The Clinton adviser’s 1992 mantra, ‘The economy, stupid,’ nicely sums up the president’s strength.
As George Stephanopoulos tells the story in his memoir of Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential race, strategist James Carville was just trying to keep the campaign on message. He scribbled a few lines on a whiteboard and stuck it to a pillar in the middle of the room at campaign headquarters. One of the lines read: “The economy, stupid.”
The White House would do well to remember that phrase as President Trump’s re-election campaign revs up. If the president “indefinitely suspended” his threat of placing tariffs on Mexican imports in part due to pressure from fellow Republicans in Congress, they did him a favor. Like everyone else, economic migrants are in search of a higher return on their labor. To the extent that a worker from Mexico can find satisfactory employment at home, he is less likely to head here. A trade war with Mexico would undermine the Mexican economy and create another incentive for workers to head north. Rather than stemming illegal border crossings, tariffs could well exacerbate them.
Mr. Trump’s frustration with Democratic inaction in the face of an obvious humanitarian crisis at the border is both understandable and justified. Democrats well know that our asylum system is being gamed, but won’t work with the White House to address the problem because they believe the chaos helps them politically. Meanwhile, migrant families from Central America are showing up with young children who will be detained for no more than 20 days and then released into society along with their parents.
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