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Observers are busy panning President Trump’s claims of a major victory on immigration caused by his tariff threats, with leading columnists highlighting how it fits into a long-established pattern of Trump claiming major victories that are at odds with the real facts and failures on display. Additional reporting underscores that Trump’s motivations regarding the tariff threats are, once again, driven by politics and fears over his strongman brand image ahead of the 2020 campaign.
According to Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication of America’s Voice: “Trump’s real immigration track record on his signature issue is one of failure and hypocrisy, so it’s little wonder that he’s desperate, furious, and spinning in a manner that would make North Korea state media tell him to dial it back. The huge ‘victory’ with Mexico after his tariff threats is the latest example of Trumpian claims built on quicksand. The fact remains, his deterrence-only policies have failed and dramatically worsened the humanitarian and refugee crisis at the border; his continued proposed hardline solutions are mismatched to the reality that this is a regional refugee crisis and destined to fail; and he’s desperately worried that voters will see through the bluster and recognize what a failure and a hypocrite they have before them.”
Below are excerpts from several columns and reported pieces driving these points home:
Max Boot in his syndicated Washington Post column, “Our Great Patriot Leader claims another illusory win”
President Trump is the flim flam man. He routinely takes credit for resolving crises that he himself created — and that, on closer examination, he has not really resolved … Our Great Patriot Leader was reduced to claiming that somewhere out there — perhaps in an alternative universe where he really is an “extremely stable genius” — there exists a super-duper, top-secret accord that “will be announced at the appropriate time” but that, on this planet, neither Mexican nor U.S. officials seemed to know anything about.
The striking thing is that Trump’s con-artistry continues to find so many willing marks who will remain forever convinced, notwithstanding all that is reported otherwise, that he made Mexico bow before his awesomeness. They are abetted, these Trump dupes, by cynical Republicans on Capitol Hill who know this achievement is as phony as a degree from Trump University but pretend otherwise to flatter the mercurial and egomaniacal occupant of the Oval Office.
Michelle Goldberg in the New York Times, “Congratulations on Fixing the Border, Mr. President!”
…giving Trump the benefit of the doubt is almost always a mistake. The president had claimed, using the floridly Stalinesque language we’ve all had to become accustomed to, that Mexico had agreed to “IMMEDIATELY BEGIN BUYING LARGE QUANTITIES OF AGRICULTURAL PRODUCT FROM OUR GREAT PATRIOT FARMERS!” This appears to be untrue … As it became clear — at least to those outside the Fox News bubble — how little Trump had achieved, he grew even more splutteringly incoherent than usual.
All this was just the latest demonstration that, personal branding to the contrary, the president is terrible at making deals. What he’s good at is what might be called deal theater — made-for-TV melodramas with self-generated crises, over-the-top demands, and suspenseful arbitrary deadlines. The point of these exercises isn’t to solve a problem, but to pacify Trump with the illusion that he is winning so that he doesn’t feel the need to break anything.
Greg Sargent of The Washington Post, “Trump’s latest rage-threat gives Democrats a big opening. One just took it.”
President Trump has spent the last half day frantically retweeting his propagandists, who are pushing the absurd deception that Trump’s new deal with Mexico is a massive and historic victory. In reality, the agreement — which averts Trump’s threatened tariffs — consisted mostly of things Mexico already agreed to months ago.
Trump is in a rage over this … Trump just tweeted that if Mexico does not soon take formal steps to ratify that secret provision, “Tariffs will be reinstated!” But this threat gives Democrats a big opening to grab control of this debate — both on the immigration and trade fronts, because this story intertwines the two, and more broadly to better engage with the colossal failures of Trump’s nationalism.
The Washington Post recap, “How Mexico talked Trump out of tariff threat with immigration crackdown pact” includes the detail:
U.S. negotiators told the Mexican delegation that the immigration issue was the most important thing to Trump’s presidency and that they needed to take meaningful, concrete actions with measurable goals.
Andrew Restuccia in Politico, “‘He needs some victories’: Trump lashes out over his Mexico deal”
The fight with Mexico combined two of the policy issues that Trump’s advisers believe will be crucial to his reelection: trade and immigration. The president is eager to demonstrate progress on both fronts, and his anger with the response to the Mexico deal reflects his sensitivity to being seen as ineffective as the campaign season heats up, people close to him said. Trump is slated to kick off his reelection campaign with a rally in Orlando, Fla., next week.
For all of the president’s bluster on trade and immigration, even some of his allies privately acknowledge his approach hasn’t always paid off. Experts have warned that his tariffs on foreign imports, for example, threaten the economic gains he’s seen during his president. Trump has also made little progress on his promise to build a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. At the same time, illegal border crossings have reached a 13-year high, according to government data released last week.
“He’s taken big actions, but he hasn’t always delivered,” the former White House official said. “He needs some victories.”