump shows all appearances of "not playing with a full deck," despite a doctor's report of good cognitive health. It really doesn't matter much whether he is crazy or just acts crazy.

But with his promises to protect working people breaking like fine crystal dropped from Trump Tower's 26th floor, his policy deck has become quite thin. Illegal immigration remains one of the few potent cards he has to play. Why take it out of play by solving the problem?

This thinking did not begin with Trump.

In 2013, the U.S. Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform in a bipartisan vote. It would have legalized the status of most undocumented immigrants while putting teeth in enforcement going forward.

There were enough supportive Democrats and Republicans to pass the reform in the House, as well, but then-Speaker John Boehner didn't put it up for a vote. Passage would have made some hotheads in his Republican caucus unhappy.

Some foes of comprehensive reform pointed to the 1986 immigration deal as the reason they couldn't support that one. Their reason was baloney.

True, the law enacted in 1986 gave amnesty to millions without stopping the flow of more undocumented workers. Its big flaw was letting employers accept documents that merely "looked good" as ID for hiring someone. An explosion of fake Social Security cards and other documents greatly weakened the ability to enforce the ban on employing those here illegally.

The 2013 legislation would have closed that loophole. It would have required companies to use E-Verify, a secure database, to determine every job applicant's right to work in the United States. That would have made all the difference in hiring practices and the ability of government to enforce the law.

Had the reform passed in 2013, America would now be in its fifth year of mandatory E-Verify. Instead, we have a law that still lets even poorly counterfeited documents become tickets to employment. The numbers on illegal immigration, falling since the Obama administration, would probably be smaller still had the 2013 reform passed.

And those brought here illegally as children would be enjoying a secure life as Americans. But Trump and many Republicans apparently see value in periodically threatening to deport these innocents. They're useful as a political plaything.

As for Democrats, they would make a big mistake in underestimating the public's hunger for an orderly immigration program. Polls show that Americans want a program based on respect — for the immigrants themselves and for the laws designed to protect U.S. workers from unfair competition.

If Democrats make clear that they are on board with both kinds of respect, they'll be fine. Trump is grasping his one powerful card with both hands. Democrats should not help him.

(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)

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Susan Estrich - And he thinks he is not a racist

"S—-hole countries": I didn't say it; the president did. And it wasn't even in some closed-door meeting with aides who leaked the quote to the press. He said it in a meeting with congressional leaders. If you parse his tweets, he goes on the attack toward anyone reporting what he said, but never quite fully denies it. And Dick Durbin, the Democratic senator who confirmed the reports, is as trustworthy a second or third or fourth source for these stories as you can find.

The president has previously opined that Haitians all have AIDS, just as he opined that Mexicans were rapists. The difference between the "s—-hole" countries and a place such as Norway, whose citizens the president said he would prefer, is that the former are predominantly black and the latter is almost all (and no doubt in Donald Trump's mind, very) white.

But ask the president if he's a racist and he'll say no. Call him one and he'll call you a liar. And unlike many other commentators, who say they don't know what's in his heart, I believe he actually believes himself. He doesn't think he is a racist. He signed the Martin Luther King Jr. Day declaration. He posed with Jesse Jackson. Heck, he probably has black friends and wishes there were more qualified black Republicans he could appoint. Too bad for him that the majority of black Americans are Democrats.

Of course, when you look at what he does, it's another story. In business, his company was sued for racial profiling in housing. In office, he retweets white supremacists. In August, after the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, he suggested the white supremacists were also victims. His advisers recoil and tell the press they're recoiling. Trump sends angry tweets.

For one thing, it's clear that whatever he thinks, Trump's words belittle him and his office in the eyes of Americans and the world. Sure, his hardcore base may be saying "Right on," but they wouldn't actually say the vile things he said if they were among strangers, much less if they were at a meeting in the White House. Trump has balked at being held to "presidential" standards, saying that only he can define what is presidential. Not so. Racial vulgarisms have never been presidential. It's not a partisan issue, although that is always this president's defense. You won't find too many Republicans defending him today, and there is a reason for that. Everyone knows what he said, and everyone knows it's completely indefensible.

But it's worse than that. Bias can take two forms. In many ways, the conscious kind is easier. Think George Wallace, if you're old enough, though he ultimately denied his racism. Jim Crow laws were racist. Standing at the schoolhouse door to block black schoolchildren was racist. No one truly pretended otherwise, even if they did use the "fig leaf" of "states' rights." Of course, Trump hasn't stood in any schoolhouse doors. And even if his approach to immigration does has aspects reminiscent of Jim Crow (but made international), the president would certainly never acknowledge that. He doesn't think of himself as a racist. He just thinks like one. It's unconscious discrimination, unconscious racism, and in many ways it is the most pernicious kind, because its practitioners claim to be egalitarian, and they balk when you suggest otherwise.

Judging a person or nation by skin color is racist. Judging an individual based on stereotypes that may not apply to him or her, even if those stereotypes are based in statistics, is also racist. It is not true, as a matter of fact, that all Haitians have AIDS. And even if more Haitians have AIDS than Norwegians, it's still racist to prejudge any individual Haitian based on numbers that have nothing to do with him or her. Which is, of course, precisely what Trump was proposing our government do.

Of course, Trump could have used better language in service of the same goal. He could have said: "We need to have a system that rewards merit and education" or other qualifications, and even though more Norwegians might qualify than Haitians — which might lead us to be concerned about the unspoken racial implications — he wouldn't be making headlines today. Instead, he resorted to gross generalizations and vulgarities, which suggests that maybe his bias is not quite so unconscious at all, and that people are right when they say he is not the president of all the people. No modern president has done as much as Trump has to earn the ugly label of racist.

(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)

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Pat Buchanan - Trump's immigration stance as old as our Republic

President Trump "said things which were hate-filled, vile and racist. ... I cannot believe ... any president has ever spoken the words that I ... heard our president speak yesterday."

So wailed Sen. Dick Durbin after departing the White House.

And what caused the minority leader to almost faint dead away?

Trump called Haiti a "s***hole country," said Durbin, and then asked why we don't have more immigrants from neat places "like Norway."

With that, there erupted one of the great media firestorms of the Trump era. On Martin Luther King Day, it was still blazing.

Trump concedes he may have disparaged Haiti, which, at last check, was not listed among "Best Places to Live" in the Western Hemisphere. Yet Trump insists he did not demean the Haitian people.

Still, by contrasting Norway as a desirable source of immigrants, as opposed to Haiti, El Salvador and Africa, Trump tabled a question that is roiling the West, the answer to which will decide its fate.

Trump is saying with words, as he has with policies, that in taking in a million people a year, race, religion and national origin matter, if we are to preserve our national unity and national character.

Moreover, on deciding who comes, and who does not, Americans have the sovereign right to discriminate in favor of some continents, countries and cultures, and against others.

Moreover, in stating his own preferences, Trump is in a tradition as old as the Republic.

The original Colonies did not want Catholics here. Ben Franklin feared Pennsylvania was being overrun by stupid Germans:

"Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our language or customs, any more than they can acquire our complexion."

Just as anti-immigrant parties have arisen in Europe to stem the flood of refugees from the Mideast and Africa, an American Party ("Know-Nothings") was formed to halt the surge of Irish immigrants during the Potato Famine of 1845-1849.

Lincoln wanted slaves repatriated to Africa. In the 19th and 20th centuries, we had Chinese and Japanese exclusion acts.

"Californians have properly objected" to Japanese migrants, said V.P. nominee FDR "on the sound basic ground that ... the mingling of Asiatic blood with European or American blood produces, in nine cases out of ten, the most unfortunate results."

After the Great Migration of Italians, Poles, Jews and East Europeans, from 1890 to 1920, the Immigration Act of 1925 established quotas based on the national origins of the American people in 1890, thus favoring Brits, Scots-Irish, Irish and Germans.

Civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph, a major figure in Dr. King's March on Washington, said of the Harding-Coolidge restrictive quotas: "We favor reducing immigration to nothing ... shutting out the Germans ... Italians ... Hindus ... Chinese and even the Negroes from the West Indies. The country is suffering from immigration indigestion."

The Senate floor leader of the 1965 Immigration Act addressed what were then regarded as valid concerns about the future racial and ethnic composition of the country. Sen. Edward Kennedy pledged: "Our cities win not be flooded with a million immigrants annually ... the ethnic mix of this country will not be upset. ... S. 500 will not inundate America with immigrants from ... the most populated and economically deprived nations of Africa and Asia."

What Kennedy assured America would not happen, did happen.

Today, issues of immigration and race are tearing countries and continents apart. There are anti-immigrant parties in every nation in Europe. Turkey is being bribed to keep Syrian refugees out of Europe.

Boatloads of Africans from Libya are being turned back in the Med. After building a wall to keep them out, Bibi Netanyahu has told "illegal aliens" from Africa: Get out of Israel by March, or go to jail.

Angela Merkel's Party may have suffered irreparable damage when she let a million Mideast refugees in. The larger concentrations of Arabs, Africans and Turks in Britain, France and Germany are not assimilating. Central European nations are sealing borders.

Europe fears a future in which the continent, with its shrinking numbers of native-born, is swamped by peoples from the Third World.

Yet the future alarmed Europeans are resisting is a future U.S. elites have embraced. Among the reasons, endless mass migration here means the demographic death of the GOP.

In U.S. presidential elections, persons of color whose roots are in Asia, Africa and Latin America vote 4-1 Democratic, and against the candidates favored by American's vanishing white majority. Not for the first time, liberal ideology comports precisely with liberal interests.

Mass immigration means an America in 2050 with no core majority, made up of minorities of every race, color, religion and culture on earth, a continent-wide replica of the wonderful diversity we see today in the U.N. General Assembly.

Such a country has never existed before. Are we on the Yellow Brick Road to the new Utopia — or on the path to national suicide?

(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)

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Bob Meade - Blame it on conservatives

Have you noticed lately how some on the left attempt to lay blame on conservatives for anything that doesn’t agree with their personal views? You know, if the schools systems are failing, it’s not the fault of those in the teaching profession so it must be the fault of those right-wingers. Or, if your religious beliefs are such that you believe in the sanctity of life, how dare you not condone abortions on demand? Among the oddities of some on the left’s positions is the fact that they insist that only their freedoms count, not yours.

Let’s take a look at our school systems. First, it must be noted that education is not covered in the Constitution; it is one of those things covered by the Tenth Amendment, which tells us that things not covered in the Constitution are the responsibility of the states. In 1977, during the Carter administration, a new cabinet-level department was formed — the Department of Education. Since that time, our high school graduation rates have hovered around 70 percent; 50 percent in urban areas, even though this country spends more per pupil than any industrialized country in the world. Sadly, in order to overcome those poor results, many states decided to award diplomas to those who had previously failed to pass tests needed to graduate. Many politicians took credit for an improvement in graduation rates because of those awards.

The influence of labor unions in education is a sore spot as much of what is considered as pupil costs may actually be spent on wasteful administrative functions. For example, in New York City, teachers who are suspended for various types of abuses, including child molestation, cannot be terminated without an official “hearing.” Therefore, until such a hearing takes place, the teachers are required to show up each day and spend their suspension in a “rubber room” with others who have also been suspended and are awaiting their hearings. While in that suspension room, they collect full pay and benefits, including getting the same raises as do the non-suspended teachers, paid vacations and holidays. Many of the teachers actually use their time in suspension to run a business or do other work for themselves or others. The unions do their best to continually delay possible hearing dates until the teacher is eligible for retirement pay and benefits. The New York Times reported that the city is considering returning the suspended teachers to the classrooms as they can’t continue to pay approximately $150 million for teachers who don’t teach; the average salary of a teacher in New York City is $94,000.

It’s no secret that students who don’t have basic reading skills are being accepted into colleges. Sadly, many colleges now include courses such as remedial reading for incoming students. Just think, 12 or 13 years in school and then having to take a remedial course before you can be able to read and comprehend what’s being taught — at a very high price to pay.

There’s much more that could be written about but these examples are simply to show that our poor education results cannot be attributed to conservatives or to any other outsider group, they reside within the system itself and the negative impact the unions have had on it.

The other issue mentioned in the first paragraph has to do with believing someone else is wrong simply because they don’t happen to agree with your position. We all form our opinions based on what we have been taught, our belief systems, and our life experiences. For each of us, the sum of those is different and our opinions will reflect those differences. If a person wants to have their opinion listened to and respected, they should be willing to offer the reciprocal — to listen to and respect the opinion of others.

Think for a minute about what our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution have said about freedom or religion. Consider the rulings made by our judicial system when laws or regulations intruded on one’s beliefs and the practice or them. Those words don’t say that “you” must believe, they say you can’t infringe on or deny the right of others to believe.

It seems like our country is undergoing an upheaval, where disrespect is overtaking comity. In my lifetime, I never thought I would see the day when we would have politicians leading the way in a “resistance” against someone duly elected. I never thought I would see the day when we would have the country so purposely divided by race, gender, ethnicity, and social status, and all for political maneuvering. I never thought I would see the day when people would publicly engage in name-calling of people they’re never met or know anything about.

Let’s bring civility back into our discourse.

(BobMeade is veteran, retired businessman and longtime volunteer in Laconia.)

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