From Laura Bush to Rosalyn Carter, from elected representatives to past high government officials, outrage is the mood of the moment, perhaps more than at any time since the immediate aftermath of the 2016 election.
The Trump administration’s border policies and his dehumanizing rhetoric about immigrants have triggered this incandescent reaction. Concentration-camp comparisons have transited from Twitter—their usual home—to cable TV and the halls of Congress. CNN’s pollster reports that most Americans—67 percent of those surveyed—disapprove of family separation. Apart from a few cable-news talkers who earn their living from incitement, the administration’s usual defenders have gone AWOL. (Newt Gingrich, where are you?) The president himself has denied responsibility for his own policy, insisting he “hates” it—and that he is merely executing a law imposed on him by Democrats and the Bush administration. Those tasked with executing the policy are signaling their discomfort to the media.
The administration hopes that it is on the verge of a mighty legislative victory, in which it will at last compel Congress to act to regularize the border. But it looks now at least as likely that Trump’s nerve will snap before Congress can coalesce.
Donald Trump was elected in great part because of the crisis on the border in 2014 and 2015. In 2014, almost 70,000 unaccompanied minors and nearly 70,000 parents with children showed up on the U.S. southern border to claim asylum inside the United States. Almost all came from Central America. These border crossers gambled that they would be allowed to stay in the United States, and that gamble largely proved successful. In 2014, the United States deported just three children to their countries of origin for every 100 it apprehended. When Trump promised a wall on the border, this was the problem that the wall was supposed to resolve.