In the GOP Political Universe, Hypocrisy Has No Meaning or Consequence

Back in the day, Republicans felt at least a twinge of inhibition when thinking of endorsing policy positions that could make them appear hypocritical. Those days, of course, are pretty much gone. GOP elected officials today seem to have no internal guidance mechanism telling them, “Hey, if I spent eight years attacking Barack Obama for increasing the deficit, shouldn’t I think twice about supporting tax and budget policies that do the same?” They’ve learned that the voters they really need to care about, the ones who can unseat them in primaries, simply don’t care whether they’re hypocrites, as long as they endorse the policy positions these voters demand, which are basically whichever ones Donald Trump happens to be supporting at any given moment.

Of course, no politician is less burdened by concerns over hypocrisy than Trump himself. While others might see a flashing red light saying, “Don’t go there, you’re personally vulnerable!” he steamrolls ahead, heedless of the danger. The whole Russia scandal is a daily reminder of this tendency of his. But it now looks like the same lack of inhibition is at play in his legal immigration plan.

When Trump was running for president, he actually didn’t talk all that much about restricting legal immigration. Mainly he lashed out at illegal immigration. And while he did loudly demand a temporary ban on Muslims and his official campaign positions included a “pause” in the granting of green cards, he didn’t endorse any long-term changes to legal immigration. That happened only last year, when Trump began calling for restrictions on family reunification, what he calls “chain migration.”

But when he did this, did it not occur to him that his own in-laws are—or so it seems—taking advantage of precisely the “chain migration” provisions he wants to deny others?

The parents of first lady Melania Trump have become legal permanent residents of the United States and are close to obtaining their citizenship, according to people familiar with their status, but their attorney declined to say how or when the couple gained their green cards.

Immigration experts said Viktor and Amalija Knavs very likely relied on a family reunification process that President Trump has derided as “chain migration” and proposed ending in such case.

The Knavses, formerly of Slovenia, are living in the country on green cards, according to Michael Wildes, a New York-based immigration lawyer who represents the first lady and her family.

“I can confirm that Mrs. Trump’s parents are both lawfully admitted to the United States as permanent residents,” he said. “The family, as they are not part of the administration, has asked that their privacy be respected, so I will not comment further on this matter.”…

Matthew Kolken, a partner at a New York immigration law firm, said there are only two substantive ways Trump’s in-laws could gain green cards: through sponsorship by their daughter or an employer. The latter is unlikely, he said, as it would require evidence that there were no Americans who could do the job for which they were hired.

The Knavses are reportedly retired. In Slovenia, Viktor Knavs, now 73, worked as a chauffeur and car salesman. Amalija Knavs, now 71, was a pattern maker at a textile factory.

David Leopold, an immigration lawyer and a past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the first lady’s sponsorship of her parents appears to be the only reasonable way they would have obtained green cards because the process currently gives preferential treatment to parents of U.S. citizens.

Will the apparent fact that Trump’s own family is benefiting from a policy he is actively trying to deny other families in any way harm the chances of the proposal becoming law? Or hurt the GOP generally in the polls? In my gut I still think so. But then again, even though I know, on an intellectual level, why it is that hypocrisy seems to have no meaning or consequence in the political universe Republicans today inhabit, some part of me just doesn’t get it. It’s like my grasp of quantum mechanics: yes, I see, particles are sometimes particles and sometimes waves, but…no I really don’t understand that.

Paul Glastris

Paul Glastris is the editor in chief of the Washington Monthly.