Disruptor-in-Chief Shows How to Win With Mexico

Democrats and their allies in the media continually bemoan President Trump breaking long-standing political norms.  They still seem unwilling to grasp one of the central tenets of the 2016 movement that led to his election.  Yes, accepted practices and “norms” of Washington worked well for apparatchiks of the administrative state and their crony allies among big business and K Street influencers.  But this crooked system failed miserably to enhance the well-being of millions of working-class Americans who therefore chose, very knowingly, to send an agitator to Washington, D.C. 

President Trump has been particularly forceful in breaking protocol and bucking conventional Beltway wisdom in the international arena.  For example, he scuttled our participation in the unfair Paris climate accord.  He also successfully shamed NATO partners into paying their proper share of the alliance’s defense burden.  In international trade, he demands reciprocity and honest dealings from China, a country that has serially abused America for decades. 

Trump also smartly confronted Mexico over its inaction regarding our volatile shared border.  The recent situation there has grown totally untenable, on pace this year to send over 1 million unvetted and uninvited trespassers pouring into our country. The overwhelming majority of these people, contrary to media narrative, are economic migrants willfully abusing our nation’s generous and well-intended asylum provisions.  But, because the Democrats in Congress seem to prefer a controversy to a solution when it comes to illegal migration, the internal options for Trump and his Department of Homeland Security remain limited.  But thinking creatively, the president determined that our immense economic leverage over Mexico could be summoned to coax them into acting as a good neighbor.  For too long regarding Central American migrants, we have allowed Mexico to transfer its temporary trouble into our permanent problem.

But President Trump warned Mexico of imminent trade sanctions unless it shared proactively in the burden of stopping this dangerous flow of people and the attendant humanitarian border crisis it caused.  Predictably, critics shrieked in disapproval over the last week. 

Many media mavens recoiled to their standard default position of criticizing Trump as a racist.  My CNN colleague Chris Cuomo, for example, claimed that Trump characterized the border crossers as a “marauding brown menace.”  First, he used no such description. Second, America is not a race, and defending American citizens, of all colors and persuasions, does not represent a prejudiced construct in any sense.  In point of fact, black and brown American citizens suffer disproportionately from a lawless border, due to totally preventable illegal alien crime and illicit competition in the labor markets.  It is neither xenophobic nor bigoted for any country to determine the processes and qualifications for becoming legal new citizens. 

Then, just as predictably, big business attacked the president’s strong stance.  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce even threatened legal action to stymie the tariffs.  Its chief policy officer, Neil Bradley, derided the possible repercussions as “exactly the wrong move.”  Similarly, the Business Roundtable — comprised of the largest multinational CEOs — warned of Trump’s “grave error.” 

Not to be outdone, Republicans on Capitol Hill also joined the chorus of so-called experts denouncing the standoff.  Sen. Ted Cruz called tariffs “the wrong solution to the crisis.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned there was “not much support for tariffs in my conference.”

But Trump did precisely what Trump was elected to do.  He saw past the prevarications of the media, the self-serving platitudes of corporate plutocrats, and the pusillanimity of purported allies in the legislature.  He took decisive executive action that forced the Mexican government to honor its obligations and respect the sovereignty of our land.  After all, if Mexico or any other country wants access to the crown jewel of global commerce — the American consumer market — then it must act as a responsible partner.  Our nation seeks prosperity and friendship with all nations, but will not be abused. 

Thankfully, President Trump channeled his predecessor Ronald Reagan, who advised, “When you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat.”  In this case, the heat was intense enough to compel the Mexican government into swift and substantial action.  The just-signed agreement between the Mexican foreign minister and the U.S. secretary of state pledges that “Mexico will take unprecedented steps to increase enforcement to curb irregular migration,” including the deployment of its national guard to its southern border.  Mexico further guarantees it will hold any migrants “while they await adjudication of their asylum claims.”      

Assuredly, these steps will not end the border crisis.  Longer-term, our country desperately needs reform of our inane migration laws, particularly as they relate to asylum.  We need a wall.  We must harness technology to better track visa overstays.  But given the options available to him at present, President Trump negotiated masterfully in this confrontation.  He recognizes that in the global trade “poker game” America has the strongest hand and must play like it.  His steadfast refusal to accept the status quo or cower to the elites validated the hopes that tens of millions placed in him when the voted to send a “disruptor-in-chief” to the Oval Office. 

Steve Cortes is a contributor to RealClearPolitics and a CNN  political commentator. His Twitter handle is @CortesSteve.



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