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THE WASHINGTON POST OPINIONS

THE MORNING PLUM:

President Trump is professing great confidence that overreaching progressive criticism of his cruel and disastrously executed immigration agenda will prove devastating to Democratic chances in the midterm elections. And a number of pundits are rushing to endorse that view.

In an interview on Fox News, Trump said that the growing calls to “Abolish ICE” among Democrats will result in them getting “beaten so badly,” adding: “I love that issue if they’re gonna actually do that.”

“These are the guys that go in and take MS-13, and they take them out,” Trump said. “You get rid of ICE, you’re going to have a country that you’re going to be afraid to walk out of your house.” This comes after Trump tweeted that the “liberal left” wants “Open Borders,” which would make crime “rampant and uncontrollable,” and that the left wants to do away with “all police.” Trump has absurdly claimed that he has “watched ICE liberate towns” from MS-13, and has falsely called Nancy Pelosi an “MS-13 lover.”

As an answer to all this, Democrats might consider offering some variation of the following, in every conceivable forum:

Trump’s cruel and incompetent policies just ripped more than 2,000 children away from their parents, and there are no indications when he’ll be able to reunite them, even though a judge has ordered him to do so. It’s time for him to show some leadership and clean up the immense humanitarian catastrophe he has created, rather than wasting all of our time with his petty little tweets and lies.

The claim that “Abolish ICE” is a liability for Democrats is a proxy for a larger argument over whether the broader liberal backlash to Trump is unleashing an insurgency that will force Democrats to take overly radical positions or compromise the party among swing voters. After the shocking win of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who supports doing away with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), The Post and the New York Times reported that this prospect has Democratic leaders worried.

I’m agnostic on the question of whether this presents a big political problem for Dems. Sure, maybe some swing voters will find the displays of left-wing energy troubling. But individual Democratic candidates can tailor their messages to their states and districts. We all know juiced-up enthusiasm among Democratic voters is crucial to their midterm hopes. In that context, it’s hard to argue that the hundreds of marches over the weekend against Trump’s family separations is a bad thing for Democrats. A lot of people said the tea party in 2010 was pretty radical. I don’t recall that doing much to harm the GOP’s midterm prospects that year, do you?

Some pundits are suggesting that the phrase itself, “Abolish ICE,” is too radical, that Democrats should distance themselves from it, and that it will help Trump distract from family separations. But let’s not forget that now that the reality of Trump’s immigration agenda has been on display for all to see, Trumpian immigration attacks have repeatedly failed this cycle, in big races in Virginia, Alabama and Pennsylvania. What’s more, this line of punditry actually helps reinforce Trump’s substantive framing of the argument, by exaggerating the radicalism of what’s actually being floated and the degree to which that one phrase represents a partywide position.

No one is arguing for ending enforcement. As Moira Whelan explains in a must-read thread, the general topic of whether ICE needs major reform is a perfectly legitimate one, rooted in serious questions about whether the agency’s original creation as part of a post-9/11 reorganization of homeland security has now left it out of sync with the times. ICE’s practices are deeply disconcerting to many Americans, perhaps even a majority of them. Democrats can argue that theirs is a big-tent party, and that there are some voices who want to reform and reorganize the agency that’s carrying out Trump’s unshackled deportations. But above all, they must not do so defensively.

Indeed, there’s no evident way for Democrats to engage in the debate over the politics of “Abolish ICE” without doing so on Trump’s terms, so there’s no real percentage in making a big show of policing their left flank over it. Trump wants Democrats to publicly wring their hands in terror of his attacks. This is a sucker’s game, one that is designed to bait Democrats into projecting timidity, equivocation, lack of conviction and weakness. Instead, Democrats should continually turn this back on him, by going on offense against his horrible policies and the immense human toll they are enacting.

Trump and Republicans should fear the immigration debate

Indeed, it’s Trump and Republicans — and not Democrats — who should have the most to fear politically from the immigration debate right now. First, we are learning horrifying new details about the family-separations fiasco. The Associated Press reports that the policy “sowed confusion from the start,” due to a “lack of coordination among some of the government agencies involved in the process” rooted in the fact that, to the administration, “how or whether families would be reunited wasn’t much of a concern.”

What’s more, this isn’t going away. As Politico reports, the courts may soon decide that Trump cannot detain families indefinitely, as he wants to do, now that he has ended family separations, which may tempt him to want to restart them. House Republicans say they won’t pass a fix to that problem unless Trump endorses it. But he’s likely to insist on his wall money as part of any fix. And Politico also reports Republicans fear he’s likely to insist on his wall again this fall, creating more turmoil for them right before the elections. Republicans can’t pass Trump’s nativist and xenophobic immigration agenda; they can’t pass protections for the “dreamers,” which is leaving moderate Republicans exposed; and they can’t pass a fix to the latest huge mess he has created. This will continue.

The Trump administration is presiding over a moral and logistical disaster of gargantuan proportions. The explicitly declared rationale for the policy’s cruelty was that it would deter people from crossing the border — including desperate refugees fleeing other horrors. That cruelty is now being exponentially maximized by blundering and disastrous incompetence. As Jill Lawrence says, this is Trump’s “Katrina,” or even worse. Are Democrats really not able to win this argument? Seriously?

* TRUMP TRADE WAR SET TO ESCALATE BIGLY: The Post reports that we may be about to see a major escalation in Trump’s trade war:

This week will be a critical test of Trump’s resolve as Canada on Sunday imposed tariffs on $12.6 billion of U.S. products and China is set to levy high tariffs on $34 billion worth of American goods, including soybeans, on Friday … concerns are growing that Trump’s appetite for tariffs only appears to be expanding as trade tensions escalate. Many who argued that Trump was just threatening tariffs as a negotiating tactic … are now saying they may have miscalculated.

As I’ve been repeating endlessly, the more people say that trade wars are hard to “win,” the more likely it is that Trump will keep plunging forward.

* BUSINESS GROUP ATTACKS TRUMP TARIFFS: Reuters reports that the powerful and well-funded U.S. Chamber of Commerce is launching a campaign against Trump’s tariffs:

The new campaign … is an aggressive effort by the business lobbying giant. Using a state-by-state analysis, it argues that Trump is risking a global trade war that will hit the wallets of U.S. consumers. … For example, the Chamber said Texas could see $3.9 billion worth of exports targeted by retaliatory tariffs; Tennessee, $1.4 billion; and South Carolina, $3 billion.

China is expected to escalate its retaliation in July, and we really don’t know how much worse this trade war could get in the leadup to the midterms.

* COLLINS SAYS SHE’LL PROTECT ROE V. WADE: GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine told ABC News that she won’t vote to confirm any Trump nominee to the Supreme Court who would overturn Roe v. Wade:

“I believe very much that Roe v. Wade is settled law … It has been established as a constitutional right for … 45 years, and was reaffirmed 26 years ago. … A candidate … who would overturn Roe v. Wade would not be acceptable to me, because that would indicate an activist agenda that I don’t want to see a judge have.”

Okay, but the real question is whether Collins will still vote for Trump’s nominee after he or she refuses to directly answer the Roe question and instead just promises to “respect precedent.”

* COURT DECISION IS BLOW TO LIBERAL GROUPS: The New York Times reports that the recent Supreme Court decision striking down mandatory dues for government unions will also deal a big blow to liberal groups that got funding from them:

Some of these groups work for immigrants and civil rights; others produce economic research; still others turn out voters or run ads in Democratic campaigns. Together, they have benefited from tens of millions of dollars a year from public-sector unions … Other groups that register and mobilize voters may be vulnerable, too.

And as the Times notes, conservative groups have openly declared that in targeting these dues for public unions, gutting their funding was a key goal.

* NORTH KOREA MAY REMAIN NUCLEAR FOR ‘YEARS’: With Secretary of State Mike Pompeo set to travel to North Korea this week, where he will try to secure agreement on a timetable for nuclear disarmament, the Times reports that reality is setting in hard:

Advisers to Mr. Pompeo … have cautioned him that North Korea will not give up its arsenal of 20 to 60 weapons until the last stages of any disarmament plan — if it gives them up at all. Many of the plans they have given him … do not insist on dismantling weapons until Mr. Kim gains confidence that economic benefits are beginning to flow … If the North is permitted to keep its weapons until the last stages of disarmament, it would remain a nuclear state for a long while, perhaps years.

But Trump has already declared that “there is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea,” and his supporters believe him, so we’re totally done here.

 * HOW DEMS CAN FIGHT TRUMP’S COURT PICK: E.J. Dionne Jr. points out that Senate Democrats must stay united and offers a way for red-state Dems who might be queasy about abortion politics to oppose his nominee:

They need to be prepared to make a broader argument about how the lives of the people they represent will be affected by the radical nature of conservative jurisprudence. It would use states’ rights and other doctrines to invalidate environmental, economic and social legislation. … it’s easy to overlook the judicial right’s goal of bringing the country back to the pre-New Deal days. Senators … need to argue … that right-wing judges would sanction a plutocratic government with little capacity to defend their interests.

As I’ve reported, one key argument along these lines is to point out that Trump’s nominee would probably look kindly on the most frivolous legal campaigns to gut Obamacare.

* AND MICHAEL COHEN’S LOYALTY TO TRUMP HAS LIMITS: Yes, you read that right. Here’s what he told ABC News:

President Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen signaled in a new interview a willingness to cooperate with federal prosecutors, even if doing so undercuts the interests of the president. “My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will,” Cohen told ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos, according to a story posted Monday morning on the network’s website.

Will wonders never cease?