Monday, May 22, 2017

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Short Takes

DOJ appoints former FBI director Robert Mueller as independent counsel to run the Trump/Russia inquiry.

Wall Street tumbles over worries about Trump.

Despite calling it “worst deal ever,” Trump extends Iran deal waivers.

Tornadoes kill two in Oklahoma and Wisconsin.

Arrests of undocumented immigrants with no criminal record up 150%.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Buyer’s Remorse: Immigration

I have a feeling we’re going to see more of these kinds of stories.

A Sunday “60 Minutes” report detailed the story of Roberto Beristain, an immigrant deported to Mexico after being in the U.S. for nearly 20 years.

Family and friends of the Granger, Ind., business owner spoke with the CBS News program, expressing frustration that someone with no criminal record was separated from his wife and children, who are all citizens.

“It just feels wrong,” Kimberly Glowacki, a resident of the same town, told “60 Minutes.”

Michelle Craig, who voted for President Trump, said she did so because Trump promised to deport dangerous criminals.

“This is not the person he said he would deport,” she said. “The community is better for having someone like” Beristain in it.

If you had been paying attention, Trump voters, he said he would restrict immigration even more than Obama and deport even legal immigrants.  But I guess you were too enamored of the hats and obsessed about her e-mails to notice what was in the works: separating families and shutting down small businesses — the lifeblood of America, according to every Republican sucking up to their electorate — because of his promise to get rid of “bad hombres.”

Meanwhile, I noticed that neither in this article or on the “60 Minutes” piece did any Mr. Beristain’s “friends” offer to help with his legal defense fund to try to get him back.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Sunday Reading

Performance Anxiety — McKay Coppins in The Atlantic on Trump’s obsession with this electial dysfunction.

As he approaches his hundredth day in office, Donald Trump appears to be suffering—once again—from an acute case of presidential status anxiety.In public, of course, he has labored to play it cool, strenuously insisting (and insisting, and insisting) that he does not care about the “first hundred days” metric that historians and pundits have used to evaluate the success of new administrations since FDR. Trump has called this milestone “ridiculous” and “artificial”—a meaningless media fixation. And yet, the less-than-laudatory press reviews seem to have left him seething. For evidence, look no further than the president’s pathos-drenched Twitter feed, where he recently took to vent, “No matter how much I accomplish during the ridiculous standard of the first 100 days, & it has been a lot (including S.C.), media will kill!”

This explains why we are now witnessing the White House in mad-scramble mode—frantically reaching for last-minute “accomplishments” to placate the president, and pad his record. The closer Trump gets to the hundred-day marker, it seems, the more erratically he flings major legislative initiatives at the wall in hopes that something will stick.

Last week, Trump abruptly pledged to unveil a “massive” tax-cut plan in the coming days—an announcement that reportedly surprised even his own staff. To meet their boss’s deadline, they rushed out a single-page document—bullet-pointed, double-spaced, 229 words long—that resembled a homework assignment hastily completed in the stall during a bathroom break. Skeptics scoffed, Democrats balked, and even White House officials have struggled to articulate their “plan.”Meanwhile, with a government shutdown fast approaching, Trump threatened to blow up budget negotiations with an outlandish—and politically unviable—demand that the funding bill include money for a border wall. (He eventually had to back down.) And with just 48 hours left in his first hundred days, Trump embarked on a quixotic last-ditch bid to jam an Obamacare replacement bill through the House before the weekend—whip counts be damned. (Speaker Paul Ryan refused to bring it to a vote Thursday night.)

This flurry of ill-considered activity might seem needlessly volatile and self-defeating—but it’s part of a larger pattern of behavior. This is, after all, not the first time a major milestone in Trump’s career has sent him spiraling into resentment and recklessness.

As I’ve written before, Trump’s angriest outbursts often accompany his greatest moments of recognition or triumph. He won the Republican nomination, and spent the next week feuding with Gold Star parents and complaining that Hillary Clinton didn’t adequately congratulate him. He won the election, and spent the transition fighting with celebrities and championing a voter-fraud conspiracy theory. He was sworn in as the 45th  president of the United States, and spent the weekend fuming over the size of his inauguration crowd.

Trump is a Queens-born billionaire who has spent his life chasing validation from elites who hold him in disdain. With each new benchmark he reaches, he holds out hope that it will finally quiet his chorus of haters. And when he realizes they’re still laughing at him, he acts out. Consider, now, what Trump is likely seeing these days when he turns on his TV: presidential historians discussing the unparalleled failures of his first hundred days; polls showing an historically low approval rating; pundits depicting a presidency gripped by impotence. Given his recent history, an eruption was inevitable.Earlier this week, the White House made a foray into the presidential legacy-measuring contest with a press release titled, “President Trump’s 100 Days of Historic Accomplishments.” Trump, we learned, had accomplished more than any president since FDR, passed more legislation than anyone since Truman, and done more to “stop the government from interfering in the lives of Americans” than any other president in history. As my colleague Elaine Godfrey noted, some of the figures supporting these claims were (perhaps unsurprisingly) wrong, and the press release was widely mocked on the internet for its predictable bombast. But maybe for Trump, the comparisons are about more than chest-thumping and ego-pumping.

With a hundred days behind him, Trump seems increasingly like a man disillusioned with his job, and disoriented by his place in history. “I loved my previous life. I had so many thing going,” Trump told Reuters this week. “This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”

Go Canada — Jonathan Blitzer in The New Yorker on the boom in Canadian immigration.

Canada by Choice is a small, family-run immigration consultancy in Windsor, Ontario. It gives legal advice to people who are interested in moving to Canada and helps them fill out the necessary paperwork to enter the country. Hussein Zarif has worked on marketing and outreach at the company for the past four years—it’s his job to find clients and connect them with the firm’s staff. The clientele come mostly from the Middle East, China, and India, and that’s where Zarif has always focussed his outreach budget, placing online ads that appear on Facebook and Google. That was before Donald Trump. Since November 8th, the firm has been flooded with calls from the U.S., and the Web site has crashed a few times because of heavy traffic. Zarif knew that Americans often threatened to move to Canada after a contentious election, but he hadn’t ever taken them seriously. “Maybe there is something behind all this,” he remembers thinking. “I’ll put some ads out and see what happens.” He used recent quotes from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as a tagline for ads on Facebook and Google which ran in the U.S.: “Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength.”

Zarif, who is twenty-four, and whose father runs the business, has become an unlikely expert in the anxiety currently plaguing immigrants in America. “I’m not a political person, and I don’t know the U.S. very well,” he said. He wasn’t looking to entice American citizens—in his experience, they tended to stay put. The idea, instead, was to find promising immigrants living in America who were anxious to leave. From his desk at the firm’s office, in a strip mall just across a bridge from Detroit, he started tinkering with the filters for his targeted digital ads—the ones that pop up when someone is using Facebook or Google—trying to insure that they reached the right people. His first attempts to target people based on age, language, and location brought uneven results—Americans looking to retire to Canada, immigrants with poor English-language skills. (Canada awards work visas using specific criteria, such as language skills, education, and professional experience.) Then he refined the terms further, to include anyone who had ever typed “how to immigrate to the U.S.” into Google. A few days later, he received a call from an Egyptian client in his mid-thirties, with a master’s degree, a long employment history, and a well-paying job in Detroit. He and his wife, who were raising a child, were ready to emigrate. “These weren’t the people I thought would be interested in coming to Canada,” he said. “They had status in the place where they lived. They made a hundred thousand dollars, had good jobs. These are the people who want to leave?” The man had an H-1B visa, a temporary U.S. work visa for specialty occupations in engineering, medicine, and tech. At the time, Zarif—who entrusts the legal side of the business to the firm’s experts—didn’t know what an H-1B visa was.

On the campaign trail, Trump had attacked the H-1B program, which admits eighty-five thousand people a year, claiming that companies were using it to undercut American workers. When Trump won, many expected him to take steps to curb the program. The Egyptian and his wife had decided that the uncertainty was too much. Zarif heard a similar story, a few days later, from a Pakistani living in the U.S., then from another man, who was Indian. “I started noticing a pattern,” Zarif said. “Each time, they had just the qualifications I was looking for. I thought, Wow, I can actually help them! And, each time, they told me they had this special visa called H-1B.” He went back to his ad filters and added “H-1B” to the search terms. As of this month, H-1B visa holders who live in the U.S. account for half of Canada by Choice’s clients seeking permanent residency and eighty per cent of the firm’s clients seeking a work visa—about seventy people altogether.

Foreign-exchange students, who also figure among Canada by Choice’s clients, have been reacting to Trump’s ascendancy, too. In a recent survey of two hundred and fifty American colleges and universities, forty per cent of the institutions reported a decline in applications from international students for the fall of 2017. Zarif has been fielding calls from Mexican and other Central American students who have told him they’d prefer to study in Canada because of the political climate in the U.S. Others are already in the U.S., finishing master’s-degree programs, and are newly concerned about their ability to secure jobs after graduation. The calls can get difficult. “I’m trying to be professional,” he said. “The person on the other end of the line is swearing at Donald Trump. I’m trying to keep politics out of the workplace. I try to calm them down. But I understand where they’re coming from.”

Canada by Choice is just one small shop, and it’s still too early to tell whether Trump’s Presidency will have a measurable effect on the population of legal immigrants living and working in the U.S. But the number of H-1B applications has already begun to dip. Canada, meanwhile, is becoming more attractive to high-skilled job seekers. The country is projected to create more than two hundred thousand new jobs in the tech sector by 2020, and Canadian firms have been aggressively recruiting foreigners. In the past, Canadian companies have struggled to match the salaries offered by their American counterparts, but now Canadian tech C.E.O.s are reporting an uptick in interest from immigrants who are uncomfortable staying in the U.S.

Marwan Zarif, Hussein’s father, has begun to hire more staff. Marwan, who was born in Lebanon and educated in the U.S., told me, “When I came in, the morning after the Inauguration, I couldn’t get my Web site to work. I went to the government of Canada’s Web site as well. It wasn’t working, either.” In late January, when Trump took office and was signing his first executive orders, traffic to Canada by Choice’s Web site increased from a few dozen daily visits to hundreds; it saw another spike in February. “I thought this was a temporary situation, that it would calm down in two or three weeks. But it’s constantly increasing,” Marwan said.

Last week, the Administration announced a new executive order, called “Buy American, Hire American,” which calls on government agencies to crack down on “fraud and abuse” in the H-1B visa program. On the day of the announcement, I texted Hussein Zarif, who’d seen the news earlier that morning. “It’s pretty vague,” he replied. “But it will play into the fears of the visa holders right now.” Already there’d been a fresh wave of calls, and the traffic to the Web site was spiking once again.

What You Missed By Missing the Not the White House Correspondents Dinner — Jesse Davis Fox reports on Samantha Bee’s counter-programming.

As anyone who watches Full Frontal would’ve expected, at Samantha Bee’s Not the White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday, she and her writing staff brought it. Thanks to her rapid-fire style, the special was packed with good jokes, from jokes about CNN to jokes about past presidents to jokes about future presidents to jokes about the current president’s golden habits. Here are some of the best ones, delivered by Bee unless otherwise noted.

• “You are all gonna wanna make friends with our honored guests here at the front table. They are the Committee to Protect Journalists. These are the guys you call if you leave the hall tonight and discover your car has been keyed by Sean Spicer. [Shows image of keyed car.] Aww, buddy. Why’d you sign it with your own name?”

• “Your job has never been harder. The president is trying to undermine your legitimacy. He tells his fans not to trust you. You basically get paid to stand in a cage while a geriatric orangutan and his pet mob scream at you. It’s like a reverse zoo, but you carry on.”

• “Donald Trump is, of course, celebrating his 100th day in office by trying to win Pennsylvania with a swell rally that no one in this room was forced to cover. That assignment went to the reporter that must’ve fucked his boss’s wife.”

• “We are living in a Golden Age of journalism. Unfortunately, that’s partly due to a golden president who’s rumored to enjoy golden showers.”

• Clip of CNN chief Jeff Zucker: “You can call it entertainment. You can call it a reality show. But there was news in it almost every time.”

Samantha Bee: “Almost every time? CNN gives you news like your shitty boyfriend gives your orgasms. Either way, you wind up lying in the wet spot and he’s snoring.”

Clip of Zucker: I don’t think it’s our role or my role to have regrets.

Samantha Bee: “Says the guy who put Joey on the air.”

• [During a segment in which Samantha Bee imagines herself at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner during Ronald Reagan’s administration.] “The president says the most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’ That’s funny. I thought they were: ‘You have AIDs and the government doesn’t care.’”

Kumail Nanjiani: “Trump is like that weird high school friend of yours that shows up at the party but doesn’t bring any beer, drinks everyone’s liquor, is weird to all the girls, and on the way out doesn’t condemn hate crimes.”

Carl Reiner: “I was in Ocean’s 11, a movie about a casino heist. Trump didn’t find the movie believable because it revolved around a casino that was actually making a profit.”

Billy Eichner: “You ever notice Betsy DeVos and a duffel bag of orphans’ bones are never seen in the same room together? Makes you think.”

• On Bill O’Reilly: “Turns out it’s bad business to have your flagship show hosted by 400 pounds of sexual-harassment allegations in a 200-pound bag.”

• On Fox News: “What a triumph for women that career sexual predators are finally getting what they deserve: $65 million and age-appropriate retirement.”

• On Rupert Murdoch: “After 20 years setting the table for Trump, the Tasmanian Titan finally has what he’s always wanted: A BFF-slash-program-director in the White House, gumming his soggy cornflakes while enjoying a long-distance circle jerk.”

• [During a segment in which Samantha Bee imagines herself at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner during Bill Clinton’s administration.] “Bill’s been called America’s first black president! Don’t lean into that label too hard, Bill. You might throw yourself in prison.”

• [During a segment in which Samantha Bee imagines herself at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner during Mike Pence’s future administration.] “I think we all owe President Pence a debt of gratitude for bravely stepping into the role after Trump got his head stuck in that jar of honey. What a tragedy.”

“I didn’t think you’d make a good president at all, Mike Pence, but I’m coming around, so, in at least this case, the conversion therapy is working.”

“It’s nice that after a disastrous year of Trump, we can finally stop demonizing immigrants and minorities and focus on the real enemy: gay children.”

• [During a segment in which Samantha Bee imagines herself at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in an alternate reality where Hillary Clinton won.] “For a week after President Clinton won, we all heard this loud buzzing noise. I think it was the sound of the whizzing bullet we just dodged. Or it was Bill O’Reilly’s vibrator. No, Reddit, Bill O’Reilly wasn’t fired from Fox; he was murdered by Hillary Clinton for telling the truth about her presidency. You guys, I can verify that Bill O’Reilly is alive. He left me a long voice-mail last night. It sounded like he was mixing custard while walking up stairs or something. Anyway, he sounded very relaxed by the end of the call.”

“A hundred days. We’re just three menstrual cycles into this presidency, but Washington feels different. Over half the president’s cabinet are women. While testifying so often to the House Ethics committee, they gave her a parking spot that launched an investigation into how she got her own parking spot. [Clinton’s] under so many investigations, I’m starting to think that FBI really does stand for female body inspector.”

“I don’t want to say Republicans were hostile during Hillary’s address to Congress, but she’s the first president who had to walk up to the lectern with her keys between her knuckles. Remember the good ol’ days when Communist was the worst c-word people called the president?”

Doonesbury — Inspired.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Thursday, March 16, 2017

School Safety Zone

Via CBS Miami:

The Miami-Dade School District took up the immigration debate Wednesday.

The district reports undocumented students are worried sick for themselves and their parents. And the school board issued what is essentially a “stay away” order to federal agents.

[…]

“It should never be at a school. They have that ability to come in other parts of our community, but the school should never be a place where any child is questioned or taken from our schools,” said board member Lubby Navarro.

Miami-Dade County Public School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho hugged little Jasmine coach, and issued and unbending declaration.

“On behalf of every single kid in this community, over my dead body will any federal entity enter our schools to take immigration actions against our kids,” Carvalho said.

Good for them.  Good for us.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Short Takes

Snow pummels Northeast.

Dutch vote puts populist support to the test.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson used an e-mail alias when he was head of ExxonMobil.

Female senators fiercely question Marine commandant over nude photos scandal.

Canadian Girl Guides cancel trips to U.S. because of Muslim ban.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Prairie Fascist

He’s at it again.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has gained notoriety for his often contentious — and, occasionally, almost overtly racist — comments about immigration and the demographics of the United States. On Sunday, in a tweet about the nationalist Dutch politician Geert Wilders, King again appears to have crossed the line.

“Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny,” King wrote. “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

The formulation of “our” civilization being at risk from “somebody else’s babies” is a deliberate suggestion that American civilization is threatened by unnamed “others” — almost certainly a reference to non-Westerners. The idea that national identity and racial identity overlap entirely is the crux of white nationalism; King’s formulation above toes close to that line, if it doesn’t cross. American culture, of course, was formed in part over the past two centuries by the assimilation of immigrants from a broad range of nations — first mostly European but later a broader diaspora. Iowa, the state King represents, remains one of the most homogeneously white in the United States.

Calling Steve King “almost overtly racist” is like saying it gets a little chilly at the South Pole.  This is his regular gig.

You have to wonder if he’s doing this just to represent a particular mind-set in his district (although I can say from my own experience that the people and the part of the country he represents are by and large not at all like him or think this way) or that he’s just a fascist and a racist by his own stunted growth and stupidity.  The reason he’s re-elected time and time again is because of inertia and a lack of competition.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Boundary Issues

Via CBC:

The father of a fallen U.S. army captain who made headlines during the American election campaign for taking on Republican candidate Donald Trump has cancelled a talk he was set to deliver in Toronto after being notified that his travel privileges are under review, organizers say.

Pakistan-born Khizr Khan, who famously offered up his copy of the U.S. Constitution to the billionaire presidential hopeful who vowed to implement a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., was scheduled to speak at a luncheon hosted by Ramsay Inc. on Tuesday.

But on Monday, organizers of the luncheon issued a statement saying that Khan would not be travelling to Toronto.

“Late Sunday evening Khizr Khan, an American citizen for over 30 years, was notified that his travel privileges are being reviewed,” Julia McDowell of Ramsay Inc. said.

The statement goes on to quote Khan, saying he offered his sincere apologies for the cancellation.

“This turn of events is not just of deep concern to me but to all my fellow Americans who cherish our freedom to travel abroad. I have not been given any reason as to why,” the statement quotes Khan as saying.

CBC News reached out to Khan’s law office directly, which said in an email it had no comment.

As upyernoz — someone who knows a lot about immigration law — points out, U.S. citizens aren’t supposed to have “travel privileges” that can be revoked by the government.  Your U.S. citizenship is not subject to the whims of whoever is in charge of the executive branch or the department heads underneath him.

At least that’s the way it’s supposed to work in a democracy.

A Nice Little Trip For Them

Via the New York Times:

Ben Carson’s first full week as secretary of Housing and Urban Development got off to a rough start on Monday after he described African slaves as “immigrants” during his first speech to hundreds of assembled department employees. The remark, which came as part of a 40-minute address on the theme of America as “a land of dreams and opportunity,” was met with swift outrage online.

Mr. Carson turned his attention to slavery after describing photographs of poor immigrants displayed at the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration. These new arrivals worked long hours, six or seven days a week, with little pay, he said. And before them, there were slaves.

“That’s what America is about, a land of dreams and opportunity,’’ he said. “There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less. But they too had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons, great-granddaughters, might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.”

And in 1941 a lot of Jewish people from Germany went to Poland for a little vacation in the countryside.

Speaking of historical models:

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on Monday confirmed a Reuters report that he was considering a proposal to separate women and children who cross the U.S. border with Mexico illegally, a policy shift he said was aimed at deterring people from making a dangerous journey.

Kelly was asked in a CNN interview about the proposal, first reported by Reuters on Friday, in which the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would change U.S. policy and keep parents in custody while putting children in the care of the Health and Human Services Department.

“Yes, I am considering – in order to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network – I am considering exactly that,” Kelly said.

“We have tremendous experience in dealing with unaccompanied minors,” he said. “They will be well cared for as we deal with their parents.”

Why don’t they just put “Arbeit Macht Frei” over the border crossings and be done with it?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Rounding Up The Usual Suspects

Via the New York Times:

Trump has directed his administration to enforce the nation’s immigration laws more aggressively, unleashing the full force of the federal government to find, arrest and deport those in the country illegally, regardless of whether they have committed serious crimes.

Documents released on Tuesday by the Department of Homeland Security revealed the broad scope of the president’s ambitions: to publicize crimes by undocumented immigrants; strip such immigrants of privacy protections; enlist local police officers as enforcers; erect new detention facilities; discourage asylum seekers; and, ultimately, speed up deportations.

The new enforcement policies put into practice language that Mr. Trump used on the campaign trail, vastly expanding the definition of “criminal aliens” and warning that such unauthorized immigrants “routinely victimize Americans,” disregard the “rule of law and pose a threat” to people in communities across the United States.

Despite those assertions in the new documents, research shows lower levels of crime among immigrants than among native-born Americans.

[…]

Administration officials said some of the new policies — like one seeking to send unauthorized border crossers from Central America to Mexico while they await deportation hearings — could take months to put in effect and might be limited in scope.

For now, so-called Dreamers, who were brought to the United States as young children, will not be targeted unless they commit crimes, officials said on Tuesday.

Mr. Trump has not yet said where he will get the billions of dollars needed to pay for thousands of new border control agents, a network of detention facilities to detain unauthorized immigrants and a wall along the entire southern border with Mexico.

But politically, Mr. Kelly’s actions on Tuesday serve to reinforce the president’s standing among a core constituency — those who blame unauthorized immigrants for taking jobs away from citizens, committing heinous crimes and being a financial burden on federal, state and local governments.

There will be legal challenges in court, there will be millions of dollars wasted, there will be families separated, and at some point someone’s going to pull a gun and start shooting, all to bolster Trump’s standing with a xenophobic base of voters that he cultivated carefully to follow him whether or not it violated the Constitution or the basic fact that this country was founded by people who came here from other places and the idea of “illegal immigrant” is based on bigotry and fear.

But it works great at campaign rallies in Florida, so there you are.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sunday Reading

His Greatest Weakness — John Stoehr in the Washington Monthly.

I teach a class at Yale on the classic books of presidential campaign reporting, books like Teddy White’s The Making of the President. As you can imagine, my students are exceedingly bright, highly informed, and savvy. But they don’t know much.

By that, I mean they don’t know much about how normal people think about politics. I know that I’m suggesting that my students aren’t normal. They are normal in the sense that they are smart young adults with all the concerns smart young adults have. But they aren’t normal in another sense. They are elite.

To get to Yale, they have gone through years of indoctrination making them suitable to Yale. I don’t mean brainwashing. I mean they know deep in their bones that they are required to make arguments based on facts and come to conclusions through reasoning. They must master and pledge allegiance to logic.

As you can imagine, my students find Trump supporters confounding. This is not an ideological reaction: I have liberal, libertarian, civic republican, and conservative students. They have been shocked by Trump’s election, because to them he is so transparently unfit to lead anything, much less the US government.

They know he’s unfit, because they know something about politics and policy, and knowing something about politics and policy means they know when the president is demonstrating some kind of allergy to falsifiable objective reality independent of his insecure ego.

My students, in other words, privilege knowledge, because to them, knowledge is how they will command and control their destinies.

What they don’t know is that most people don’t know much about politics, don’t know much about policy, don’t care to understand the details that make up the foundation any position, and don’t think they need to care about understanding those details, because knowledge is not what they trust most in the world.

What they trust is character.

Before I continue, let me say one more thing. After I strive mightily to get my students to understand how normal people perceive politics, they often come to an unfair conclusion—that the people who support Donald Trump are racist and stupid.

That’s probably true for a good number of the president’s supporters, but it’s certainly not true for a great many more. The reason is simple: politics is about conflict. Most people, whether normal or elite, really try to avoid conflict. It’s okay to not know much about politics, and not to care to know, because people just want to get along. No one should be faulted for that.

Besides, life is hard. There are so many things to worry about—jobs, kids, finances, health, so very many things—that Washington politics is the last thing most want to think about. I often tell my students that most people have something better to do.

The reason I’m going into the weeds like this is to get readers of the Washington Monthly and anyone who believes Donald Trump is a singular threat to democracy to understand how and why his supporters very much like what the president is doing, even though it makes no sense to the readers of the Washington Monthly and anyone who believes Donald Trump is a singular threat to democracy. In understanding how and why these people very much like what the president is doing, we can devise an effective strategy for the battles ahead.

There’s a reason why Donald Trump is reportedly fond of watching himself on TV with the sound turned off. It’s not only because he’s a narcissist, though narcissism surely plays a part. It’s also because he is trying to experience what most normal people experience when they watch the president on TV, and that means a majority of people since most still get their news about what’s happening in Washington from TV, despite the ubiquity of digital. Remember, they don’t know enough to know he’s lying. What they can see is Trump’s performance: the expressions of strength, the wit and charm (which are evident), and the braggadocio.

[Thursday]’s press conference was in fact a hot mess, but imagine watching it with the sound turned off so you don’t know what the president is saying. Imagine watching the president’s gestures, his expression, his sparring with the press. That’s probably a close approximation of what his supporters experience when they watch the president on TV. That’s the extent to which most people assess the president’s policy views. It is style’s mastery over substance.

Which brings me back to character. That is something people can judge, because they trust their ability to size up the president. That trust, of course, is misplaced, because Trump is in fact a serial liar, but remember, most people, especially Trump supporters, don’t know enough about politics or care enough to know much about politics, so they don’t know he’s lying.

What they can see is how he looks. And this is key.

I really want you to understand the connection between Trump’s appearance and the trust his supporters place in him. What the Democratic opposition needs to do is undermine that trust. Part of doing that is pointing out every time Trump lies. (The Washington press corps is doing that.) But the opposition must also attack the president where it really hurts him—by appealing to logic and reason, but not only logic and reason. The opposition must wound the president by focusing on his weakness.

Fact is, the president is weak. We saw that yesterday. When confronted with the fact that he did not win a bigger electoral victory than anyone since Reagan, he immediately backed down, spluttering something about how he had been given that information so it’s not his fault. Some have implied he will never accept the truth, so don’t bother. But that’s an argument of logic and reason. What happened in that brief exchange needs to happen a million times over in order to reveal that the president is weak and that in that weakness his supporters have misplaced their trust.

So, say it with me: The president is weak.

Say it again. Over and over. Then when the president really does demonstrate weakness, as he did when confronted by the reporter about his fake electoral landslide, the president will have substantiated the opposition’s charge of weakness.

That will hurt.

Trump ran on strength. Only he was strong enough to solve our problems. And people believed him. They still believe him. But if the opposition can establish an image of weakness, it will come close to breaking trust in him.

Who Watches the Watchers? — Linda Greenhouse in the New York Times.

Whom do federal immigration agents despise more: former President Barack Obama, or the immigrants whose lives are in their hands?

That uncomfortable question came to mind as I read articles over the past week of the growing numbers of raids, roundups, the knocks on the door, the flooding of “target-rich environments,” a phrase an anonymous immigration official used in speaking to The Washington Post. What’s a target-rich environment? “Big cities,” the official explained, “tend to have a lot of illegal immigrants.”

Clearly, with President Trump’s executive orders having expanded the category of immigrants deemed worth pursuing and deporting, the gloves are off. There’s been plenty of news coverage of this development, but few reminders of the context in which the pursuers have been freed from previous restraints.

So it’s worth noting that the union representing some 5,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents actually endorsed Mr. Trump in September, the first time the union endorsed a candidate for president. In an inflammatory statement posted on the Trump campaign’s website, Chris Crane, president of the union, the National ICE Council, complained that under President Obama, “our officers are prevented from enforcing the most basic immigration laws.” The statement went on to say that while Mr. Trump had pledged in a meeting to “support ICE officers, our nation’s laws and our members,” Hillary Clinton’s immigration plan was “total amnesty plus open borders.”

That everything in that statement except for the reference to Mr. Trump was untrue is not the point. (Far from failing to enforce the law, the Obama administration deported more than 400,000 unauthorized immigrants a year, and Mr. Trump’s Democratic rival endorsed neither total amnesty nor open borders.) Rather, the statement is evidence of how openly these law enforcement officers have been chafing at the bit to do their jobs as they please.

And chafing for a long time: back in 2012, Mr. Crane was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Obama administration’s deferral of deportation for immigrants brought to the United States as children. The claim was that the program put agents in a position of either failing to enforce immigration law as written or suffering reprisals at work for not adhering to the new policy. The plaintiffs were represented by Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state. An anti-immigration activist who joined the Trump transition team as an adviser on immigration, Mr. Kobach is an originator of the false “massive voter fraud” rationale for voter ID requirements and has exported anti-immigrant legislation to states around the country, most notably Arizona.

A federal district judge in Dallas dismissed Mr. Crane’s lawsuit against the deferral program. Mr. Crane also showed his disdain for President Obama by refusing to allow members to participate in a course aimed at training immigration agents in carrying out the Obama administration’s policy that gave priority to deporting high-risk offenders rather than immigrants with clean records and deep roots in the country. Last month, after President Trump issued his immigration orders, Mr. Crane’s union and the union representing Border Patrol officers issued a joint statement declaring that, in case anyone asked, “morale among our agents and officers has increased exponentially” as a result of the president’s promised actions.

Why does any of this matter — aside from the irony of these public employee unions having achieved pride of place in the conservative firmament, while Republican governors and legislatures are moving quickly to disable public employee unions they find troublesome?

It matters because along with entrusting our immigration enforcers to keep us safe, in the president’s often-tweeted phrase, we also entrust them with the responsibility of treating unauthorized immigrants not as prey but as human beings entitled to dignity, even if only minimally to due process.

Not everyone shares that view. I get that, and I’m reminded of it every time I write about immigration. Reader comments on articles about immigration, including the gripping one last week about Guadalupe García de Rayos, the Phoenix woman and mother of two American children who was abruptly deported when she dutifully showed up for her routine check-in at the local ICE office, run to “if she wasn’t illegal in the first place, she wouldn’t have been deported.”

Right. I’d like to think we’re better than that. A month ago, we were.

In what may be an early warning of what’s to come, last Friday immigration agents in Seattle took a 23-year-old Mexican into custody despite his paperwork proving that he had been granted work authorization under the deferred-deportation program, which for now remains in effect.

“It doesn’t matter, because you weren’t born in this country,” one of the immigration enforcement agents told the man, Daniel Ramírez Medina, according to a petition for habeas corpus filed on his behalf in Federal District Court in Seattle. Mr. Ramírez was brought to this country at age 7 and twice qualified for the deferral program, most recently with a renewal last May. On Tuesday, a federal magistrate judge gave the federal government until Thursday to explain the basis for the detention.

This column is usually about the Supreme Court, and this one is, too. Next Tuesday, the justices’ first day back from a monthlong recess, the court will hear an important case on whether a Border Patrol officer can be required to pay damages to the family of a Mexican boy he killed with a bullet fired across the dry bed of the Rio Grande, the international border that separated the two by only yards. The facts of the case, Hernández v. Mesa, sound highly unusual, but they aren’t; there have been 10 cross-border shootings in recent years in addition to several dozen others along the border.

This case raises important questions about the extraterritorial reach both of the Constitution and the damages remedy that is available to United States citizens whose constitutional rights are violated on American soil by a federal official. Sergio Hernández, the unarmed 15-year-old killed seven years ago by the Border Patrol agent, Jesus Mesa Jr., was not an American citizen, and the bullet reached him in Mexico. He and his friends had been playing in a dry culvert, daring each other to run up the opposite bank and touch the barbed-wire fence on the American side. The F.B.I. report initially claimed that the boys were throwing rocks at the agent, but cellphone videos showed Sergio hiding under a railroad trestle in the last minutes of his life. He was shot when he stuck his head out from his hiding place.

The Justice Department investigated but declined to prosecute Mr. Mesa. Mexico charged the agent with murder, but the United States refused to extradite him. Sergio’s parents sued for damages, but lost when the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that even if Sergio had constitutional rights that were violated by the shooting, the existence of any right was sufficiently unclear as to entitle Mr. Mesa to “qualified immunity,” a legal shield extended to official defendants when the relevant law is deemed uncertain. Because the case has never gone to trial, the eventual Supreme Court decision won’t resolve the conflicting accounts or establish the motive for the agent’s fatal shot. But presumably the law will be clear, one way or another, the next time such an incident occurs.

On the chaotic night last month when Mr. Trump fired the acting attorney general, Sally Yates, for refusing to defend his immigration order, he made another personnel change that got less attention. Without explanation, he replaced the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Daniel Ragsdale, with Thomas Homan, a career employee who had been serving in the agency’s top enforcement position. Last April, when Mr. Homan received the government’s highest Civil Service award, a profile in The Washington Post began: “Thomas Homan deports people. And he’s really good at it.”

In the Post profile, Mr. Homan declined to answer questions about policy, or whether he might be supporting Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. “Sorry, I can’t say what I think,” he told the reporter.

The Roman poet Juvenal asked: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who will guard the guardians? We need to ask that question now, urgently. I fear the answer.

 Why Thornton Wilder Matters — Laura Collins Hughes on the revival of “The Skin of Our Teeth.”

Thornton Wilder

When Thornton Wilder’s “The Skin of Our Teeth” had its Broadway premiere in 1942, directed by Elia Kazan and starring a dream cast led by Tallulah Bankhead and Fredric March, the critic Brooks Atkinson of The New York Times called it “one of the wisest and friskiest comedies written in a long time.” When it returned in 1955, with Helen Hayes and Mary Martin, Mr. Atkinson deemed it simply “perfect.”

After that, though, the play’s fortunes fell. On its third and most recent Broadway outing, José Quintero’s 1975 revival starring Elizabeth Ashley, the Times critic Mel Gussow dismissed it as “simplistic.” Boundary-breaking in its day, it has long been scarce on professional stages.

So Arin Arbus’s new Off Broadway production for Theater for a New Audience, in previews at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn, is a rare chance for re-evaluation. With a cast of 35 (!) and original music by César Alvarez (“Futurity”), it follows the members of the Antrobus family of suburban New Jersey through the ice age in Act I (their pets are a mammoth and a dinosaur; freezing refugees clamor at the door) and into a great flood in Act II. The third act opens amid the ruins of a war. With each calamity, the Antrobuses have to figure out whether and how to survive.

Jeffrey Horowitz, the founding artistic director of Theater for a New Audience, said he didn’t choose the play with topicality in mind. But Wilder had his own suspicions about when it resounds most powerfully. As he explained in the 1950s, in a preface to his collection “Three Plays”: “It was written on the eve of our entrance into the war and under strong emotion, and I think it mostly comes alive under conditions of crisis.”

Several admirers of the play spoke recently about why “The Skin of Our Teeth” endures, what makes it problematic and why this could be a ripe time for its resurgence. Here are edited excerpts from those interviews.

Carey Perloff

The artistic director of American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco directed “The Skin of Our Teeth” at Classic Stage Company in New York in 1986 — a production that, according to Mr. Gussow’s review in The Times, included the refugees in Act I singing a chorus of “Tomorrow,” from “Annie.” Ms. Perloff laughed as she said she didn’t recall much about that long-ago detail, but she was very clear on the play’s current resonance.

All of us who are running theaters now are in this strange position of thinking: What is the appropriate response to the chaos and uncertainty of this moment, and how do you think about that theatrically? It was very prescient of Jeffrey to program this.

I think the reason this one keeps coming back is that it is an allegory, so it has those deep biblical roots and kind of archaeological references. It’s a very profound play to rehearse, because those epic questions come up as you work: Is humanity resilient? It’s a really dystopian look at the American experiment, and I think that’s what we’re all kind of waking up to. We assumed we would be inheritors of this great ideal, and now we realize how completely fragile it is.

There are great things in the play, and there are really frustrating things in the play. As with many great theatrical artifacts, you sort of wish you could take it apart and recombine it somehow. Sometimes I think we should give ourselves permission to do important plays even if they don’t really work.

Paula Vogel

“The Skin of Our Teeth” is the first play that the playwright (“Indecent”) ever saw, at her public high school in Maryland in the 1960s. A self-described “huge fanatic about Thornton Wilder,” she regards it as an example of near perfection and said it has been deeply influential on emerging writers over the past 40 years. Ms. Vogel, a Pulitzer Prize winner, considers the play — with its reverence for books and great thinkers, represented by Mr. Antrobus’s cherished personal library — a defense of Western humanism.

In my life, I’ve only seen two productions of it. One of the difficulties is that commercial and mainstream American drama has eschewed Wilder’s more global, abstract, philosophical voice for a kind of nitty-gritty naturalism, which doesn’t critique American society the same way that Wilder does. What I think happens is that there is a critical reprimand for choosing mythic elements and allegorical elements in American theater.

It’s an extraordinary time to be producing this play. We’re in this moment in time where we are thinking again very apocalyptically. A, we’re having extreme climate change; B, we’re having floods; C, we’re having refugees; and D, we’re actually facing the extinction of animals on our planet, and then hanging over us is the perpetual warfare. Everything in the play is pretty much upon us.

Obviously he’s writing on the brink of huge apocalypse, of World War II and Hitler, and he’s saying: “Let’s look at the resistance. Let’s look at the fact that we are going to get through this, and let’s look at what we need to get through it. What we need are our books.”

Arin Arbus

Ms. Arbus first encountered “The Skin of Our Teeth” in 2002, when the nation was still reeling from 9/11, and immediately wanted to direct it. “I thought, If I don’t do it soon, it just won’t be relevant anymore,” she said, and laughed with what sounded like ruefulness. She agrees with Wilder that the play comes alive in times of crisis, but she believes it is staged as rarely as it is partly because of its complex requirements, including a large cast and the need to balance multiple theatrical styles while leaving room for Wilder’s humor.

One of the challenges and the thrills of it is the slippery style of the play: We go kind of without transition from a Brechtian theater, in which the emotional climax of the scene is broken and commented upon, into absurdist drama with lines like “Have you milked the mammoth?” into this dark domestic family tragedy. Unlocking that is hard.

He was writing it as the world was descending into chaos. I think everybody was wondering: “Will we get through this? And if we do, what then? Will we learn anything? Will we grow or change or do it better the next time?” Although the characters do grow and they survive, they are not transformed. Evil — quote-unquote evil — remains within the nation and within the family and within the home.

Things keep falling apart, and these characters have to go through it over and over and over and over again. That’s what it’s about. The characters are continually hitting rock bottom and then finding a way — and it’s usually with the help of other people — to have the hope to move forward, despite the catastrophic situation that is facing them in that immediate moment.

Bartlett Sher

The Tony-winning director, whose “Oslo” opens on Broadway this spring, has immersed himself twice in the Wilder play: first as an assistant to the director Robert Woodruff on a Guthrie Theater production in Minneapolis in 1990, then on his own Intiman Theater staging in Seattle in 2007. He cast the deaf actor Howie Seago in the role of Mr. Antrobus — in part, Mr. Sher said, to add “another layer of Joycean logic” to the play. He has great affection for Wilder, for both his experimental nature and his capacious heart, but that didn’t make staging the play any easier.

It’s a hard, hard, hard, hard show. It’s all based on “Finnegans Wake.” He was reaching for a kind of narrative in the structure that he put together that’s incredibly interesting but which I’m not sure he was totally successful at accomplishing. It’s one of those things that everybody’s really drawn to, how much they can’t wait to do it, and then they find out how hard it’s going to be.

It has a comforting and profound view of time. It makes you think of time over a very long arc. Right now we’re all freaking out and exploding over the particular kind of time that 2017 appears to be. But if you cycle way back, you think: “Well, yes, we’re going through an incredibly bumpy period in the republic, but it’s not impossible that the institutions will survive and come out reinvigorated.”

The primary job of interpreting the classics — absolutely primary job — is to discover the immediate significance of the work in the time you’re doing it. It’s interesting that Arin is doing it now, because I tend to think these works come around when you need them. It may be one of those things where this particular time requires a good “Skin of Our Teeth” to help make sense of it.

Doonesbury — Kids these days.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Court 3, Trump 0

The short version of the ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals is that the Government can’t ban people from coming into the country based on the principle of “because we say so.”

A US appeals court has rejected President Donald Trump’s attempt to reinstate his ban on visitors from seven mainly Muslim countries.

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals said it would not block a lower-court ruling that halted the order.

Mr Trump responded with an angry tweet saying national security was at risk and there would be a legal challenge.

But the unanimous 3-0 ruling said the government had not proved the terror threat justified the ban.

“The government has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the Order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States,” the ruling said.

It also rejected the argument that the president had sole discretion to set immigration policy.

“Rather than present evidence to explain the need for the executive order, the government has taken the position that we must not review its decision at all,” said the ruling. “We disagree, as explained above.”

Donald Trump’s lawyers did not make their case. In fact, according to three Ninth Circuit judges, they didn’t even really try to make their case. Rather than explaining why the temporary travel ban was needed, the administration argued that the president’s authority on immigration was so sweeping that they didn’t have to explain why the order was necessary.

According to the court, the government was unable to say why Mr Trump’s ban addressed a pressing national security threat that a temporary stay of the order would worsen. The lawyers for the challenging states, on the other hand, convinced the judges that re-imposing the order at this point would create further chaos by infringing on the due process rights of those on US soil, regardless of their immigration status.

By issuing a unanimous, unsigned opinion, the judges avoid accusations of partisan bias, as one of the three was a Republican appointee.

Mr Trump tweeted a sharp “SEE YOU IN COURT” following the decision.

The case will most likely go to the Supreme Court, and it will take a vote of five of the justices to overturn the lower court ruling.  Since there are only eight justices on the court — four liberal and four conservatives — chances aren’t too good that Trump will prevail.  In fact, that’s one of the reasons the court ruled to uphold the lower court: the Government did not prove that it would likely prevail.

In the spirit of our fearless leader, “NEENER NEENER.”

Short Takes

Appeals court rules unanimously against Trump’s executive order on immigration.

It’s a no-no: Conway gets schooled on hawking Ivanka merchandise.

Heavy winter storm cancels thousands of flights in the Northeast.

Russian airstrike kills Turkish soldiers.

Aretha Franklin announces her retirement.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017