Michael G. Roskin: Carnage Indeed
Wednesday, February 01, 2017 5:18 PM
Donald Trump said he’d ban Muslims, and he did, via executive order, creating uproar in an unprecedented first week in office. Trump turns everything into a flap, from his inaugural crowd to the Mexico wall and border tax to Muslim immigrants. Carnage indeed.
The temporary travel ban comes a century after the 1919-20 Palmer Raids, the red scare that deported some 500 alleged Bolsheviks and anarchists without due process. We seem to need waves of “enemies in our midst” every generation or so. In reverse historical order, we have panicked at Mexican rapists, Black Panthers, commies, Japanese-Americans, the Yellow Peril and, worst of all, the Irish.
President Trump consulted only his Islamophobic advisors, ignoring the departments and agencies involved in carrying out the decision, hence its chaotic implementation. Trump, unread in international affairs, hypes Islam as our greatest threat. It ain’t. His move became a lightning rod for opposition and sparked mass protests. Some in the administration and congressional Republicans began to back away from the ban and from Bannon, who some fear is in charge. What can encourage further backdown?
First, impugn the ban’s legality by getting it quickly into the Supreme Court, which will probably throw it out and/or its chaotic application. Ironically, the late Justice Scalia, defender of original constitutional intent, would be among the most critical. President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee should undergo extreme Senate vetting on Trumpian tendencies.
Second, organize meetings and committees that attract all persons of good will — and that includes many conservatives. Even Republican stalwarts and the Koch brothers have doubts about Trump and his impulsive behavior. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-South Carolina) piquant jabs at Trump have positioned him well to try for the presidency again in 2020. Do not reject making common cause with such principled conservatives.
Before protestors shout shrill slogans they should ask if they are creating allies or enemies. Obnoxious, destructive behavior and angry radicalism work against a broad-based coalition that welcomes all Americans and respects diverse viewpoints. Interestingly, so far women have been best organizers.
Third, stress the international repercussions of barring immigrants from a list of seven Muslim countries, even people with green cards in mid-air. America loses credibility and gains enemies worldwide, especially in the Islamic world, fueling increased terrorism. Moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem could provoke attacks on U.S. embassies and businesses. Executives of multinational firms seek stability and are valuable allies here.
Fourth, emphasize that Trump undermines our long effort in Iraq. We pour trillions into Iraq, but now the Baghdad government denounces us for barring Iraqi immigrants, including interpreters who risked their lives helping U.S. forces. Among the most effective U.S. protesters have been veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars who recall how local interpreters helped them. Veterans are valuable allies here. Tehran’s theocrats chuckle that Trump’s ban helps them lock in Iranians.
Next, admit that terrorists could try to sneak into the U.S. posing as immigrants, easy to do in Europe but difficult in the U.S. with its two oceans and long, careful vetting. Also true, the order bans only a fraction of Muslims, but their seven listed Muslim countries are not nearly the biggest threats. Homegrown, self-radicalized shooters are.
If you must ban, do it rationally, not capriciously. Saudi Arabia, homeland of Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 hijackers of 9/11, is conspicuously missing from the list. Since 1945 Saudi Arabia has been our oil partner whom we protect, a relationship that Exxon’s Rex Tillerson will not overturn as secretary of state. Trump’s business dealings in the Persian Gulf states seem to protect them from his banning order.
Lebanon, not on the list, is the playground of Hezbollah, Iran’s Shia client army, which bombed the Marines’ barracks and U.S. embassy in Beirut in 1983 and Buenos Aires’ Jewish community center in 1994. And nuclear-armed Pakistan, mother lode of terrorism and origin of several U.S.-citizen bombers and shooters (including San Bernardino), is not on the list. Neither is Egypt, origin of the Muslim Brotherhood and home of the 9/11 hijackers’ mastermind.
Make it clear to congressional Republicans that they risk election setbacks by clinging unquestioningly to Trump. Getting them to distance themselves from Trump will effectively paralyze his legislative program on everything from taxes to Obamacare. Democrats’ calls for “all the way with LBJ” in 1964 turned into a loss of 47 House seats in 1966 and the presidency in 1968. The reverse could happen in the 2018 midterms and 2020 presidential election, which will likely feature a young, attractive Democratic candidate.
And finally, in a stage whisper, bring up Section 4 of the 25th Amendment, a disability clause whereby the cabinet may declare the president unable to carry out his duties and replace him with the vice president. Never used before — not even when Reagan was shot in 1981 — it is more feasible than impeachment by a Republican Congress.