Quotes of the day

President Obama met with child refugees at a humanitarian center here Saturday as he sought to put a human face on his bitter fight with Republicans over the administration’s handling of the Syrian refu­gee crisis.

Obama knelt on the floor of the Dignity for Children Foundation and chatted with grade-school-age children as they worked on handicrafts. Speaking to reporters, the president said the youngsters were “indistinguishable from any child in America.”

“The notion that somehow we would be fearful of them, that our politics would somehow leave them to turn our sights away from their plight, is not representative of the best of who we are,” Obama said.


Republican Congresswoman Ann Wagner said this week that when President Obama picked a fight with the GOP over refugees, he was standing up for ISIS.

During a radio interview this week, Wagner said the president’s comments about refugees––mocking Republican concerns and calling their rhetoric a potent ISIS recruitment too¬¬”disgusting” and “an absolute disgrace.”

She said, “He decided to pick a fight, stand up for ISIS, and stand up against the side of freedom.”


They’re not rolling out the welcome wagon for the Syrian refugees in the Arab immigrant enclave of Dearborn, Michigan

“We don’t need no more troubles, you know?” said Hicham Dawil, who immigrated to the U.S. three decades ago. “I feel bad for the people. On the other hand, look what’s happening in France. This is crazy, you know. It’s just evil.”…

Ali Berry, whose roots are in Lebanon, also backs Snyder’s ban…

“You don’t know anything about them, you don’t know the ideologies they brought with them, these older ideologies that they brought with them that can affect something that you have and that you’ve established here in Dearborn for so long,” he said.


The refugee program is simply the toughest way for any foreigner to enter the U.S. legally.

For most people, getting a tourist visa to enter the United States is much easier, but still requires an in-person interview and involves a typical background check. The process takes anywhere from a few days to a couple months.

But there’s an even easier way to get into the U.S. if you’re a citizen of one of 38 mostly European countries, including France and Belgium.

Travelers from those countries don’t even need to first apply for a visa to get into the United States. They buy a ticket, grab their passport, and undergo the usual screening from U.S. customs officials when they land in the U.S. They are still checked against security databases before they get on the plane and upon arrival.

The fact that most of the Paris attack suspects were European citizens who would have had access to the visa waiver program is setting off some alarm bells.


A November 2014 study from the Arab Opinion Index team of the Doha-based Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies finds that the vast majority of Syrian refugees have a negative view of ISIS, with 83% saying their view the group is “negative” or “negative to some extent.”

However, a disturbing subset of 13% of Syrian refugees say their view of ISIS is “positive” or “positive to some extent.”

Republicans have raised concerns about the ability of the Obama administration to vet Syrian refugees to make sure ISIS terrorists are not using the refugee flows to infiltrate terrorists into the country. But even if the vetting process were perfect, it does not account for the more than 1 in 10 refugees who may not be ISIS operatives, but are ISIS sympathizers – and thus potential ISIS recruits down the line.

How do you screen for that?


Via Fox News.



Are Syrian refugees in the U.S. likely to be affiliated with ISIS? So far, the math suggests native-born Americans are a far bigger source of concern.

The most comprehensive survey of Americans who’ve been charged with attempting to help ISIS finds that none of the 68 are Syrian or Syrian-American and that only three were refugees of any kind.

“ISIS Cases in the United States,” compiled by Fordham University Law School’s Center on National Security, notes instead that to date four out of five U.S. residents charged with supporting ISIS are American citizens and almost two-thirds are U.S.-born…

Greenberg said that while stateless refugees are vulnerable to recruitment by terror groups, countries who provide a home to refugees make them less susceptible to recruitment. “If you’re looking for a counter-narrative to ISIS, which everyone is talking about, why not, ‘ISIS is wrong. The U.S. WILL take care of Muslims, of Syrian refugees in need, and provide a constructive future.’ That is a strong counter-narrative.”


Earlier this month, the blue-collar city that has been home to Polish Catholic immigrants and their descendents for more than a century became what demographers think is the first jurisdiction in the nation to elect a majority-Muslim council

Majewski, whose family emigrated from Poland in the early 20th century, admitted to a few concerns of her own. Business owners within 500 feet of one of Hamtramck’s four mosques can’t obtain a liquor license, she complained, a notable development in a place that flouted Prohibition-era laws by openly operating bars. The restrictions could thwart efforts to create an entertainment hub downtown, said the pro-commerce mayor.

And while Majewski advocated to allow mosques to issue calls to prayer, she understands why some longtime residents are struggling to adjust to the sound that echos through the city’s streets five times each day.

“There’s definitely a strong feeling that Muslims are the other,” she said. “It’s about culture, what kind of place Hamtramck will become. There’s definitely a fear, and to some degree, I share it.”


The American character is being tested. Will we hew to our long tradition of being a beacon of hope for those chased from their homelands?

It’s easy to lose your way in moments like this when we are so fearful. Fear is powerful. The terrorist attacks in France struck deep, and we have a legitimate concern for our safety and security…

People are right to be angry and hurting because 129 innocent people who thought they were safe were slaughtered in Paris. But we cannot condemn all Syrians or all Muslims for those heinous acts. America has been victimized by domestic and foreign terrorists. The blame for those acts should be with the radicals who committed them, not any religion, race or country of origin.


The left has resorted to comparing the Syrian refugees to Jewish refugees fleeing Europe before the Holocaust. (I have debunked that analogy elsewhere.) But saving the Jews of Europe would have required applying a religious test. Jews alone were singled out for extermination. If the U.S. had agreed simply to accept a general group of refugees from Europe, including but not prioritizing Jews, that would have meant saving fewer Jews, by definition. (In fact, after the war, the U.S. prioritized Jewish refugees.)…

In the present crisis, we can and should prioritize Christian and Yazidi refugees, as well as Iraqis of all faiths who helped the U.S. during the war, whom the Obama administration shamefully abandoned. We could also admit Muslim refugees who can show that they qualify for that status due to religious persecution, and perhaps for other compelling reasons…

A religious test for refugees is not bigotry–and saying so merely poisons public debate, as President Obama, sadly, does so often.


Two recent polls show that a majority of Americans don’t want to take in any Syrian refugees right now. Thirty-one governors are on record as opposing resettlements in their states, and a huge majority in the House of Representatives, including 47 Democrats, bucked the White House and supported legislation to strengthen the refugee vetting process. Obama was calling them all cowards the same week a female terrorist linked to the Paris attackers tried to kill French police officers with a suicide bomb and Turkish officials were arresting ISIS fighters posing as refugees. In doing so, the president appalled even longtime critics, while dismaying many supporters and leaving the rest of us perplexed. He’s poisoned the air of a 2016 presidential campaign that already had too much toxic talk about immigrants.

Obama has also alienated those who think America is duty-bound to accept some Syrian refugees. I know because I’m one of them. Why are we obligated to do that? Here’s why: because the United States helped wreck their country. To be more precise, decisions made by the current U.S. president and his predecessor—George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq before it was stable, and his drawing of a “red line” in Syria that he ignored—caused region-wide chaos and violence, resulting in millions of displaced people fleeing Syria and Iraq.

The upshot was that a group of Sunni fanatics carved out a Belgium-sized enclave from land in those two countries and made it into a hellhole. Wanting to help the victims is a very American impulse. Worrying that bringing them here is dangerous is simple common sense. Partisanship has no place in that discussion. Nor does petulance. It would be nice if the president treated those who disagree with him as people genuinely concerned about their families’ safety instead of as saboteurs trying to undermine his legacy. It’s not always about him.


Psychologists who have studied these reactions have identified a number of factors that predict when people place excessive weight on a low risk. All of these factors point, with remarkable clarity, to the reaction to the Syrian refugee crisis.

People underestimate risks that are familiar, under their personal control, voluntarily incurred, ignored by the media, and well-understood. Driving an automobile is the best example. Everyone is accustomed to driving, feels in control of the car, and drives by choice. The extraordinarily high risk of an accident becomes background noise that no one pays attention to. By contrast, the opposite qualities are true for the risks that people fear the most, like meltdowns of nuclear reactors, airplane crashes, and cancer-causing food additives—and even more so for terrorism. The Syrian refugees are strangers from an unfamiliar and terrifying part of the world, and they will be placed in neighborhoods where people did not necessarily invite them in. The media has made much of them, particularly after the Paris attacks, and most Americans don’t understand the circumstances that drove them from their country.

People also overreact to risks that may produce especially dreaded or gruesome outcomes. While a car accident can produce mangled bodies, a terrorist attack is an especially gruesome event, often involving hostage-taking and terrifying helplessness. Terrorist attacks victimize children as well as adults, and there is no practical way to avoid them. People are more likely to tolerate risks when the accompanying benefits are clear—that’s why, in the end, people fly. But any benefits from refugee resettlement are remote, intangible, and indirect. People also fear risks of human origin (vaccines) more than risks of natural origin (the flu), and terrorism is very much the fruit of human ingenuity.

A final consideration is trust in government. People put up with risks if they trust the institutions that manage them.


And that is why, as I argue in my column today, Barack Obama is so eager to respond to the Paris attacks with a rhetorical fusillade against Republican bigotry. It is a ploy as brilliant as it is disgustingly cynical. Obama is a co-author of this refugee crisis. As Walter Russell Mead writes, “No one, other than the Butcher Assad and the unspeakable al-Baghdadi, is as responsible for the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria as is President Obama.” Somewhere deep inside Obama’s supposedly Niebuhrian conscience even he must suspect there is some truth to this. And even if his denial is total, he must understand that a great many historians will side with Mead in this appraisal.

Rather than face this unthinkable truth, Obama seeks to change the story line so that he is the noble and besieged martyr fighting the forces of reaction at home, rather than the hapless and bumbling nutty professor who let the world go to Hell on his watch…

[H]is remarks this week should remove all doubt that he’s not interested in persuading anybody. He’s interested instead in propping up the walls of his comfortable ideological bunker, where he’s a hero beset by irrational, cowardly, and evil men. I for one am sick of seeing this country go down the tubes just to salve the ego of this vain and cynical man.





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