Our national "debates" continue to scrape new lows, with no bottom in sight. The current virtue signaling fad on the Left is to drag any conservative politician or public figure who publicly posts celebratory or grateful Father's Day messages, in light of the Trump administration's zero tolerance prosecution policy at the southern border -- which has thus far resulted in thousands of children being (at least temporarily) separated from their parents (read this). House Speaker Paul Ryan published this totally innocuous and normal tweet over the weekend, which immediately touched off an orgy of insane abuse and self-righteous posturing:
The current 'rules' do not permit Republicans loving their own children in full view of others, you see. Because Trump. You may recall that Samantha Bee's "C-word" incident was triggered by Ivanka Trump sharing a photograph with her son on social media, which whipped up a similar deranged firestorm. This weekend's outrage SWAT team deployed against Ryan spanned the gamut of liberal celebrities (content warning), Democratic operatives, and lefty journalists. And the talking point gelled very quickly:
Seriously, fuck you. Reunite the families at the border and we can talk about father's day. https://t.co/bbG0gVqfzq— John Legend (@johnlegend) June 16, 2018
Paul Ryan is wishing a happy Father's Day to all the dads out there, except those who may be seeking asylum in this country and have had their young children ripped from their arms. Those dads get Paul Ryan's cowardly silence.https://t.co/LOzKu7Bqt7— Brian Fallon (@brianefallon) June 16, 2018
Incredibly tone deaf today. https://t.co/lb2G4r4DSp— Matt Fuller (@MEPFuller) June 16, 2018
... Except for you asylum-seeking Dads whose kids have been placed in detention. Not you guys. https://t.co/05hsUHYY0G— Soledad O'Brien (@soledadobrien) June 16, 2018
Where to begin? First and foremost, parents are allowed to express love for their own children whenever they want, and however they see fit. Strong communities and values begin with strong families. Parents who are devoted to parenthood should be applauded, not beaten down with fleeting partisan cudgels, fashioned to match the latest political controversy du jour. This tactic is gross and self-defeating. For instance, if pro-lifers all decided to gang up and flood Mother's Day posts from every pro-choice politician with irate messages about supporting death for other children, how would that play? Would those abortion opponents look principled and effective, or would they look mean-spirited and unglued? And how would their actions be portrayed in the media for public consumption? We all know the answers to those questions. But beyond that, I outright reject the notion that it's somehow "tone deaf" or hypocritical -- in any way, shape or form -- to honor fathers (or one's own fatherhood) on Father's Day weekend. Good grief, people. Get a grip.
But let's just say, for the sake of argument, that blasting Father's Day wishes is somehow an honorable and reasonable approach to 'persuasion,' and not simply ideologically-motivated, 'look at me' preening. Even when considered through that prism, Paul Ryan is an odd target of this venom. Here he is speaking out against the Justice Department's new zero tolerance, universal prosecution policy -- and endorsing legislative action to rescind it:
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Thursday he opposes the new Trump administration “zero-tolerance” policy of forcibly separating immigrant children from their parents at the border. Ryan said Congress should address the issue with legislation, and a draft of a compromise immigration bill that circulated on Capitol Hill late Thursday would end the practice of dividing families detained at the border. “We don’t want kids to be separated from their parents,” Ryan, R-Wisconsin, told reporters.
A 'compromise' House GOP bill likely to be voted on this week (personally endorsed by President Trump, after some confusion, I should add) deals with a number of different immigration-related challenges. It would (a) create a path to citizenship for 1.8 million so-called DREAMers, (b) end the 'diversity' visa lottery, (c) add $25 billion in new funding for enhanced border security, prioritizing the wall, (d) reduce chain migration eligibility categories while shifting more toward a merit-based system, and (e) require illegal immigrant or asylum-seeking families to be detained together while in DHS custody. According to a senior House source, Republican members are also seeking to expand the language on that last provision: "The draft summary of the legislation clarifies the Flores Settlement by ensuring accompanied alien minors apprehended at the border must not be separated from their parent or legal guardian while in DHS custody. Drafters are also working to include a provision that not only addressed DHS custody but DOJ custody as well."
This is what a genuine compromise looks like. Immigration hawks will not be thrilled with the path to citizenship for so many DREAMers, most of whom didn't actually sign up for the Obama-era program. They'll also complain that the curbs on chain migration do not go further, and that other items (like defunding sanctuary cities and implementing mandatory E-Verify) are left out of the bill. But immigration doves will dislike President Trump's wall, and oppose any reductions of chain migration. The proposal also achieves some common-sense ends such as closing border surge-enabling "loopholes" by streamlining deportation and adjudication processes, as well as addressing the family separation issue. This strikes me as a sensible deal, with fair trade-offs in either direction. In order to accomplish anything, both "sides" need buy-in and incentives. Trump allies should be pleased with the wall (the full funding of which is required, with contingent strings attached) and merit-based migration components, while Trump opponents can claim victory on helping DREAMers and alleviating the phenomenon of children being detained without their parents during legal proceedings. Nobody would get exactly what they want, but such is the nature of compromise.
My inner cynic suspects that Democrats may be inclined to nearly universally oppose this legislation, instead demanding "clean" bills for DREAMers and to address family separations. That approach, while appeasing their exquisitely outraged base (see the tweets above), would help ensure that the problems they claim to care about so deeply do not get fixed or ameliorated. Is opposing Trump's wall and clinging to the chain migration status quo (which other western nations reject in favor of merit-driven points) worth torpedoing important progress on other fronts? Also, instituting a mass amnesty -- which the DREAM Act codification indisputably would represent -- without corresponding border control measures to prevent additional illegal crossings is a recipe for continued, or escalated, dysfunction. One way to avoid the US government muddling through processing adults who enter the country illegally without pulling them away from their kids is to...prevent and deter the illegal crossings from happening in the first place. If conservatives wanted to boomerang leftists' demagoguery against them, they could make the case that opposing the GOP compromise bill is tantamount to abandoning DREAMers and endorsing child separation. Are those urgent priorities, or aren't they?
Back to Paul Ryan. He supports the aforementioned legislation and is in the process of whipping votes for it. He has stated, on the record, that he's opposed to the administration's recent approach to applying the law (which says that illegally entering the United States is a misdemeanor on the first violation, then a felony thereafter). And yet, a simple Father's Day post is greeted with breathtaking vitriol, profane attacks, and accusations of 'cowardice' and 'silence.' It's almost as if people are ostentatiously displaying their pristine tribal conformity, without much regard to truth. Incidentally, it's true that some immigration activists are warning that Republicans' fix to family separation could result in other undesirable outcomes, but the measure would nevertheless significantly decrease separations -- which we're told are unconscionable. Choose your trade-off. (By the way, the administration could simply reverse its new enforcement regime, which is why protestations like this also rub me the wrong way).
The reality is that these are sticky, difficult, complex problems that are not easily dealt with. There's a reason why previous administrations, including President Obama's, sometimes separated parents from kids at the border. They didn't do so as a matter of course, but it still occurred fairly regularly. If a parent is charged with other serious crimes, and needs to be detained with dangerous adults, he should be separated from his kids, shouldn't he? What happens to people claiming to be parents, but suspected of human trafficking? Many of these people lack papers, after all. Dealing with these complications is, well, complicated. To pretend otherwise while shouting slogans is an exercise scoring cheap points, with no real interest in solving anything. I'll leave you with another example of how unproductive and hyperbolic this debate has become:
Other governments have separated mothers and children pic.twitter.com/tvlBkGjT0h— Gen Michael Hayden (@GenMhayden) June 16, 2018
That is a contribution from former CIA Director Michael Hayden, who generally has a pretty level-headed reputation. I challenged him on Twitter, and he replied by standing by the comparison and snarking that my objection was akin to minimizing Kristallnacht. But the Nazis separated children from their parents to murder them, as part of a systematic program of ethnic cleansing and human annihilation. The Trump policy, while heavy-handed and ill-advised, in my view, does not remotely approach the Holocaust on a moral plane. Drawing that parallel is extremely irresponsible. And if one truly believes Trump's acts presage genocide, shouldn't one advocate armed resistance against it? I asked that of Hayden, whom I've admired for some time. He did not respond. What is becoming of us?