Published On: Tue, Jun 19th, 2018

Separating families at the U.S. border crosses a line, even for Donald Trump

It is difficult to find words scathing enough to denounce what’s being done to families and thousands of children at United States borders.

As New York Times columnist Charles Blow wrote on Sunday, “I am simply outraged beyond my ability to articulate it.”

She is, of course, a former First Lady and loyal Republican known chiefly for cookie recipes, parenting advice and maintaining a supportive silence during the worst episodes of her husband George W. Bush’s two terms as president.

When Laura Bush wrote a memoir called Spoken From the Heart after her husband had left office, the New York Times reviewed it as two books – a keenly observed account of her Texas childhood, and banal boilerplate of her years in the White House.

But now, even Bush, a woman who made a numbing art form of circumspection during the most troubling of times for her country during her residency in the White House, can apparently no longer countenance in silence what is happening in Donald Trump’s America.

Whereas once the Washington Post ran Mrs. Bush’s recipe for “cowboy-sized oatmeal cookies,” the Post this week ran an op-ed essay in which she spoke her piece.

“I live in a border state,” she wrote of her native Texas. “I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.”

Laura Bush is hardly the first to express abhorrence at the Trump administration’s conduct.

For his part, Charles Blow wrote that the separation of about 2,000 children from parents facing criminal prosecution for unlawfully crossing the border is “one of the most callous policies the Trump administration has instituted in its zeal to crack down on illegal immigration.”

The Trump policy now charges every adult caught crossing the border illegally with federal crimes, as opposed to referring those with children mainly to immigration courts, as previous administrations did.

Bizarrely, the sanctimonious U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has cited Biblical passages to justify this policy. Cravenly, the president blames it on the Democrats, who at the moment control nothing in Washington.

That brazen dissembling is almost as offensive to American brains as the ripping apart of families should be reprehensible to their values and sense of decency.

The American Psychological Association has said the policy is needless, cruel and “threatens the mental and physical health of both the children and their caregivers.”

Still, it’s one thing to draw the ire of the Times, columning critics and a professional association of experts – none of whom play well among Trump’s base. It’s quite another when you have been sufficiently barbarous to provoke even Laura Bush into public outrage.

Americans “pride themselves on being a moral nation,” she wrote. “If we are truly that country, then it is our obligation to reunite these detained children with their parents – and to stop separating parents and children in the first place.”

Laura Bush was joined, if more guardedly, by the current First Lady in speaking out.

Melania Trump, a woman who generally exhibits the sort of flatness of affect typically seen among the traumatized, said through a spokesperson that while laws matter, it is vital “to have a country that governs with a heart.”

Sometimes, there are telling barometers in the realm of human affairs.

Former president Lyndon Johnson once moaned, during a critical setback in the Vietnam War, that if he had lost iconic newsman Walter Cronkite, “I’ve lost Middle America.”

It’s time for Americans to ask themselves what it says about the direction of their country when the White House has lost the First Ladies.

Especially Laura Bush.

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TORONTO STAR

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Separating families at the U.S. border crosses a line, even for Donald Trump