Today in Conservative Media: Build the Wall or Bust

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President Trump at a meeting about immigration with Republican and Democratic members of Congress in the Cabinet Room at the White House on Tuesday in Washington.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Today in Conservative Media is a daily roundup of the biggest stories in the right-wing press.

A day after President Trump let news cameras roll on a bipartisan meeting at the White House with congressional leaders on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, better known as DACA, questions lingered into Wednesday about what exactly the president agreed to in the meeting. DACA, which is set to expire in March, allows undocumented immigrants who came to the country as young children and have a clean record to remain in the U.S. The program is now being used as a bargaining chip by the administration to secure funding to build a wall on the border with Mexico. Or is it? That was the White House line going into the meeting Tuesday, but during the meeting, Trump appeared to agree with Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein’s suggestion that the two issues be dealt with separately, before the Republican leadership leapt in to try to clarify.

“What did the White House and lawmakers agree to? It’s not clear,” Michael Warren wrote in the Weekly Standard. “Whatever confusion there was seems to have been hammered out after the press left the room, according to the White House.” Warren also noted that the open-door setting was, in the end, good for Trump. “[T]he public was able to see Trump preside over an extended negotiation, making the president’s case for his own stability, if not necessarily his genius,” Warren wrote.

Breitbart did its part to clear up any confusion on the president’s position by leading with the headline: ‘No. No. No.’—Donald Trump Says He Won’t Sign DACA Deal Without Wall Funding. At National Review, Ramesh Ponnuru wondered how the White House was going to walk back the impression that president had had a change of heart on DACA, but, he noted, new all-caps White House–issued talking points seemed to do the trick: “ANY DEAL ON DACA MUST END CHAIN MIGRATION, ELIMINATE THE VISA LOTTERY, AND FULLY SECURE THE BORDER, INCLUDING WITH A WALL.” Along with new talking points, the Daily Caller’s Saagar Enjeti pointed out that during a press conference with the Norwegian prime minister Wednesday, “President Donald Trump repeated his insistence that any permanent deal to codify the DACA program into law has to include funding for a border wall.”

In related DACA news, Josh Blackman is appalled in National Review that a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to leave the DACA program in place, noting that the Obama administration determined the program to be legal, but the Trump administration came to the opposite conclusion. “[I]n the Bizarro World we find ourselves in, a federal judge has now informed the Trump administration that it must keep DACA in effect.” The order, Blackman said, “has all the aesthetics of a judicial decision but is, at heart, an amateur act of punditry.” “Once again, the judiciary has attempted to shackle President Trump from making his own judgments about how to exercise his own power,” he wrote. “The Supreme Court has reversed Judge Alsup’s outlandish rulings on DACA before. And it will do so again.”

In other news

The post-Bannon era at Breitbart still had conservative commentators trying to divine lessons from the former Trump strategist’s fall. The Weekly Standard’s Jonathan Last circled back to address the question: Why did Breitbart choose Trump over Bannon? It makes sense, Last wrote, that Republicans in Washington ultimately came around to the president, seeing him as an empty vessel with which to enact their agenda, but what surprised Last is that Breitbart—the ideological brainchild of Steve Bannon—chose Trump too.

Historically, print publications are centered around ideas. That’s why they exist. It seems strange—more than strange, really—that when push came to shove, Breitbart picked the president and the corporate tax cut and DACA renewal over the ideas of Steve Bannon. It makes no sense. Unless, that is, the animating idea of the Breitbart wing of conservatism isn’t actually nationalist-populism. It’s just power. And then it all makes perfect sense: For Breitbart, power is their big idea.

National Review’s Kevin Williamson urges Mitt Romney to “do it,” that is, jump in the race for the Utah Senate seat Orrin Hatch is vacating. Williamson playfully notes Romney has run for the Senate before and did so in the deep blue state of Massachusetts where “people are nuts.” “This is Utah. These people are nice,” he jokes, before getting to the heart of case for Romney to run: The Republican Party has become what it once despised and needs saving.

The Republican party doesn’t need saving from an electoral avalanche. No, what the Republican party needs saving from is the Republican party … It isn’t just Trump, of course. Trump is a symptom, not the main cause of the current state of affairs in the GOP. The tsunami of disgust and outrage that has swept over the Republican party is like that ugly gold hotel in Las Vegas: Trump didn’t build it, he just put his name on it and profited from it.

The Right has always had our rage-monkeys: the Birchers, the televangelists, the Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan types. But the combination of a few new developments—social media, talk radio, Fox News, the class resentment unleashed by the bailouts, economic stagnation, the messianic pretensions of Barack Obama—has transformed the GOP.

What was once the party of admittedly uptight up-and-comers, the Alex P. Keaton conservatives who saw in Ronald Reagan (another California transplant, there) a politics of optimism and confidence, has today embraced an ethic of constant outrage and “Real America” resentment. It sneers at the successful coastal cities (and at cities categorically) and insists that the only authentic America is to be found in moribund postindustrial towns and sleepy farming communities. Today’s Republican party is Hee-Haw without the music or humor. It’s become a caricature of itself. The Republican party desperately needs an alternative to Trump in elected office in Washington.

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