Donald Trump sucks at actually being president, but he simply loves running for president. And so on June 21 his never-ending campaign made its latest stop in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
"We're not even campaigning and look at this crowd," he remarked to the collection of America's poorly educated who had gathered to hear their God-Emperor talk about everything from the secret new Republican Obamacare replacement to his plan for a solar powered border wall.
As we have come to expect, the crowd ate up every word. A protester got kicked out, there were calls from the audience to put Hillary Clinton in prison -- it was Trump in full campaign mode. And of course, just like in the actual campaign, some of the biggest applause was offered in response to his remarks on immigrants and immigration. Those remarks also produced a monumental fail, even though the crowd of starry-eyed deplorables were completely oblivious to it.
You've probably seen it on Facebook or other social media, or heard it from your crazy uncle at a family dinner -- conservatives are simply outraged at the idea that undocumented, or for that matter even legal immigrants are receiving welfare benefits. And in Cedar Rapids Trump promised to do something about it.
"The time has come for new immigration rules which say that those seeking admission into our country must be able to support themselves financially and should not use welfare for a period of at least five years," Trump proclaimed to cheers of approval.
He followed that by saying that his administration would be proposing a bill to produce a law based on his idea. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell probably breathed sighs of relief, since the proposal will require absolutely zero work from them or the rest of the do-nothing Congress. What Trump called for has already been law since the Clinton administration.
The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton. It mandates that no one who emigrates to the US may receive any federal means-tested benefit for a period of five years, beginning on the date the person enters the country. There are a limited set of exceptions to the law, largely centered around emergency assistance and disaster relief, as well as for some public health programs such as vaccinations. But for the most part the law prevents immigrants from receiving welfare.
It's not clear whether Trump was aware of the law or not. I'm betting that yes, even if he doesn't know the specifics of the legislation, he is at least aware of the general idea behind it. His announcement fits his MO of taking credit for things he had absolutely nothing to do with. Now at some point in the future he can play the "I stopped immigrants from getting welfare" card at another gathering of the terminally clueless, and his fans will again go nuts. Any attempt to correct the record by the media will be rejected as "fake news" by the faithful, and the #MAGA crowd will ascribe another undeserved victory to their beloved ruler.
This is what keeps me up at night. Every day I hear liberal pundits like Stephanie Miller, Thom Hartmann, and Mark Thompson talk hopefully about Trump's coming impeachment. Not only do I believe there is only a slim chance of impeachment (resting totally on the Democrats regaining control of Congress in 2018), I believe there is a better than even chance that if he is not impeached Trump will get re-elected.
The people who make up Trump's base have absolutely no clue about things like PRWORA, and they refuse to believe anything they hear that runs contrary to what Trump tells them. His base of support comes from only around one-third of voters, but that group will never desert him. And let's face it, when election time rolls around GOP voters who aren't crazy about Trump will still come home to roost, because that's just how Republicans roll.