Politics In The News: President Trump's Immigration Stance
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
President Donald Trump continues to rail against the U.S. immigration system and the migrants crossing the southern border. He fired off a tweet yesterday that said, quote, "we cannot allow all of these people to invade our country. When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no judges or court cases, bring them back from where they came," end quote. The president's hard line on immigration plays well in certain conservative political circles, less well in others.
Republican Senator James Lankford from Oklahoma was on NBC's "Meet The Press" yesterday. He was asked about President Trump's recent comments saying that migrants could be murderers or thieves.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MEET THE PRESS")
JAMES LANKFORD: I would prefer the president would step out and say a lot of these are folks that are coming for economic reasons. They want to be able to flee into an area where they have greater economic opportunities. Every family wants to be able to see that for their family.
MARTIN: Midterm elections are coming up in a matter of months, so is immigration an issue Republicans can win on? Let's ask Jonah Goldberg, senior editor at National Review. He's in our studios. Hey, Jonah.
JONAH GOLDBERG: Hey, it's great to be here.
MARTIN: Is immigration a good issue for Republicans this year?
GOLDBERG: Well, look; there are people in the White House who are absolutely convinced that whenever the national conversation is on immigration it's good for Donald Trump and for the Republicans. And I think that is often true. If it's about MS-13, if it's about gang violence and that sort of thing, I think it generally benefits the GOP, certainly benefits Donald Trump. The problem - one of the reasons why this crisis, this immigration crisis was not particularly helpful to Donald Trump is that it was about little kids and...
MARTIN: Right, family separations happening. Yeah.
GOLDBERG: ...That's a - just a very different message. And that's why the administration was so desperate to turn it into an MS-13, turn it into a gang violence sort of story because talking about these little kids who aren't MS-13 - they're not even MS-3, right (laughter)? I mean, it's just - it was a desperate effort, and that's why their messaging was so off for so long.
MARTIN: Also, Republicans, though - some of these Republicans are in tough re-election districts...
MARTIN: ...Where there is a craving for a comprehensive immigration bill. And President Trump has been giving mixed messages at best on this.
GOLDBERG: Yeah. No, that's right. And that's another reason why the family separation issue was a huge problem. When you have Laura Bush - who, whatever people may think of her, is basically the patron saint of the suburban Republican woman - coming out so forcefully against the Trump administration on the policy, it was a sign that this was not playing well among a constituency that Trump is very weak with and needs desperately if they're going to hold onto the House.
You know, you have congressmen like Mike Coffman out of Colorado. You have places like northern Virginia where the party is just hemorrhaging these suburban, college-educated white women. And this story about little kids was devastating in that regard. And so the immigration issue may help enormously in western Pennsylvania with a very Trump-basey (ph) district.
GOLDBERG: But the Republican margin of control over the House depends upon people from much more purple districts, some districts that went for Hillary Clinton. And this story, as it was playing out, was devastating for those congressmen.
MARTIN: It also stirs up Democrats on the other side, right? You've got Maxine...
GOLDBERG: It definitely activates Democrats. Yeah.
MARTIN: ...Waters out there saying, yes, protest Kirstjen Nielsen, DHS secretary, in restaurants; protest Sarah Sanders in restaurants.
GOLDBERG: Yeah. And I think that could very well backfire on Democrats. The - one of the things that I think has shown how Trump's approval has ticked up has to do with the fact that people are just sick of the spectacle of politics. And while it plays well to the Democratic base to increase the spectacle, I don't know that it attracts and engages moderate and swing voters as much. They just - they want Washington out of their headspace, not dragged into every nook and cranny of their lives.
MARTIN: I have to ask you about Charles Krauthammer. He is the conservative columnist for The Washington Post who died last week. He influenced your work, as he did for so many people. You are one of the folks who gathered yesterday to remember him at his memorial service. What can you say about his legacy to the conservative movement?
GOLDBERG: Yeah. I mean, one of the things - it was telling. I was on Fox News the other day saying that maybe more conservatives should model his behavior and stick to the facts, never be conspiratorial, never be mean, but be tough and principled. And I was attacked by a lot of people. How dare you, you know, say that? He was one of the most honorable and decent men I've ever known, and he's going be sorely missed.
MARTIN: Jonah Goldberg of National Review - thanks, Jonah.
GOLDBERG: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.