April 12, 2019 | Reading Time: 5 minutes
The Dumbest Advisor Ever?
Stephen Miller makes a strong case for himself.
A president is only as smart, strong and effective as the people he decides to work with in the White House. What does that say about Donald Trump? Well, he’s surrounded by sycophants, goons, ideologues and hacks, so there you go. Specifically, his senior advisor, Stephen Miller, must be the dumbest aide in the history of American presidencies. Yes, I understand competition is fierce, but hear me out on this.
The Post reported last night that Miller had twice pressured Immigration and Customs Enforcement to dump aliens caught at the border onto so-called sanctuary cities. The goal was to punish Trump’s opponents by busing undocumented immigrants from borderlands to cities like San Francisco, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s home district.
ICE is fascist, but this was too much. Its legal department pushed back successfully against the idea, saying it was “rife with budgetary and liability concerns, and noting that ‘there are PR risks as well.’” That’s where things stood. It wasn’t until Trump was in shutdown talks with Pelosi and Chuck Schumer in February that a whistle blower went to the Congress to warn lawmakers of Miller’s “Sanctuary City Proposal.”
Pelosi’s office said: “The extent of this administration’s cynicism and cruelty cannot be overstated. Using human beings—including little children—as pawns in their warped game to perpetuate fear and demonize immigrants is despicable.” Yuuup.
Miller appears to believe his own propaganda.
Here’s the context. The Democrats wanted fewer beds to limit ICE’s ability to take illegal immigrants into custody. Trump wanted more beds to take more illegal immigrants into custody. Eventually, each side came to agreement to keep the government running, but not before Miller hatched a scheme behind the scenes to pay back the Democrats. In a nutshell, it went like this: You want fewer beds? Fine. We’ll dump these people on you! See what happens to your sanctuary cities with all these murderers and rapists around! (That’s a lie, of course; I’ll get to that in a second.)
A Department of Homeland Security official said:
It was retaliation, to show them, “Your lack of cooperation has impacts,” I think they thought it would put pressure on those communities to understand, I guess, a different perspective on why you need more immigration money for detention beds.
If we would have done that, we would have had to expend transportation resources, and make a decision that we’re going to use buses, planes, etc., to send these aliens to a place for whatever reason. We had to come up with a reason, and we did not have one.
Why does this make Miller the dumbest aide? It doesn’t. Not by itself. But in addition to other things, it makes a strong case for him. Let’s start with when the president was at the peak of his power and most able to extract from the Democrats.
In early 2017, Pelosi and Schumer feared Trump would rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program shielding from deportation people brought to the US as kids. They were ready to offer anything, and they did: $25 billion for a border wall in exchange for a pathway to citizenship for DACA kids. Miller said no, convinced the president was entitled to get something without giving anything in return. (Trump did rescind DACA, but the program is still in effect, as it’s been mired in the courts.)
Miller then persuaded Trump to shut down the federal government to force the Democrats to fund a wall. After the midterms, Pelosi was back in power. She had no reason to deal, and didn’t. Thanks to Stephen Miller, the president not only missed his chance to get a border wall; he endured to date his greatest public humiliation.
That’s not all. Miller appears to have persuaded Trump that he does not need the Congress to cut back on immigration. All he needs, according to Joshua Green, is for DHS to do what needs doing, which pretty much means breaking the law or otherwise fomenting a humanitarian crisis on the border. Now that it’s clear that DHS won’t violate asylum law, Trump is railing against the Democrats again, trying to intimidate them into amending asylum law. The president needs the Congress after being told he doesn’t, but he doesn’t have the wherewithal to entice Democrats to deal, because in Trump’s mind giving anything for something is losing. And Trump never loses.
That’s not the dumbest thing.
The dumbest thing goes to Stephen Miller’s appearing to believe his own bullshit propaganda. He appears to believe genuinely that illegal immigrants really are murderers, rapists and other terrible things. That would appear to be the case because Miller hoped to retaliate against Trump’s enemies by dumping border-crossers onto “small- and mid-sized sanctuary cities,” according to the Post, places where “local authorities have refused to hand over illegal immigrants for deportation.”
Put another way, Miller seems to think this is a bad thing. It’s not.
Sanctuary cities like immigrants. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be sanctuary cities. Sure, there might be resource drain, but likely not more than usual. Point is cities like San Francisco and Chicago and New York have gigantic immigrant populations. A few more won’t make much difference. Moreover, most of these immigrants will receive protection from federal authorities under their sanctuary laws and policies. All the better for immigrants, for the cities and for American ideals in general. And yet Stephen Miller thought this little scheme of his would punish the president’s foes.
The dumbest advisor ever? You decide.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Women Are Explaining (public)
Unthinkable that Democrats would turn back now.
To Trump, Threats Are Policy (public)
To Democrats, policy is policy.
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John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.