A president who loves winning bigly is letting a consistent loser run the White House
Originally published January 31, 2019; updated April 18, 2019
White House senior adviser and resident white nationalist, Stephen Miller has been a disaster on top of the Trump Administration’s ongoing disasters. A rare exception, Miller has remained in the Administration since its beginning despite failure after failure. Behind the senses, Miller has pushed a combination of chaos, cruelty and, incompetence that has led the Administration into repeated political defeats and policy failures.
For clear proof, look no further than Miller’s role in propagating the longest ever government shutdown that began at the end of 2018 and lasted well into the new year. After holding hundreds of thousands of American families hostage and forcing them to line up at food banks, Donald Trump caved on his demand for more money for his unnecessary wall — getting nothing for his protracted stance. In the end, he ended up agreeing to the exact same deal he could have got in December, before the shutdown. More recently, reports have indicated that the recent DHS purge is a cover for Stephen Miller’s mistakes on immigration and the border. That is, apparently, the kind of “winning” you get when Stephen Miller is your quarterback.It’s a wonder that Trump hasn’t caught onto the fact that Miller is a loser and a failure, and sacked him for his mounting record of strategic blunders.
The opposite seems to be true, however, considering reports that Miller is one of Trump’s last trusted advisers and one of the few White House officials who can get things done behind the scenes. For now, Trump seems determined to follow the lead of a loser like Stephen Miller into every political and policy pitfall while hurting countless people all along the way.
Unlike Trump, the Democratic-led House wants answers and accountability for the Administration’s failures on immigration policy — and they’ve shown willingness to go after Miller to get it. “Steve Miller, who seems to be the boss of everybody on immigration, ought to come before Congress and explain some of these policies,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler (NY-10) this month.
For the record, here are numerous examples of when Miller’s “strategy” steered the White House terribly wrong:
The Muslim Ban
From the jump, Miller and his policies were bad news. Miller was the architect of the first Muslim ban, which created massive confusion throughout the nation and left lawyers, immigrants, U.S. permanent residents, elected officials, and even immigration agents without answers. Countless Americans rushed to airports to protest the cruel and discriminatory policy, and acting Attorney General Sally Yates refused to defend it.
The courts quickly blocked Miller’s version. Miller was then reportedly removed from the revision process. But after a few cosmetic changes to the ban, Miller went on Fox News to make sure everyone knew the follow-up versions preserved the discriminatory nature he outlined in the original. Miller followed up on his original catastrophe by publicly stating that the second ban had the “same basic policy outcome for the country,” which was later cited by the judge who blocked the Administration’s second attempt at the Muslim ban.
In September 2017, after being pushed by Miller, Trump rescinded DACA for Dreamers. DACA, the program that protects hundreds of thousands of Dreamers from deportation, is supported by 8 out of 10 Americans and multiple court rulings keep DACA mostly alive today. After the initial recission, members of Congress on both sides of the aisle worked toward a deal that could have meant permanent legislative protection for Dreamers. A bipartisan compromise was tentatively reached, and Dreamers could have won permanent protection while Trump gained more border security. However, Miller tanked that deal by packing it with anti-immigrant demands. In February 2018, the Senate voted on four immigration-and-DACA related deals. While all four failed to pass, the Trump/Miller bill garnered the least amount of votes, creating a major embarrassment for the White House akin to the two Senate shutdown votes we saw this month. Currently, DACA remains in limbo with most Americans blaming Trump for failing to extend the overwhelmingly popular protections.
As a new bipartisan effort to protect Dreamers, the Dream and Promise Act, makes its way through Congress, Miller will probably attack this common sense and wildly popular policy, preferring failure over real solutions. This will likely alienate more voters and add another political and policy failure to Miller’s ongoing tally.
Family Separation Policy
There is plenty of blame to go around the Trump Administration for the tragic and ongoing family separation crisis that has resulted in thousands of migrant children being taken away from their families. But Stephen Miller played a crucial role in advancing the policy, arguing that it would be a deterrent against future migration. It wasn’t. In fact, the numbers of families seeking asylum at the U.S./Mexico border has increased. The policy he pushed forward was as cruel as it was ineffective. But Miller said it “was a simple decision.”
To the American public, however, it was inhumane, and polls found that 88 percent of voters rejected the idea. The Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy generated an enormous outcry, saw massive protests, led to condemnation from both sides of the aisle, and threw the White House into chaos. Eventually, the overwhelming backlash and a federal court ruling forced the Trump Administration into retreat. The formal end of the family separation policy actually generated even worse headlines, as reports revealed that the Administration was unable to reunite many families due to their failure to keep track of many parents. The issue was a major debacle which generated months upon months of terrible press for the White House, not to mention enormous devastation for countless children and families, and it is unclear what the Trump Administration gained.
A year later, the bad press has continued to dog the Administration as thousands of more children were found to have been separated. Meanwhile, there are both humane and effective solutions that could address the increase of families at the border. But Miller continues to ignore those solutions in favor of chaos, cruelty, and failure.
In an interview with Breitbart in May 2018, Miller clearly outlined the White House and Republican midterm political strategy for the year. As he said, “The Democratic party is at grave risk of completely marginalizing itself from the American voters by continuing to lean into” pro-immigrant positions. Miller made it clear that the Republican strategy for the cycle would be to try and squeeze Democrats by fear-mongering against immigrants. Countless numbers of Republicans followed Trump and Miller into this strategy, cranking out TV and online ads that painted immigrants as criminals, terrorists, and murderers. These Republicans largely lost, leading to the largest Democratic gains since Watergate. The worst of the worst anti-immigrant candidates fared particularly badly. Overall, Miller’s strategy of xenophobia hugely backfired, just as it did in Virginia for Ed Gillespie the year before, and it was Republicans who became in danger of permanently marginalizing themselves.
Government shutdown (2018-2019)
Sometime in late 2018, Miller began pushing Trump to shut down the government in attempt to extract more taxpayer dollars for his unnecessary border wall. Days before the government shutdown, Miller went on “Face the Nation” championing the shutdown and saying the Administration should “do whatever is necessary to build the border wall.” But two days before Trump blew up a compromise deal and shut down the government, the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board warned against followings Miller’s bad advice.
Throughout the 35-day shutdown (the longest in U.S. history), Miller continued to push his hardline strategy. Miller crafted Trump’s first Oval Office speech in an attempt to win support for the border wall. Miller’s speech failed, as did a January 19 speech that was billed as something that would shake up the impasse. Instead, with each speech Trump’s approval rating got worse.
Miller then worked behind the scenes to help craft new a poison-pill bill which inexplicably offered terrible, anti-immigrant proposals in order to get the wall that Trump wanted. Unsurprisingly, this approach also failed. As Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) put it, as long as “Stephen Miller is in charge of negotiating immigration, we are going nowhere. He’s been an outlier for years.” Miller’s strategy eventually led to a public revolt among Republican Senators, forcing Trump’s hand and leading to a temporary end to the shutdown.
In short, Miller encouraged Trump to hold thousands of families’ paychecks hostage and caused massive problems for Americans all across the country, while ultimately gaining nothing in return.
Fake national emergency
Undeterred, Miller led Trump from one failure right into the next. After Congress refused to waste money and fund Trump’s wall, Miller supported a move to just take the money from military projects instead. Egged on by Miller, Trump pulled yet another political stunt by declaring a national emergency along the U.S. Mexico border.
The move is likely illegal and ignorant of the Constitution, not to mention the fact that it stands against the will of a majority of Americans. National security experts warned that a declaring a national emergency would undermine national security, while leading Republicans warned it could set a dangerous precedent.
Nevertheless, Miller defended the move, even after Trump admitted that the declaration was unnecessary (at the same press conference where he made his declaration). Both the House and the Senate then voted for a resolution opposing the national emergency, giving Trump a stunning rebuke and forcing him into his first veto.
The bad press has continued to mount against the national emergency, after multiple reports revealed the outrage over land seizures to build the wall and money to be diverted from important military projects.
In 2019, as his failures on immigration piled up, reports indicated that Miller sought to shift blame onto officials at DHS, where a full-scale purge began in early April. DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who had spent more than a year serving as the face of family separations, was forced to resign April 7. She was quickly followed by the acting director of ICE, Ron Vitiello, and the director of Secret Service, Randolph “Tex” Alles. Francis Cissna, director of USCIS and John Mitnick, DHS’s general counsel, reportedly could soon follow.
Advocates have no love lost over Nielsen, who failed to keep track of separated families and repeatedly lied about the policy. However, the already understaffed agency — which is responsible for much more than just immigration — is now more vulnerable to Miller’s strategy of chaos, cruelty, and failure.
Sending immigrants to safe cities
In April 2019, the Washington Post reported that Miller pushed for ICE to send detained immigrants to safe cities in a perverse attempt at political retaliation. Sources and emails obtained by Post confirm that the Administration and Miller repeatedly tried to convince ICE to carry out this legally dubious proposal. Attorneys for ICE, however, warned that such a policy would be inappropriate and the plan was never implemented.
“It was basically an idea that Miller wanted that nobody else wanted to carry out,” a Congressional investigator told the Post. “What happened here is that Stephen Miller called people at ICE, said if they’re going to cut funding, you’ve got to make sure you’re releasing people in Pelosi’s district and other congressional districts.”
Top Democratic House members have asked for documents and communications about the proposal. They have also called for Stephen Miller to testify before Congress to answer questions. “It’s clear that he’s the one pulling the strings,” said Rep. Kathleen Rice (NY-04). Dragging Miller in front of Congress would be an opportunity to hold him accountable for his shenanigans and failures.
So far in Miller’s White House tenure, he has been responsible for ending popular policies while creating unpopular ones and galvanizing opposition to Trump. This has led to repeated unforced errors and failures, and a clear majority of voters saying they will not vote for Trump in 2020.
From the courts who have had to repeatedly step in to block policies promoted by Miller, to his push to purge officials who question the legality of those proposals, to his participation in questionable meetings with foreign entities during the campaign, Miller’s continued role in the White House daily undermines the Trump Administration.
Stephen Miller is a white nationalist and a proven failure. How many more losses will Trump and the GOP agree to suffer before he is ousted from the White House?