Some oohing and ahhing about this on social media last night as the unofficial winner in a day-long game of one-upsmanship among GOP pols to prove who’s the most skeptical of refugees post-Paris. What do you do with a Syrian child whose parents have been killed in the war and who’s far too young to care for himself? Christie was asked a similar question a few months ago and had a somewhat different answer:
Christie struck a different tone on refugees in September as the world reacted to images of a drowned 3-year-old.
“I’d sit down with our allies and figure out how we can help, because America is a compassionate country,” Christie said after the death of Aylan Kurdi, 3, who drowned off the Greek coast with his brother and mother as the family tried to reach relatives in Canada.
“We saw the image of that 4-year-old little boy drowned in Syria, and we can’t have those kinds of things. I can’t come up with an exact number. You’d have to sit with our allies and work together.”
Trump also had a very different answer about refugees than he does now for about 24 hours back in September, before reversing course. There’s a lot in the mix here — fear of jihadis using the refugee crisis to infiltrate the west, anger at the thought of the U.S. willingly importing thousands of people from a much more illiberal culture, and of course good old-fashioned contempt for the insufferable sanctimony of elite liberals in the media, who are all aboard the refugee express. Ben Domenech:
It is possible to believe two things: 1. That the United States should, out of compassion and humanitarianism, welcome as many Syrian refugees as we can prudently take in. And 2. That the number we can prudently take in is zero. There will be voices of rational and prudent concern on this issue, from the right of course and from vulnerable Democrats, but they will be drowned out by the easily anticipated media frame of the issue: that these Republicans are racist and xenophobic, that their backwards supporters have no basis whatsoever for believing these refugees contain people who may want to kill and terrorize, and that they are terrible Christians for being so obtuse. It is an obvious frame, but it will also run into a problem: polls will indicate that what these governors are doing is absolutely supported by their constituents…
Remember something as you watch the refugee coverage coming in the next few days, highlighting the xenophobia and underlying bigotry of Americans and particularly Republicans: the other side of this argument will not actually engage in a debate. They refuse to admit any possibility of cynicism or skepticism about the virtue of this approach. They jump right past the point of admitting that yes, some terrorists could be among this migrant population, and that yes, this could potentially lead to the deaths of hundreds or thousands of innocent American civilians. And in doing so, they skip right past the argument they would need to make – that those risks are worth it. They won’t even admit there are any risks. And that’s why their position – noble, pious, and insulated – will find little truck with Americans who have more practical concerns, such as: will any of these people try to kill me?
Paul Ryan’s calling for a “pause” in admitting Syrian refugees this morning as the White House develops a more comprehensive strategy against ISIS while Ted Cruz is promising to introduce a bill banning Muslim refugees from Syria altogether. (The equal protection fight over that one will be interesting.) Politically, though, this is an easy call for the GOP, as even some big media outlets admit. A Reuters poll taken after Friday’s attack in Paris found 52 percent say that countries accepting refugees from the Middle East are less safe, although the split on whether refugees should actually be barred was much closer at 41/40. I wonder what Democrats think of that. On the one hand, it’s a safe bet that the intensity of those who want refugees barred greatly exceeds the intensity of those who want them to keep coming. On the other hand, anyone who’s passionate about wanting them barred is probably already voting Republican. And when push comes to shove, Americans’ memories about terrorism are short. Unless and until there’s an attack on the U.S., this debate will probably fizzle in a few weeks and Obama will end up doing whatever he wants. Doesn’t he always? (Except with closing Gitmo, which is too politically risky for his party.)
Exit question: What about admitting women and children only? That doesn’t eliminate the risk of terrorist infiltration but it drops it pretty sharply.