As if the tragedies and national indignities foisted upon the world by Donald Trump haven't been damaging enough, the president and his personal Wormtongue, the dead-eyed Stephen Miller, chose to allow the U.S. Border Patrol to launch tear gas at Central American refugees at the border, including women and children.
The news flash that dropped via the Associated Press on Sunday was profoundly chilling to anyone with a soul or a sense of right and wrong: "Parents running away with choking toddlers."
Naturally, Trump's loyalists will justify this action as a retaliation against a so-called attack, parroting Trump's propaganda. It's a myth as ridiculous as any Trump superlative ("Trump Steaks are the world's greatest steaks!") given how any reasonable interpretation of the matter ought to conclude that these people are asylum-seekers escaping the bloody drug wars in the "northern triangle" -- Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
Reality, however, doesn't suit Trump's spastic pandering to his racist, xenophobic base. Hence, the Fox News fiction of an "invasion" is as bogus as the alleged 1898 attack against the USS Maine that sparked the Spanish-American War. The refugees aren't an army. They're armed with, at worst, rocks. There is no invasion. Fake news.
Any normal president would've responded by perhaps distributing food and water. Trump, a deeply abnormal president, inflicted pain and terror upon children -- choking toddlers, in the words of the AP. Our president quite literally chokes toddlers as a means of securing his political support.
With these actions, the United States has become an extension of Trump's necrotic darkness; his psychological glitches, his cruel whimsy. We're arguably the most powerful nation in the history of civilization, requiring mercy and a degree of deference, values that used to distinguish us from the past's most despotic regimes. Not now. Not any more. Coupled with the family separation policy, we're rapidly de-evolving as a nation, linking our modern history with the nightmares of slavery, Japanese internment, the Trail of Tears, and the genocide against indigenous Americans. Added to the list: choking toddlers and children held indefinitely in tent cities.
In his ungainly desperation to justify his inhumanity, Trump launched a verbal attack against 60 Minutes on Monday for reporting the truth: that the Trump administration's family separation policy is unique to Trump and not an extension of the Obama and Bush 43 border policies. Trump lied on Twitter, screaming that it's the opposite: that he's merely continuing the policies of the previous two presidents. In reverse order:
He's lying. Again.
Trump's family separation policy began earlier this year when Attorney General Jeff Sessions unveiled the president's "zero tolerance" policy in which everyone caught crossing the border would be arrested and detained, with children separated from parents in all cases. Consequently, between April and May, 1,940 adults were separated from their children in order for the adults to be jailed. Federal law prohibits children from serving prison time with their parents, hence the policy.
The Obama era policy was quite different, according to Politifact:
"Obama generally refrained from prosecution in cases involving adults who crossed the border with their kids," said Peter Margulies, an immigration law and national security law professor at Roger Williams University School of Law. "In contrast, the current administration has chosen to prosecute adult border-crossers, even when they have kids. That's a choice — one fundamentally different from the choice made by both Obama and previous presidents of both parties."
Denise Gilman, a law professor who directs the immigration clinic at the University of Texas School of Law, said immigration attorneys "occasionally" saw separated families under the Obama administration.
"However, these families were usually reunited quite quickly once identified," she said, "even if that meant release of a parent from adult detention."
Likewise, the Bush 43 era policy was different from the Trump policy. In 2005, the Bush administration chose to detain all border-crossers, not unlike Trump. Bush, however, refused to detain migrants traveling with children.
Trump wants to appease his Red Hats, while also refusing to accept responsibility for the ramifications of his policies. Not only is Trump being horrendously inhumane by separating families and tear-gassing children, to the delight of his disciples, but he's also refusing to accept accountability for what he's doing. He wants the credit but not the blame. Typical bully-slash-coward behavior. Typical Trumpism.
I'm afraid this is only the beginning. We're so far off the rails with the Trump crisis, it's almost impossible to forecast what's next. But one thing we can rely upon is the continued knowledge that Trump always makes things worse for Trump, and with the incoming Democratic House on the horizon, comeuppance is just around the corner, and it can't happen soon enough.
Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP / Getty Images