Trump tells MSNBC: We'd screen Muslims by asking them, "Are you Muslim?"

The key bit comes at 14:05 below in an exchange with Willie Geist. We’re lucky to have a candidate who’s devoted such obviously careful thought to this very important issue.

Looks like this is going to go the same way his immigration plan went. Step one: Toss out a hardline policy idea that no one seriously believes will happen. We’re going to deport all 11 million illegals. We’re going to bar all Muslims abroad from entering the U.S. It could happen with a Man of Action as leader! Step two: Instant media hysteria. Suddenly all other news, including and especially the news about Ted Cruz taking the lead in Iowa, is off the radar. Trump apparently did call-ins on four separate networks this morning to talk about this. The “Morning Joe” interview below went on for a half hour. No matter how many times he throws out a lure, the media will bite. Hard.

Step three: The hysteria over the hysteria. Grassroots Republicans, already warm to Trump’s proposal, rally around him in disgust at the finger-wagging from media and political elites. Meanwhile, Republican candidates squirm over how harshly they can condemn him without alienating those grassroots voters. Should they politely note that their policy is different from Trump’s, as Cruz did, or go the Obama-esque “this isn’t who we are as a party” scold route? Finally, step four: Water down the hardline proposal to make it seem more moderate. With immigration, that meant shifting from “deport ’em all” to “deport ’em all and then let most of the good ones back in.” Today, as you’ll see at around 1:40 below (again in an exchange with Geist), it means allowing that the ban on Muslims could conceivably last as little as a few weeks while he and Congress figure out what to do about terrorism. The point of step four is to let everyone who likes Trump walk away from this believing that he sees things their way. If you want Muslims permanently barred from the U.S. then you can ignore the bit here about the ban being temporary. That’s just a small PC concession to the media that he’ll abandon once he’s elected. If you don’t want Muslims permanently barred but still favor Trump because of his trade policies, say, then the idea of a temporary ban is key. It proves that Trump isn’t serious about this stuff. It’s just red meat he’s tossing to some of his fans. Once he’s elected he’ll focus on the important stuff, like repatriating jobs from China.

Actually, I think there’s a step five: Conservative wonks wrestle with what a serious proposal on this topic might look like. Here’s Mark Krikorian:

So long as he’s not a terrorist, it doesn’t matter too much to us if a Turkish businessman attending a trade show in Atlanta supports the killing of homosexuals. But for people who want to become permanent (or even long-term “temporary”) residents, it does matter. At the very least, we should be asking things like whether they support freedom of religion and speech, regardless of content, even if it is insulting to other faiths. Of course people could, and would, lie, but the very fact that such a question is asked would send a message about what we expect of people hoping to live among us — that believing in Islamic supremacism is disqualifying even if you yourself do not use violence.

But large-scale immigration of non-violent Islamic supremacists also facilitates violence, by forming and sustaining neighborhoods that serve as cover and incubators for jihad attacks, however unintentionally. Muslim immigrant neighborhoods, and their mosques and other institutions, fit Mao’s observation regarding the peasantry’s role in China’s war against the Japanese: “The people are like water and the army is like fish.” DHS’s chief intelligence officer told the House Select Committee on Intelligence in 2007, “As previous attacks indicate, overseas extremists do not operate in a vacuum and are often linked with criminal and smuggling networks — usually connected with resident populations [in the U.S.] from their countries of origin (emphasis added).”…

There’s really no way around it: Continuing to admit 1 million Muslim immigrants per decade will translate into more attacks. We need to cut Muslim immigration. But limiting the cuts to Muslim-majority countries would exclude Christians and other non-Muslims and also ignore Muslim immigration from non-Muslim countries such as India, Russia, France, and England.

Krikorian’s solution: We can’t screen people for ideology perfectly and we shouldn’t bar an entire class because of their religion, but if we reduced immigration from all countries we could pay closer attention to each person that’s coming here. That won’t prevent jihadi infiltration but it’ll make it more difficult than having Customs ask people at the gate, “You Muslim, bro?” before waving them through when they say no.