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By Easter weekend, when Trump was declaring “NO MORE DACA DEAL,” the language about children had disappeared from his discussions of the policy. Instead, he talked about how “a lot of people are coming in because they want to take advantage of DACA.”

Trump has also spoken repeatedly about children in discussing the opioid crisis and his calls for tougher border security, often buttressing his policy arguments with anecdotes about the pain of parents who have lost children.

At the Republican National Convention in 2016, for example, Trump recalled Sarah Root, who was killed when an unauthorized immigrant driving drunk struck her. “I’ve met Sarah’s beautiful family,” Trump said. “But to this administration, their amazing daughter was just one more American life that wasn’t worth protecting.”

The administration has faltered in taking concrete steps on opioids—appointing Kellyanne Conway, a political professional, to lead its efforts, and mostly making threats about executing drug dealers—but the president has seemed unusually engaged and passionate when talking about the crisis in public settings.

“We see America’s heart in the parents who won’t accept addiction as the fate of their children,” he said last month. “We will defeat this crisis, we will protect our beautiful children, and we will ensure that tomorrow is better, brighter, stronger, and greater than ever before.” During public appearances, he has called the parents of opioid-overdose victims to speak and be recognized. “Come on up here. Tell us about your boy,” Trump invited Jim and Jean Mozer at an event in New Hampshire in March.

Perhaps the most vivid demonstration of the possibilities and limitations of children to motivate Trump is his reaction to the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Shortly after the shooting, the president hosted students and parents at the White House. He came out of that meeting uncommonly motivated. A few days later, he was lambasting members of Congress for being “afraid of the NRA” and not pushing to increase the minimum age for buying as semiautomatic rifle to 21. Trump’s comments briefly turned the gun debate on its head. But over the ensuing days, Trump met with the NRA, and he got further away from his encounter with the children, he backed away from his advocacy for tougher gun controls. Cases involving kids seem to genuinely sway the president’s views—but one thing the children cannot do is lengthen his short attention span.

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