Does child-separation policy mean lasting political harm to Trump? Or does it fade as other issues have? | John Baer

Trump
President Donald Trump has weathered controversies before. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Let’s assume the Trump administration’s double-talk defense of its policy of separating children from their parents at the southern border is swept away by escalating outrage.

It is, after all, a policy drawing more condemnation from more quarters than arguably anything Trump has offered or supported as candidate or as president.

As you know, that’s saying something. So, surely it will be reversed.

(Or fixed by he who claimed, when accepting his party’s nomination in the summer of 2016, that when it comes to America’s problems, “I alone can fix it.”)

Because this is a big problem. A human-rights one in the eyes of the world. A political one in the eyes of Washington.

Just listen to voices at either end of the ideological spectrum: former conservative Fox News king Bill O’Reilly calls the policy “unacceptable,” a no-win for Trump; former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says it’s “horrific.”

And from Pennsylvania, key to putting Trump in the White House, we have Democratic Sen. Bob Casey telling journalists Tuesday, “It’s a policy straight from the pit of hell.”

Republican Sen. Pat Toomey initially said the children-at-border problem was “exaggerated significantly.” But he then conceded he’s no expert (a bit odd for any U.S. senator on the issue of the moment) and added, “It’s just not the right thing to be doing.”

And even longtime Trump backer and immigration-issues warrior U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, who’s running against Casey this fall, seems to be backpedaling.

Last week, he expressed full-throated support for child separation, since criminals in America have their children taken from them. But on Tuesday, he issued a statement saying Congress should act “so we can detain families together.”

Add to this concern and opposition from all living former first ladies; the current first lady’s call to govern “with heart”; and a parade of medical groups, including the American College of Physicians and the American Academy of Pediatrics, warning of long-term harm to children treated like those in question.

So, expect something quickly. Even if it’s done in a way the administration can still blame Democrats or past administrations or some spawn of Satan for its implementation. Because this has arrived at a critical point, and cannot be sustained.

Mostly, sad to say, because of politics.

As Republican pollster Whit Ayres told the New York Times, “Somehow I don’t think that putting kids in cages is likely to go over well with suburban moms.”

He added that his party should be pushing the strong economy, record stock market, ISIS defeats and “a world without any major wars.”

So, even if Trump isn’t worried right now, those in Congress facing reelection this year (and already, let’s say, at least a little antsy) want this to go away.

Then the question becomes: Does it stick to Trump?

Well, did the Charlottesville white supremacists protest with its “very fine people” cause Trump lasting political harm? Or his call to ban transgender people from military service? Or his talk of “s–hole countries” in Africa? Or the Access Hollywood tape? Or Stormy Daniels? Or, so far, investigations into his campaign? Or ethical questions about his and his family’s finances?

The bar for decency, transparency, reasoned leadership and even truth in Trump’s Washington is too low. The constant flood of news suggesting the lack of all the above has numbed too many of us, or convinced too many of us that media, in collusion with the “deep state,” is out to get the president.

We are information consumers of only that we choose to believe, in part because this president’s sown seeds of distrust for the institutions of democracy, especially the free press. And those seeds have borne fruit.

So, yes, expect this inhumane child-separation policy to end. But expect it to be largely forgotten. And expect it to be replaced by future policies that are, like this one, tests for our society, our moral well-being and our sense of country – and all, like this one, wrapped in obfuscation.