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Having claimed through dozens of news cycles that his hands were tied by the Democrats, whose evil law he couldn’t just change by executive action, the swelling resistance to his wicked family separation policy finally scared Trump into pulling out his pen and doing what he was always able to do – putting a stop to what he and his hate goblin Jeff Sessions had cooked up all on their own, with no law requiring it. Just like that, and the immutable policy changes. Trump professed it was out of empathetic distress for the plight of the poor kids, having just yesterday referred to those seeking a better life in America as an “infestation”. I was reminded of a time years ago when another authoritarian tripped all over himself to show kindness towards the kids he’d just taken hostage.

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Actually, I shouldn’t blame only Trump and Sessions. Chief of staff Kelly, looking more like a turd by the hour, suggested family separation as a “deterrent” months ago, and everybody knows that the odious Stephen Miller left his grubby fingerprints all over this latest vile policy of the Trump Regime.  You remember Miller. This guy:

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God, he’s got lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes. We’ve seen eyes like that before in the halls of power. We’ve seen them, and shame on us if we don’t know enough by now to be afraid whenever they return.

Just the sight of this eerily life-like incarnation of pitiless contempt makes me want to run deep into the woods.

The good news is that Trump can be forced to bend to political pressure, which has often seemed doubtful. The bad news is that it took an issue as emotional and immediate as this one, with pictures of screaming little girls and audio tapes of bawling babies, to move enough of Trump’s enablers to push effectively for a halt. Very few matters of state, however vile their effects, produce choices as visceral as this one. Rarely does anything approach the point at which Ivanka and Melania get interested, as they did this time. Most of the evil that Trump pours daily down the driveway at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue seeps slowly into the soil and poisons things quietly.

Last night, I watched as somebody handed Rachel Maddow an AP bulletin at the end of her show, which she was supposed to read aloud, you know, “This just in!”  It was the report that the government had set up what amounted to three new gulags to imprison the pre-schoolers being swept up at the border and taken from their parents. She tried, but she couldn’t. She started to cry, and had to hand it off to the host of the next program.

Maddow, bless her heart, is no wilting wallflower. If the only times we’re going to see the sort of pressure needed to change policy are the ones hideous enough to make Rachel cry on air, we’re still in trouble, and this is no great victory.

I’ll take it, though.

Afterthought: Trump’s about-face still leaves enormous potential for injustice. From now on, families may be kept together, but what of the 2000 plus children now in custody? No plan seems to exist for reuniting those families, and children and parents may be deported separately. Also, will whole families seeking asylum, those behaving according to law by arriving at border crossings to plead their case, still be treated as criminals? And how will families be kept together if the law states that children can’t be legally put into detention (as technically they haven’t been) – as the courts have determined – which is why families are being split up in the first place? The only legal way would seem to be to refrain from caging the parents. The text of Trump’s executive order also rings a little hollow, stating merely that the goal going forward is to keep families together to “the extent permitted by law”. What does that mean? Whose interpretation of the law? Word is that Trump’s lawyers are going to try to get court orders to modify present rulings. The aim appears to be to keep families together by incarcerating them together, indefinitely. Like everything, it’s complex.

It’s not at all clear what will really change for the better at ground level.

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