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Sunday Politics


Iran airstrike - canceled. Raids on immigrants here in the United States without authorization - canceled. President Trump has promised and then gone back on a number of signature actions this past week. And here to illuminate us, as she does almost every week, is NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson.

Good morning, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right, let's start with Iran. That is a very dangerous situation. Where does the president's policy stand after calling off the airstrikes?

LIASSON: Well, it stands where it always has been. There's been a lot of whiplash on this. Some Democrats and Republicans say that in the end, the president did the right thing in the wrong way by calling off that strike. Others say that his policymaking on Iran has been totally incoherent, that he talks loudly and carries a little stick.

Remember, he pulled out of the nuclear deal with Iran because he thought he could force the Iranians into something better. He imposed harsh economic sanctions on them. But instead of forcing the Iranians to come to the table, they've become more aggressive.

And then on Saturday, he says he wants to start all over again with Iran. He says his goal is to make Iran great again and that if they'll come back to the table, he says, I'm going to be their best friend. But he also said he's going to put additional sanctions on Iran. We're not clear what those are. So again, what are the incentives for Iran to come back and negotiate if the president isn't willing to lift sanctions?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Some people might say that this is a chaotic policy, right? But isn't that what the president says he likes when it comes to deals - chaos to keep your opposition off-balance?

LIASSON: He says that. But the question is, is this chaotic approach getting any results? He doesn't have a better deal with Iran. He doesn't have any deal with North Korea. And you have to wonder what other countries are thinking. Even Mexico, after approving a free trade deal, a no tariff deal, all of a sudden, he turned around and threatened tariffs on Mexico for an unrelated issue. So it makes it unclear for other countries who want to deal with the United States, whether they're our allies or our enemies.

And then, at least with Iran, the situation is unchanged. What happens next time there's a conflict in the Gulf?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Let's look at another policy turnaround. As we've mentioned, the president has, as you know, talked tough on immigration for a very long time. It's his signature issue. Earlier in the week, he said he would deport a million immigrants starting today, but now he has postponed those raids, and he says he will resume them if the Democrats don't agree to change the asylum laws. What's going on?

LIASSON: Well, it's more whiplash as - on his way to his first big rally of his reelection campaign, that's when he said he was going to deport millions. Immigration has always been the go-to issue to energize his base. On the other hand, he has competing political imperatives because his immigration policies are costing him with independent voters, with suburban women. And it turns out that Nancy Pelosi did call him over the weekend, asked him to delay these raids, which were going to deport thousands, not millions.

And our reporters say that if he had gone ahead with the raids, it could've endangered the humanitarian border aid package that had not been finalized on the Hill. So we're back to square one on the deportations, too.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. That's NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson.

Mara, thank you so much.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.