How serious a political problem for Republican incumbents in mildly competitive congressional districts is this moral disgrace by which the Trump administration is jerking children away from their detained asylum-seeking parents at the border?
Here’s how serious: French Hill, the 2nd Congressional District’s meek rubber stamp for Alpha Dog Donald Trump, almost said something unflattering about the policy and practice in a local interview on Monday with Talk Business and Politics.
The little dog almost barked a mild objection to the big dog. Little dogs don’t do that every day, or any day. So it’s noteworthy whenever a French poodle works up the nerve for a little yip.
Let’s start with Hill’s quoted comment, after which I’ll interpret it, by which I mean turn nervous mumbo-jumbo into candor.
Hill, the heretofore faithful Trumpian, said, with the italics being mine typographically, but French’s, I submit, in his heart of hearts: “This gets into law issues, which is why we’re proposing a law change on what the requirements are. I think the president’s executive authority has significant discretion to do this for the best outcome for families. So that’s what I’d like to see done. But I do think it’s something with a lot of technical issues around the law, and, again, that’s why I hope to have some of those questions discussed …”
Let me tell you what Hill really meant, seems to me. It goes as follows: “Dadgummit, Donald, and you, too, Jeff Sessions, would you please keep these families together while you’re deciding what to do with them? Let ’em in eventually or send ’em back, I don’t care. Just show me no more crying kids wanting their mommies. It’s in your power. I know that. You know that. But I’m gonna keep saying that it’s complicated under the law — though it isn’t — because what the heck else can I say while y’all are trying to give my Democratic opponent — and he’s not a bad candidate — more ammunition?”
I paraphrase generously only in pursuit of transcendent truth.
What’s happening here is simple and two-fold.
First, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a notorious hard-liner on immigration issues, and Trump adapted Sessions’ hard line as his presidential campaign’s underpinning. Sessions was the first major Washington politician to endorse Trump. Beyond that, Trump has this young right-wing zealot, Stephen Miller, on his White House staff, and Miller fills the president’s otherwise roomy brain with notions that treating these asylum-seekers like criminals and taking from them the children they brought with them for leverage amounts to Trumpism at its base-thrilling most glorious.
Second, a theme is developing. This president first embraced, and Hill voted for, a bill to repeal Obamacare and replace it with nothing. That bill would have left people with pre-existing conditions at risk of losing equitable premium protection, depending on what their respective states might do for them. Now this president is separating weeping families, days after calling an ally names and singing the praises of a North Korean monster. The developing theme, thus, is of a Mean States of America, led by Trump and followed blithely by Hill, who is starting to show signs of nervousness as he locksteps the meanness while opposed at home by a nice-seeming young man, Clarke Tucker, who talks about surviving cancer and helping people with their health insurance and how important it is to keep families together.
Trump’s base likes meanness. That’s its very essence. But Hill may be starting to wonder just how overwhelmingly prevalent meanness is in Saline County, and Faulkner, and White. That’s because he’s knows there’s not enough of it for his and Donald’s purposes in the wuss-land known as Pulaski County.
Hill may be in the process of recalibrating whether he wants a referendum in November on meanness. At the least, he may be thinking his alpha dog has pretty much established the meanness and can cool it now on hiking his leg over the 2nd District of Arkansas. He’s sufficiently marked his scent in these parts.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers’ Hall of Fame. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.