The entire politico-media complex had a nervous breakdown last week over President Trump's position on DACA.
Lawmakers, journalists, and activists jumped to all sorts of conclusions when Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced that over dinner at the White House Wednesday night, they reached an "agreement" with the president over the future of 800,000 illegal immigrants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
There was reason to be skeptical — after all, the story was coming from just one side. But skepticism was in short supply, and even some of those who realized the information was sketchy couldn't keep themselves from speaking up. Some Trump supporters instantly assumed the president had sold them out. Some Trump opponents instantly mocked Trump supporters for ever believing his promises. Democrats wondered what Schumer and Pelosi were doing with the hated president.
Many spoke without enough knowledge to draw any conclusions, or even early conclusions.
The two parties most to blame were Schumer/Pelosi and the Associated Press. After the White House dinner, the Democratic leaders released a statement saying of their meeting with the president, "We agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that's acceptable to both sides."
A reasonable reader would conclude that the two sides had reached a deal on DACA, with just the border security measures to be worked out later. But the AP took things a step further, suggesting a done deal. At 9:55 p.m. Wednesday, the news agency tweeted: "BREAKING: Schumer, Pelosi announce deal with Trump to protect young immigrants; will include border security, but no wall."
That was ahead of where things actually stood, but, coming from the AP, it was instantly accepted as fact. All hell broke loose.
Writing on the basis of the AP tweet, Republican Rep. Steve King, an immigration hawk, tweeted, "If AP is correct, Trump base is blown up, destroyed, irreparable, and disillusioned beyond repair. No promise is credible."
By 11:00 p.m., Breitbart News ran the headline "AMNESTY DON" above "REPORT: Trump caves on DACA."
Sean Hannity was skeptical, but still jumped in. Responding to a Twitter follower who said Trump is "really pissing off his base right now," Hannity rushed to point the finger at the Republican Party. "If reports true 100%," Hannity tweeted. "I blame R's. They caused this. They wanted him to fail and now pushed him into arms of political suicide--IF TRUE."
If reports true 100%. I blame R's. They caused this. They wanted him to fail and now pushed him into arms of political suicide--IF TRUE. https://t.co/WTqe6jzfa9— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) September 14, 2017
Responding to the AP bulletin, the virulently anti-Trump Republican operative Rick Wilson, delighted by the "sackcloth, ashes, wailing, lamentation" of Trump supporters, tweeted, "Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha."
Meanwhile, as Twitter lit up, Pelosi sent a relatively subdued note to her House Democratic colleagues. At the White House meeting, she said, "We agreed to a plan to work out an agreement to protect our nation's DREAMERs from deportation."
Agreed to a plan to work out an agreement. That's a classic Washington way of saying the parties haven't agreed on anything but agree to keep talking in hopes of eventually reaching an agreement. Beyond that weak formulation, Pelosi, in her note, did not claim the two sides had agreed on anything.
That didn't stop the ruckus. Nor did much change when, the next morning, Trump made an attempt to quiet things down. "No deal was made last night on DACA," he tweeted. "Massive border security would have to be agreed to in exchange for consent. Would be subject to vote."
Seeking to mollify supporters who saw him caving to Schumer and Pelosi, Trump added: "The WALL…will continue to be built."
At the same time, Trump sounded positively Schumer-esque with another tweet asking, "Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!" But even then, Trump said "BIG border security" would have to accompany legalization.
A little later, deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters emphasized, "There was no deal made." And Trump talked directly to the press, stressing the wall and other border security and enforcement measures.
Later, more members of Congress chimed in with reminders that a DACA deal, if there is to be one, will be made by lawmakers, and not just the president. What Schumer and Pelosi and Trump laid out were positions in a negotiation that will take place between House, Senate, and White House.
"We look forward to receiving the Trump administration's legislative proposal," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said drily.
But on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, when hair was on fire across Washington and social media, there was no deal and nothing had been decided, except that everyone said they wanted a deal, which is what negotiators always say.
In other words, the whole episode changed pretty much nothing. Anyone who followed Trump during the campaign knows he is headed toward some sort of accommodation for DACA recipients. And anyone who follows the Trump administration and Congress knows there will be showdowns on Capitol Hill over the wall and other border security and enforcement measures. That is where the DACA issue stood before the freakout of Wednesday night and Thursday morning, and that is where the issue stood afterward.
All that panic for nothing.
On Thursday morning, Rush Limbaugh told listeners that he slept through the initial brouhaha, and then tried to catch up later. "I do not knee-jerk react to anything, particularly when the drive-by media is involved," Limbaugh said. "When the drive-by media and the Democrat Party are involved in setting a narrative every day, writing the script for the soap opera, I'm sorry, folks -- I am immediately suspicious."
One does not have to share Limbaugh's point of view, or his terms for the media, to know that a little skepticism is always in order these days. People are on hair trigger. They go off before they know what's going on. The DACA fiasco should be a lesson.