Barack Obama is miffed because he thinks he collected the tinder for a booming economy, and events ignited a booming economy and the Donald gets the credit. That’s pretty fanciful, as most economists will tell you. But now Mr. Obama can watch with a measure of pleasure as President Trump takes heat for using the Obama example of how to deal with the children brought by their families to the hell on the border.
President Trump is eager to say he inherited the border dilemma, and he’s dealing with it the way Mr. Obama did, including separating children from their parents and putting them in “cages” in an abandoned Walmart supermarket. This time he’s not shooting rhetorical blanks.
Even some Democrats, including warriors of press and tube, are beginning to take note that separating the children was first an Obama idea. A CNN interlocutor braced Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin with a loaded reminder that many critics of Donald Trump, who are now critical of bunking the children on mattresses within enclosures of wire and steel, made no criticism when Mr. Obama did it.
“You know,” Sen. Baldwin replied, in a voice as bland as a bowl of Cream of Wheat, “on this issue that we get into a moment where we’re making progress and then when it stalls we turn around. I think we all need to continue to be focused on it and press it through.”
The CNN interlocutor, Brooke Baldwin (presumably no kin) attempted to assist the senator in getting into focus, tried the question again. She asked the senator, with precision, whether she had the same feelings about how Mr. Obama did the things then that she and her Democratic colleagues are so hard on the Trump administration for doing those same things now. “You know, in numbers of cases,” the senator replied, “I remember a constituent was in detention at the border, arguably very inappropriately, and we raised our voices in this instance and many others.”
The question the senator avoided — she could have at least said “that was then and this is now” — was straight to the point: Is a policy one of “child abuse” simply because Donald Trump is executing the policy?
Friends of the children on the border — Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservatives, Jews, Muslims, Hottentots, former first ladies, Sunday School teachers, vicars, rabbis, imams and assorted pundits — have won a considerable victory for the children, and in a short time. The president got the message, and quickly acted on it. That’s the way political disputes should be resolved in a democratic republic. But the Democrats are furious. The issue they expected to ride to victory in November has been taken away from them. The quibbling begins.
Sen. Chuck Schumer of the New York, the leader of the Democratic minority in the U.S. Senate, scoffs at the administration’s suggestion that it might put up 20,000 children at military bases in Arkansas and Texas. “Is it even feasible?” Well, why not? The can-do spirit of Americans always astonishes the world. We’re not talking here about whether Congress could do it. The U.S. military can do more things than Chuck Schumer dreams of. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts pipes up that “Trump is taking America to a dark and ugly place.” Indians have a reputation for courage and ferocious bravery, but Pocahontas sounds scared. She should have a sip of firewater and lie down until she feels better.
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis doesn’t sound scared. “We have housed refugees,” he says. “We have housed people thrown out of their homes by earthquakes and hurricanes. We do whatever is in the best interests of the country.” The Pentagon says it is working closely with the Health and Human Services to determine what it needs and how to get it there.
Meanwhile, the children in government custody, in or out of “cages,” are being taken care of. No one has disputed that, but that is not good news to Chuck Schumer and his campaign strategists. They had counted on Donald Trump’s usual stubborn insistence that he doesn’t make mistakes to keep the crying children in the news all summer. The children are safe, sleeping in clean bunks and eating better than most of them ever had in Central America. They’re getting American medical care and for most of them, the first appointment with a dentist in their lives.
Their “ordeal” is separation from their parents, and that’s always painful for a child. But they’re not at Auschwitz, as some hysterics (such as one former director of the CIA) say they are. The necessary guards are not Nazis called out of retirement at Buchenwald, despite what some pundits suffering hot flashes say.
It’s Donald Trump who’s showing wear and tear. “They don’t care about the children,” he says of Mr. Schumer and the Democrats. They don’t care about injury. They don’t care about anything.”
• Wesley Pruden is editor in chief emeritus of The Times.