Donald Trump and his administration are sending conflicting messages about the agenda he ran on in 2016.
He appears to be backing away from the hardcore positions that appealed to the legions of cheering supporters who catapulted him into the White House.
Trump and his advisers have abandoned key components of his plan to deport millions of illegal Hispanic immigrants, suggesting that many or even most of them will remain in this country.
His campaign pledge to build “an impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful southern border wall,” seems to be crumbling among Republicans on Capitol Hill. And it is now clear that his endlessly repeated promise to make Mexico pay to build a wall isn’t worth the paper it was printed on.
Instead, he’s pleading with Congress to include a billion-dollar down payment in the 2017 federal budget. Meaning that taxpayers will foot the entire bill.
Conservative talk show firebrand Rush Limbaugh, one of Trump’s staunchest supporters, isn’t happy with the president’s flip-flop.
Trump was “caving on his demand for a measly $1 billion in the budget for his wall on the border,” Limbaugh told his radio audience this week.
Meantime, GOP congressional leaders are no longer talking about building a 2,200-mile wall. Instead, the talk is all about beefing up security along the border with drones and other surveillance gear and personnel.
During his campaign, Trump flat-out condemned China as a “currency manipulator,” but now says that designation no longer applies.
He preached “America First” in his campaign, urging that we retreat from institutions like NATO. And he was critical of corporate welfare programs like the Export-Import Bank.
But now he opposes GOP efforts to abolish the bank and stoutly defends membership in NATO.
Perhaps nowhere is the backtracking more surprising than the growing internal debate about whether illegal immigrants, other than those who have committed crimes, should be deported.
That debate has centered on “dreamers,” illegals who were brought here when they were very young by their parents.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Trump appeared to support the “dreamers” program, saying they should “rest easy” and not be concerned about deportation.
When Attorney General Jeff Sessions was asked about the president’s remark, he said, “There’s no doubt the president has sympathy for young people who were brought here at early ages.”
But when the program’s host asked if Trump’s remark meant that they could remain in the country, Sessions said this:
“Well, we’ll see. I believe that everyone that enters the country unlawfully is subject to being deported. However, we’ve got — we don’t have the ability to round up everybody, and there are no plans to do that.”
Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly went even further. These people were here “unlawfully,” he acknowledged, but added, “we are not targeting — my organization has not targeted these so-called dreamers.”
But then, in a stunning turnabout, Kelly addressed the broader immigrant community: “If you are simply here illegally, we don’t really have the time (to) go after you. We’re looking for bad men and women.”
The president made many dubious promises in his campaign, but now he’s having trouble with another wall — one constructed by our Founding Fathers, and made up of three, totally independent branches of government.