Trump: I’m not rolling back my Muslim ban. If anything, I’m expanding it.
From yesterday’s “Meet the Press.” His plan last year, remember, was a total ban on all Muslims worldwide from entering the U.S. (temporarily), possibly up to and including American Muslims who are out of the country when the ban takes effect. That was Ban 1.0, designed for a Republican primary electorate. Ban 2.0, announced in mid-June during his speech on terrorism, is softer rhetorically in that it casts suspicion on nationality, not religion. If you come from a country with a lot of terrorism, you might not be allowed in. Key question: What constitutes a lot of terrorism? Are we talking Iraq levels or French levels? And are we talking about Muslims from terrorist countries or anyone from terrorist countries? If an Iraqi Christian applies for asylum, is he automatically barred (temporarily) from being considered because he comes from the wrong country? Or are only Iraqi Muslims banned?
The point of Ban 2.0, I thought, was to avoid blanket exclusion based on religion and focus more narrowly on Muslims who seem more likely to be terrorists based on where they come from. It’s a form of profiling, refined a bit to account for national origin and faith instead of just the latter. The way Trump explained it yesterday, though, by emphasizing that the new ban is an expansion, makes me think he’s not trying to refine the filter but simply to change it. If now he wants to profile by national origin alone then potentially you’ve got 66 million French citizens who can’t visit the U.S. for awhile regardless of whether they’re Muslim or not. What does he mean here?
The only way to expand a total worldwide ban on members of one religion is to have it include people from outside that religion too. No more French Christians spending their tourism dollars in the United States, presumably, at least for awhile. If that’s what Trump means (and as usual he’s vague here) then he’s making the same move that the government already makes in order to avoid perceptions of profiling. We have to pat down the grannies at the airport to prove that we’re not singling out young Muslim men when we pat them down too. In order to avoid complaints that we’re punishing members of one faith for the sins of jihadists under Trump’s proposal, we’ll go ahead and also punish many millions of foreigners who don’t follow any form of Islam to begin with by excluding them too. Although all of this is merely theoretical: I assume, when push came to shove, the actual ban that’s implemented would be carefully aimed at the worst jihadi hotspots — Iraq, Syria, parts of Pakistan. Trump’s spinning it as an “expansion” just because, I assume, he doesn’t want his fans to think he’s backing down (much) from his original proposal that scandalized the commentariat so much. Last month during his trip to Scotland he said he wouldn’t have a problem with Scottish Muslims visiting the U.S. and even suggested that he’d let in Muslims from countries with terrorism provided that they underwent “extreme vetting.” As of Thursday night, he was back to immediately suspending immigration from certain places. Strength!
As for what he says here about the Constitution not being a suicide pact, prepare to hear that a lot during a Trump presidency. This is what “constitutional conservatism” will mean a year from now.