Rich Lowry has an insightful post about the politics of the S***hole Controversy. He reminds us of the context in which the controversy arose: “[Lindsey] Graham brought Trump a deal with [Dick] Durbin that basically had nothing in it for immigration restrictionists.”
This was bound to backfire. Graham may have believed that the warm and fuzzy signals Trump sent out during the televised conference earlier in the week were other than just for show. If so, he was foolish. President Trump was not about to give away the store, and certainly not with Tom Cotton and David Perdue in the room.
Graham desperately wants a deal. It’s a major reason why he has sidled up to Trump lately. But in presenting this deal to Trump, he was trying to play the president for a sucker.
Graham shouldn’t be surprised that Trump blew up, though he had no reason to think the explosion would be this bad. Now that the s*** has hit the fan, Graham is in an untenable position. As Lowry says, “Graham. . .can take Durbin’s side only by ruining his relationship with Trump but he opposes Trump on the policy and the premises — so he’s been quiet.” In Graham’s case, that’s never a bad thing.
Does Durbin want a deal? If he does, Lowry finds it “weird that he has gone out of his way to blow up the s***hole meeting.” Maybe he just couldn’t help himself. Or maybe he thinks the controversy, by hurting Trump, gives him leverage.
If so, I agree with Lowry that this was a miscalculation. If anything, Trump’s stance will likely harden now, and it looks like top congressional Republicans such as Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy — realizing that surrendering on immigration without Trump’s backing would be a disaster — are going to back him.
I wonder whether Durbin blew up the process because he couldn’t stand the fact that Trump had played him during the televised immigration conference. At that conference, Durbin was seated next to Trump, so we can attempt to read his face.
My sense was that as the meeting went on, it dawned on Durbin that Trump was using him and his fellow Democrats as a prop. In other words, Trump was making conciliatory statements, without giving anything away, for the purpose of appearing presidential in the aftermath of questions raised by his enemies about his sanity.
Durbin probably didn’t appreciate being played. So he hit back hard as soon as Trump, with his offensive statement (or some other statement Durbin could mischaracterize), gave him the opportunity.
In theory, Durbin probably wants a deal. But I think he understands that the Republicans aren’t about to give him one he likes at all, and that a war is looming. So why not hit Trump as hard as he can and let the chips fall where they may?