All weekend, it was the Democrats' fault. And Congress' fault. Anyone's fault but his.
But the cries of the children were too much — not just for the "fake news" media, but for Trump's own supporters.
For once, maybe the first time, Donald Trump got it all wrong. He thought his supporters were no better than him. He thought — irony of ironies — that Hillary Clinton was right about them, right in all the ways she dismissed Trump voters as being as cold and hateful as the man they support.
Unlike Trump, they heard the children crying, and what they heard were children, not "migrants." What they saw were families being torn apart, not lawbreakers being punished. Because we are better people than that.
"All of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants," President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said in a speech to the Daughters of the American Revolution. Not something this president would ever say, even if the rest of us all understood that those children's cries could have been our own.
So after blaming the Democrats and Congress, after his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski mocked a child with Down syndrome separated from her parents at the border ("Womp, womp," he scoffed on Fox News), Donald Trump suddenly discovered he had the power to change everything with just a stroke of his pen.
Which isn't surprising: He unilaterally caused this crisis; then he lied about it. Then he took out his pen to try to stanch the bleeding.
Not so fast.
After the humiliation of the Nixon presidency, Jimmy Carter promised a government as good as its people. Until now, Trump has figured, with reason, that he can do anything, and his supporters won't abandon him: a government as devoid of ethics as its leader. Sleeping with a Playmate and a porn star while his wife was home with their newborn child. Bragging about committing sexual assault. Could anything drive a wedge between Trump and the crowd shouting "Lock her up"?
Something could: the cries of a child.
What is remarkable is not that people listened, not that people cared; but that Trump and his team, for the first time, fundamentally did not get it.
For days, Trump apparently thought that he could rail against the Democrats and Congress the way he usually does, and no one would hold him accountable. So little regard did he and his aides have for their own party in Congress that it apparently never occurred to them that members of Congress might have a conscience, that we as a country have not been so permanently lobotomized by the likes of Trump and Roseanne Barr that we could turn a deaf ear to a child.
Which is, as we have seen, so easy for Trump to ignore, so easy for his pals to make fun of. Criminals, all! Even now, Trump simply wants to lock the children up with their parents. But next thing you know, the courts will tell him he can't do that, either, that children who have done nothing wrong cannot be treated like criminals. Ironically, the Obama administration tried that but was told no and then came to the conclusion that you didn't have to detain families in order for them to show up at an immigration hearing. Imagine that! Because even for the adults, the purpose of detention is not punishment: It is to ensure presence at a hearing. And you can do that without locking up a whole family or causing an entire nation, aside from the president, to recoil in shame.
To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.