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OPINION | EDITORIAL: Mixed messages

Who is coordinating at the White House? April 20, 2021 at 2:00 a.m.

"Would it be fair for us to infer, since what the president said today is now considered the operative statement, to quote you, that the other statement is no longer operative, that it is now inoperative?"--New York Times reporter, April 1973

"The president refers to the fact that there is new material; therefore, this is the operative statement. The others are inoperative."--Ron Ziegler, White House press secretary for Richard Nixon

And you thought the president's presser at the end of last month sent mixed signals. We ain't seen nuthin' yet.

After weeks of whining about not having a news conference, the media got its wish at the end of March when President Joe Biden took a few softball questions from a few adoring reporters.

But when asked about the border crisis, the president all but invited people to crowd the gates (or what gates there are) at the southern border, while insisting he wasn't doing any such thing.

President Biden went out of his way to say he wouldn't apologize for treating people kindly at the border and for taking care of kids there. Which might explain why tens of thousands of migrants keep heading north.

Border officials say they "encountered" 172,000 illegal aliens at the U.S. southern border with Mexico in March. That's a 71 percent increase from February. That number included almost 19,000 unaccompanied children. That was a 100 percent increase from the prior month.

Maybe the president's messages haven't been mixed enough! For many, the message seems to be that the border is open and the new president wishes them well here.

The messages have been even more mixed this month. Some of us aren't sure what the message is today, or this hour.

Let's see if we have the time line right: On Friday, the president's people said he would sign emergency paperwork to keep the number of refugees coming here at 15,000 this fiscal year, which was a figure that President Trump's people had set. Which broke a campaign promise that Biden had made earlier. And the left let him know it.

Only hours later, after members of his own party threw a hissy, the president's press people in the White House back-pedaled on those numbers. And blamed the media for confusion, and Donald Trump for being the last guy in office: "Given the decimated refugee admissions program we inherited, and burdens on the Office of Refugee Resettlement," the current president's goals of plus-60,000 migrants seems unlikely, the press office said.

By mid-May the real number will be announced. According to the White House press secretary: "While finalizing that determination, the president was urged to take immediate action to reverse the Trump policy that banned refugees from many key regions, to enable flights from those regions to begin within days; today's order did that. With that done, we expect the president to set a final increased refugee cap for the remainder of this fiscal year by May 15."


That last "explanation" seemed to help assuage the anguish of the progressives. For example, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez welcomed the U-turn: "This is a testament to the power that people's movements, community advocates, & progressive coalitions have built," AOC tweeted. "Thankful for that and the Biden admin's decision to respond to organizers today. Now let's get these families to their new homes here in the United States."

Now that's a message! Whether "let's get them to their homes here in the United States" will cause the border crisis to improve or deteriorate, we'll give Informed Reader one guess.

So now the nation is open again? Is that how Americans, Latin Americans, South Americans, the rest of the world, and human traffickers should read the administration's new operative statement? And the previous warnings against marching north are, as the Nixon people put it, "no longer operative"?

Likely, it won't matter. Those storming the border, or getting paid to transport people there, will grab the message they most want. AOC's will do nicely. There's no chance the current president will contradict her now.


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