Donald Trump’s campaign was all over the Sunday show landscape this week. While campaign manager Kellyanne Conway was on Fox News Sunday and official McDonald’s burger getter Chris Christie appeared on This Week, running mate Mike Pence sat down with CNN’s Jake Tapper for a lengthy interview. While Tapper and Pence hit on a number of topics that have been in the news lately — the Dwyane Wade tweets, Steve Bannon, the Clinton Foundation, Trump’s black outreach — it was the subject of Trump’s immigration policy where Pence really struggled.
Likely due to the fact that the Trump campaign is trying to figure out exactly what their actual policy right now, Pence seemed to contradict the real estate mogul’s previous stances on the subject. Regarding the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants, Pence appeared to embrace Mitt Romney’s idea of “self-deportation” while punting whenever Tapper tried to pin him down on whether there would be a “deportation force” like Trump described last fall.
From State of the Union’s transcript:
TAPPER: So, Mr. Trump has been saying that on, day one, the violent undocumented immigrants will be — will leave the country. But what about the rest? What happens to the other 11 or so million, however many there are? Will there be a deportation force removing these individuals from the United States?
PENCE: Well, first off, let’s be very clear first off. Nothing has changed about Donald Trump’s position on dealing with illegal immigration.
He put this issue at the center of this presidential campaign in the Republican primaries. And his position and his principles have been absolutely consistent. We’re going to secure the border. We’re going to build a wall, have a physical barrier. We’re going to enforce the laws of this country, end sanctuary cities, implement E-Verify.
And we will have a mechanism for dealing with people in this country that — you heard the word humanely again. It is going to be fair. It is going to be tough. But there will be no path to legalization, no path to citizenship unless people leave the country. He has said that very consistently, the contrast with Hillary Clinton, who supports amnesty, open borders, who wants to implement executive amnesty again on day one, even though the Supreme Court of the United States rejected it, and Hillary Clinton, who wants to increase refugees from the terrorist-torn country of Syria by 550 percent.
PENCE: The choice couldn’t be more clear for the American people. Donald Trump has been completely consistent in his positions, Jake.
TAPPER: Except on this issue. I understand everything you’re saying there. But the one issue that you didn’t really address is whether or not the 11 or 12 million undocumented immigrants will be removed by a deportation force, as you heard Mr. Trump say in that clip from November of last year.
Is that policy still operative?
PENCE: Well, what you heard him describe there, in his usual plainspoken, American way, was a mechanism, not a policy.
TAPPER: I don’t understand why — I don’t understand why it’s the fault of the media for focusing on an issue that you’re crediting Donald Trump for bringing to the fore.
TAPPER: The idea is, Mr. Trump won the primaries in no small way because he had this very forceful position, saying all 11 or 12 million undocumented immigrants will be forced to leave the country.
Now you, right this minute, are not saying that that’s the policy. You’re saying he’s going to unveiling it in the next few weeks. It’s 72 days until the election.
PENCE: Hillary Clinton supports open borders, amnesty and even wants to increase Syrian refugees to this country by 550 percent.
PENCE: You couldn’t have a more clear choice between Donald Trump and I, who will end illegal immigration in this country, and — and Hillary Clinton, who will pursue more of the same, executive amnesty, open borders, which the American people are sick and tired of.
TAPPER: To be clear, you did not address the issue about whether or not there will be a deportation force removing the 11 or 12 million. But I don’t want to spend the entire interview on that one subject.
You have to love how Tapper, completely exasperated at Pence’s inability to give him a straight answer, just flat-out tells viewers that the VP candidate won’t address the question.
After that exchange, the CNN host moved over to another subject where Trump has already previously presented a clear position — birthright citizenship. During the GOP primary, Trump said we needed to look at changing the Constitution so as not to allow those born in the United States to non-citizens to automatically be citizens. Pence, however, decided that this was a discussion for another time.
From the transcript:
TAPPER: Is it still the position of the Trump/Pence campaign that children born in this country, in this country, to undocumented immigrants are not U.S. citizens?
PENCE: Well, I think the whole question of anchor babies, as it’s known, the whole question of citizenship, of natural-born Americans is a subject for the future.
I think the American people ought to ask it. We look at our whole immigration system and see whether that works and makes sense. But under the laws today in the United States of America — I think what Donald Trump was referring to is, this is part of the issue that we need to deal with in this country.
But, look, I have to tell you, he is a — he is a man who speaks his mind. And he has put this issue front and center with the American people. And I have to tell you, I — I know how the media loves to come in and loves to, you know, divide the issues and — and, frankly, I think, not you personally, Jake, but a lot like to see if they can drive wedges between people that support Donald Trump.
PENCE: The truth of the matter is, as I am traveling across the country, and — and with Donald Trump and for Donald Trump, the American people hear him loud and clear.
Hillary Clinton is committed to amnesty and open borders and more of the policies that have harmed our economy, harmed American families and, in some cases, resulted in tragedy. Donald Trump is absolutely committed to securing our borders, having E-Verify system, standing by the Constitution, and reforming the immigration system in a way that works for American family.
One, nice of Pence to use the term “anchor babies.” That should really help the campaign attract Hispanic and Asian voters.
Also, Pence is not reaffirming Trump’s clearly articulated positions on these subjects. Is it because he’s not sure on them? Or is this a strategy from the campaign to obfuscate and muddy the waters down the home stretch, hoping to deliver a compassionate conservative approach while retaining the core message that they will get rid of all of the illegal immigrants, all the ‘anchor babies,’ build the wall and Make America White Again?
I would vote on the latter. It appears Conway is trying to appeal to white suburban voters who aren’t all that eager to support a racist candidate who is needlessly cruel to hard-working immigrants who are just trying to make a better life for themselves and their families. At the same time, they don’t want to lose their base, who only are with Trump precisely because he’ll rid the country of immigrants and keep them out.
So we get exchanges like this, where the camp pivots and punts, hoping they can run out the clock.
Below is video of part of the interview, courtesy of CNN: