Birthright Citizenship Stunt Shows Trump Doesn’t Know How to Run Government

Donald Trump (Max Goldberg)

ome media critics have stated that President Donald Trump’s recent antics are a sign that he’s cracking under the growing realization that Republicans are going to lose the House and/or the Senate in next week’s midterms elections.

Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman wrote: “‘He was really upset the momentum had been killed by the pipe bombs,’ one Republican close to the White House told me. Another former White House official in touch with colleagues said that Trump’s mood has been grim. ‘The president is self-destructing,’ the official said.”

Trump has taken to making outrageous statements recently or creating events that are designed to capture the news cycle for a few days and make him look good. Ian Masters, host of “Background Briefing,” calls this governing by stunt, meaning these are events that are great for publicity but don’t really have any lasting impact.

Two great examples of this are his plan to overturn birthright citizenship, which is widely seen as unconstitutional. Even Speaker Paul Ryan nixed the idea.

“You cannot end birthright citizenship with an executive order,” said Ryan in an interview with WVLK radio.

The other political stunt was his plan to send more than 5,000 troops to the border to intercept a group of Central American refugees. The problem is the group won’t be here until the holiday season and the soldiers will eventually outnumber the refugees. By the time they get here, the group, whose numbers are dwindling, will be around 2,000 or less. But Trump has sent 5,200 troops to handle the problem.

There’s also the matter of cost. According to Vox, when Trump sent 2,000 troops to the border earlier this year, the price tag was about $185 million. Sending more than twice that number of troops is probably going to cost about half a billion dollars. Even worse, those troops are going to spend about two months doing nothing.

Sending troops to the border is a great example of solving a problem that doesn’t really exist. Although Trump and his friends in the right-wing media have convinced their aging, white audience that Latino gang members are storming the borders, border crossings are down.

As long as America borders poor and unstable countries, this is always going to be an issue, but it’s been worse. According to statistics from the U.S. Border Patrol, the number of border crossings has been falling for more than a decade. In March 2000, about 220,000 people were apprehended at the border. In March 2018, that number had fallen to about 40,000.

However, both of these issues reveal a greater problem, Trump has no idea how to run the government.

The birthright citizenship situation shows he has no regard for government procedure. If he wanted to try to change the situation he would be pushing a bill through Congress. In order to end birthright citizenship, which is written into the constitution, he would need a two-thirds vote by both Houses. And get two-thirds of state Houses to approve it. Trump is actually going about things backward by declaring he wants to change the law, instead of actually doing the groundwork to make it happen.

The deployment of troops to the border is also problematic. There is a procedure for handling this. The border patrol has a large force. I believe the correct process would be to wait for the head of the Border Patrol to request extra manpower. But Trump often does things on his personal whims, leaving his department heads to figure out how to make it happen.

A great example of this is Space Force, an idea he apparently came up with during a speech. Even now the future of the proposed agency is up in the air. According to Defense News, creating a new branch of the military would require action by Congress.

There are plenty of stories in Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” and Bob Woodward’s “Fear,” that support the idea that Trump is clueless about administration. “Fear” says Trump often wanders into meetings and starts talking about subjects not on the agenda. In “Fear,” senior aides are described showing Trump how to follow simple government procedure. He also once said he “wanted to sign something” to show that he was being industrious.

This is no way to run the most powerful country in the world. Trump has proven that he doesn’t understand the complexities of being the top government administrator. And he’s also proven to be a poor steward of the treasury. A Democratic victory in the midterms won’t change that, but I hope voters remember his incompetence in 2020.

Manny Otiko writes about race, politics and sports. He has been published in Salon and LA Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @mannyotiko.

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