- - Thursday, July 14, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The 2016 presidential election will be remembered as one of the most bizarre political contests in modern American history.

The two major party nominees are drawing the highest unfavorable ratings since political pollsters began asking that question. Both candidates are not fully addressing the issues voters rank among their chief concerns: weak, less-than-1-percent economic growth, boosting new jobs, creating investment in business startups, and increasing middle class incomes by cutting tax rates.

Large numbers of voters say they think Hillary Clinton is untrustworthy or downright dishonest.

Donald Trump is so disliked by a sizable portion of his own deeply divided party that many of its leaders will not be attending next week’s Republican national convention.

Mrs. Clinton is the first nominee to be the target of a yearlong FBI investigation into her mishandling of top secret and other classified information that accused her of being “extremely careless” and guilty of “gross negligence.”

When Mr. Trump began his presidential campaign last year, he said his Number One issue was building a wall across our 2000 mile-plus border with Mexico to prevent immigrants from illegally entering the United States.

Just 34 percent of Americans said they supported building the wall, according to a Pew Research Center poll conducted earlier this year.

In poll after poll that asked Americans what were their chief concerns about their country, immigration ranked low on the list, according to the Gallup Poll.

Yet Mr. Trump has made the deportation of an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants one of his highest priorities if he is elected president in November.

In a sweeping condemnation of illegal Hispanics, he seemingly accused most of them of being rapists, murderers and drug dealers, saying only that “some” were good people that he would later allow to return to the United States.

Did Mr. Trump really mean what he said? Or was he laying the groundwork of his campaign by reaching out to voters, for whom immigration was their top concern, knowing that universal deportation was a promise he couldn’t keep and that Congress would never ratify.

Questions about that issue surfaced again when he said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was someone he was considering for his vice president.

Mr. Gingrich made history during his tenure when he and other House Republican leaders ran on a reform agenda called “Contract With America” that swept the Democrats from power.

Mr. Gingrich has other ideas about immigration that are not in sync with Mr. Trump’s scorched earth policy, and he laid them out in a candidates debate during his 2012 presidential campaign.

“I do not believe that the people of the United States are going to take people who have been here a quarter century, who have children and grandchildren, who are members of the community, who may have done something 25 years ago, separate them from their families and expel them,” he said.

“I do believe if you’ve been here recently and have no ties to the U.S., we should deport you. I do believe we should control the border,” he added.

Surely Mr. Trump thoroughly vetted his choices for the vice presidency, but did he deliberately add Mr. Gingrich to his final short list, fully knowing what Newt stated in 2012?

Was he sending a message to his followers that he was modifying his position on illegal immigrants? Or was he just playing political games with the issue?

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, another possibility on Trump’s veep list, offered an immigration bill in 2006 when he was a House member that would have created a guest-worker system. But it would have required illegals to leave the United States before they could enroll in the plan.

Mr. Pence, whose Irish grandfather immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s, once told President George W. Bush, “We’re a nation of immigrants. I don’t just get it. I lived it.”

He has said that he supports Mr. Trump’s security plan for the border, but said he does not think Mr. Trump will “follow through” on his proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States

Does he support Mr. Trump’s proposed plan to round up and deport 11 million undocumented Latino migrants and their families? That’s not entirely clear.

What is clear is that Mr. Trump needs an experienced hand to deal with Congress, negotiate with its power brokers, and skillful in the “art of the deal,” otherwise known as “compromise.”

Mr. Trump acknowledges that as he has looked to former members of Congress. Certainly, Mr. Gingrich is the ultimate legislative dealmaker who knows how to play one interest group against another.

He can sometimes be a loose cannon, not content to just quietly work behind the scenes.

Mr. Pence, however, was nowhere near that level, and has no really significant achievements as a legislator.

But let’s get a few things straight. Mr. Trump’s 10-to-20 foot wall is not going to be built, and Mexico isn’t going to foot the multi-billion dollar bill to pay for it.

It could never pass muster in Congress, especially with so many other higher priority budget issues facing Republican lawmakers, including rapidly mushrooming Social Security and Medicare costs.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Many voters are still trying to figure out who they can support, or whether they will even vote.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.


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