Fair and Unbalanced
Littwin: It’s Day 12. The nation is in crisis.
On Days 13, 14, 15 and beyond, we’ll still be in crisis.
I have bad news for Cory Gardner. Worse news for Mike Coffman. Worse yet for Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell (although I’m thinking it’s already too late for them).
Worse still—much, much worse—for the country.
It’s Day 12. The nation is in an uproar. The nation is in crisis. In the news biz, this is what we call a standing headline. The nation will be in crisis on Day 13. On Day 14. On Day 15. You don’t have to mark your calendar. Every day that’s a Trump day is a bad day for America.
We don’t necessarily know what each day’s uproar will be about, although the self-inflicted Trump refugee crisis will be with us for a while, but we know it will be something. I walk into the coffee shop this morning and the barista is talking about Sally Yates—the Trump-fired acting attorney general whom Trump accused of “betrayal” for resisting his order, and who is now the poster person for the Trump resistance. Meanwhile, the customer in line behind me jumps in to say she has switched her radio from NPR because she just can’t stand the stress.
The nation is stressed. It’s Day 12. It’s going to get worse.
The most cited column of the day from the Trump resistance is from David Brooks, of all people. He says those Republicans who sold their souls to Trump—meaning nearly every Republican in power—have learned that the price is too high, that he wants their souls and more.
And Brooks goes where we must now inevitably go, with this: “…it’s becoming increasingly clear that the aroma of bigotry infuses the whole operation, and anybody who aligns too closely will end up sharing in the stench.”
Trump says he’s offended when people call his Muslim ban a Muslim ban, that he’s just trying to make America safe from Syrian women and children who have been bombed out of their homes by the monster Assad or his pal (that’s Assad’s pal and Trump’s pal) Putin, for whom there will be no extreme vetting or any vetting at all.
But Rudy Giuliani spilled the beans. Needing to take credit, he rushed to the TV cameras to say that Trump had asked him how to make a Muslim ban “legal,” and this is what they came up with. We start with the 120-day ban on all refugees, and so we see again the picture of the dead little boy on the beach and we cry again, and when we cry for those locked out by the president, Trump makes fun of “fake-tears” Schumer in another embarrassingly unpresidential tweet. You get the feeling Trump has no idea about real tears.
And so we get the 90-day, seriously-anti-Muslim ban on all visitors from seven majority-Muslim countries to keep America safe. It has been pointed out before, but I’ll say it again, that none of the 9-11 hijackers came from any of these seven affected countries (15 of the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia), that this ban would not have affected those responsible for San Bernadino, for Orlando, for the Boston Marathon bombing.
The libertarian Cato Institute did the math for us. Since the year 1975, the chance of an American being killed by any kind of immigrant in a terrorist attack is one in 3.6 million, and that’s if you include 9-11, which accounted for 98 percent of all the applicable deaths. Cato puts it in perspective this way, in case there’s any confusion: There is a better chance that you’ll die from your clothes catching on fire than by an immigrant in a terrorist attack.
This is not about making America safe. Trump tweeted that if we had given the “bad dudes”–his words—a week’s notice, so that the rollout might not have been quite so incompetent, those dudes would have rushed in to beat the deadline. Trump doesn’t know, apparently, that vetting for refugees is a long, drawn-out, painful process that can last as long as three years.
So, yes, an uproar. Day 12. Coffman called the refugee order “an embarrassment.” He’s right and he’s wrong. The Trump presidency is an embarrassment. This day. Every day.
So yes, if it’s not strictly a Muslim ban, it’s a ban inspired by Trump’s campaign call for a Muslim ban. His order to give Christian refugees preference is an affront to, well, those Christians who don’t believe in religious tests. That’s not America. It makes America something far less than great, which is why Americans have rushed out in surprising—and, in Barack Obama’s word, heartening—numbers to protest this gratuitous, dangerous, ill-thought-out blow to American values. And now Israel wonders if its refugees who came from, say, Iran will be affected, and so we’ll see a Jewish exception to the religiously-tested not-a-Muslim ban.
And then there’s the incompetency factor. The rollout was a disaster not only because it was poorly conceived, but because it was so poorly executed. We learn that Steve Bannon—the alt-right-loving Breitbartian who now, shockingly, has a seat on the National Security Council—and Jeff Sessions protege Steve Miller wrote the orders without input from the experts and without even telling Trump’s own key appointees about it.
We can remember when Trump watched cable news, fumed and then tweeted. Now we have a president who watches cable news, fumes, tweets and then writes executive orders that strip America of its American-ness.
This isn’t about the daily crisis. That’s what Mike Coffman, Cory Gardner and the rest have to understand. The self-made crises will continue. Real crises Trump is not equipped to handle will begin. The protests will continue. The Democrats are boycotting hearings. That’s just the beginning. The people will demand more.
And then there’s the daily irony. When Sally Yates had her 2015 confirmation hearing for the job of deputy attorney general, Jeff Sessions—yes, that Jeff Sessions—asked her: “If the views the president wants to execute are unlawful, should the attorney general or the deputy attorney general say no?”
Sessions—yes, the same Sessions who will soon confirmed as attorney general—got the answer he was looking for: “I believe the attorney general or deputy attorney general has an obligation to follow the law and Constitution and give their independent legal advice to the president,” she said.
And as acting attorney general, that’s what she did. And that’s what she was fired for, even as State Department career diplomats who signed a protected letter protesting the refugee orders see their jobs threatened.
The nation is in crisis. Our elected representatives—to their credit, Gardner and Coffman were among the few Republicans to take the first step in opposing Trump’s refugee ban—must stand up to Trump. Not just today. Not just tomorrow. Every day until it’s over.
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