Here are Donald Trump's favorability ratings since Election Day. I'm putting this up as a benchmark. It's currently 41.8 percent according to Pollster, and that's before any new polling has been done following the chaos of Trump's immigration order. In a couple of weeks we should have an initial read on whether this has helped or hurt him.
As for my worst case nightmare scenario? Given the reshuffle on the National Security Council and the prominence of white supremacists and neo-nazis in this Administration I can't help wondering if the ground isn't being laid for a Reichstag Fire by way of something like Operation Northwoods. In which case, for me to continue to plan to travel to the United States in eight months time would be as unwise as it would have been to plan in February 1933 to travel to Germany in September of that year: it might be survivable, but it would nevertheless be hazardous.
Charlie is a socialist Scot or some such, so we might expect him to be more than normally apprehensive of Donald Trump. But I'm a pretty ordinary California Democrat, and I feel the same way.
I don't mean that I think we'll be at war with Mexico later this year, but George Bush used 9/11 as a justification for the PATRIOT Act, ubiquitous surveillance, the resumption of torture, and an insane war in Iraq. But even Bush was smart enough to always make it clear that we were fighting terrorism, not Islam. Trump has no such smarts and no such restraint.
So what will Trump do if there's another major terrorist attack on US soil? He's practically begging for one, after all. I don't know, but I might not want to be a foreigner traveling in the US when it happens either.
What's the evidence that President Trump's immigration order is, despite his protestations, effectively meant to be a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country? Here's the bill of particulars:
Article 1:In late 2015, Trump explicitly called for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on."
Article 2: Trump subsequently tasked Rudy Giuliani with developing his immigration policy. On Saturday Giuliani told Fox News that "when he first announced it he said Muslim ban," but Trump then called and said, "Put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally." This strongly suggests that Giuliani's job was to find something that was effectively a Muslim ban without explicitly mentioning Muslims.
Article 3: According to Giuliani, the "right way to do it legally" was to focus on "areas of the world that create danger for us." There are several plausible possibilities here. The most obvious one is to ban entry from residents of countries that have been designated as state sponsors of terrorism. However, that includes only three countries (Iran, Sudan, Syria). Alternatively, the State Department has a list of terrorist safe havens. But this includes places like Egypt, Pakistan, the Philippines, Colombia, Malaysia, and Lebanon, which the Trump administration apparently didn't want to include. Another possibility is countries that have been the site of major terrorist attacks. However, according to the Global Terrorism Database, in 2014-15 this included several majority-Christian countries (Nigeria, Ukraine, Kenya), several US allies (Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan) and excluded several countries that Trump has specifically called out (Iran, Libya).
After exhausting these obvious possibilities, Giuliani's team finally dug up the far-from-obvious list of places that have been designated as "countries of concern" under the Visa Waiver Act. Conveniently, this includes seven countries that are collectively 97 percent Muslim, but none of which are sensitive US allies.
Article 4: Nobody from the seven countries covered by the VWA has been responsible for any terrorist fatalities in the United States. Conversely, residents and former residents of several countries not on the list (Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Russia) have been responsible for fatal terrorist attacks, yet they're not included in the entry ban.
Article 5: According to news reports, the immigration order was written with no interagency review, and without the input of either counterterrorism officials or the Office of Legal Counsel. Administration officials couldn't even agree on simple things like whether it applied to green card holders, and immigration officials around the country were left with almost no guidance about how to apply the order. All this suggests an effort to hastily produce a policy that reflected Trump's wishes for a "Muslim ban" rather than something that makes sense.
Article 6: A day after his policy went into effect, Trump himself made it clear that he continued to be obsessed with Christians as victims of terrorism:
Christians in the Middle-East have been executed in large numbers. We cannot allow this horror to continue!
Legally, I doubt that this is enough. I Am Not A Lawyer™, but I gather that courts don't generally take account of arguments that rely on evidence of hidden intent unless there's truly a smoking gun. The text of the executive order carries most of the weight, and the president has extremely broad authority in immigration law. Most likely, the bulk of Trump's order will remain in effect.
In the court of public opinion, however, the evidence suggests pretty strongly that Trump's order was, in fact, little more than a thinly disguised attempt to ban Muslims from the Middle East—except for those from a few favored allies. Pretzel-bending arguments aside, it's really pretty obvious what's going on here.
Federer's match with Rafa was just fantastic, exceptional tennis. Neither man deserved to lose, but I'm thrilled that Federer has now won at least one more slam before he retires. Rafa still has the French Open coming up, after all.
Federer and Williams were born seven weeks apart and are both 35 years old, which is ancient in tennis years. It used to be, anyway. That makes this a victory not just for them, but for all of us old folks. We are privileged to live in an era that has produced the best tennis players in history on both the men's and women's side.
There's nothing funny about any of the stuff going on right now, but I still managed to get a little laugh out of the guy holding the sign below. Is this the most stereotypically liberal protest slogan ever, or what?
Who are Bannon and Priebus speaking for? Neither one of them has the authority on their own to issue these directives. DHS Secretary John Kelly has the authority. Whoever's running the Department of Justice has the authority. Donald Trump has the authority. When are we going to hear from one of them?
The President’s team had months to prepare this signature immigration initiative. And they produced...an amateurish, politically self-immolating effort that humiliated the country, provoked international retaliation, and failed to withstand the obvious federal court challenge on its very first day.
Given the despicable nature of this effort, I’m happy it has become a political fiasco. It also makes me wonder how the Trump administration will execute the basic functions of government. This astonishing failure reflects our new President’s contempt for the basic craft of government.
This sure seems to be the case. For the barely believable story of just how incompetent the whole exercise was, check out this CNN story. It will leave your jaw on the floor. And yet, there's also one tidbit that makes me wonder if the chaos attending the rollout was quite as unintended as we think:
Friday night, DHS arrived at the legal interpretation that the executive order restrictions applying to seven countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen — did not apply to people who with lawful permanent residence, generally referred to as green card holders.
The White House overruled that guidance overnight, according to officials familiar with the rollout. That order came from the President's inner circle, led by Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon. Their decision held that, on a case by case basis, DHS could allow green card holders to enter the US.
The decision to apply the executive order to green card holders, including those in transit, is almost insane. Whatever else he is, Steve Bannon is a smart guy, and he had to know that this would produce turmoil at airports around the country and widespread condemnation from the press. Why would he do this?
In cases like this, the smart money is usually on incompetence, not malice. But this looks more like deliberate malice to me. Bannon wanted turmoil and condemnation. He wanted this executive order to get as much publicity as possible. He wanted the ACLU involved. He thinks this will be a PR win.
Liberals think the same thing. All the protests, the court judgments, the press coverage: this is something that will make middle America understand just what Trump is really all about. And once they figure it out, they'll turn on him.
In other words, both sides think that maximum exposure is good for them. Liberals think middle America will be appalled at Trump's callousness. Bannon thinks middle America will be appalled that lefties and the elite media are taking the side of terrorists. After a week of skirmishes, this is finally a hill that both sides are willing to die for. Who's going to win?
This is a very partial victory. It applies to green card holders and others with legal residence status who are on US soil but are being detained in airports. They do not have to be allowed entry into the country, but they cannot now be sent back to their home country. Their eventual status will be determined in subsequent hearings. However, the overall refugee ban stays in place, and the overall entry ban for those from seven Muslim countries also stays in place. Those who are overseas are—for now, anyway—still banned from entering the US, even if they are green card holders.
UPDATE: Here's a copy of Donnelly's order. It applies to "individuals with refugee applications approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as part of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, holders of valid immigrant and non-immigrant visas, and other individuals from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen legally authorized to enter the United States."
In situations where most people get angry, I mostly get depressed. Today I feel like hiding under a rock.
Yesterday President Trump made good on his campaign promise to halt immigration of Muslims into the United States "until we know what's going on." An explicit ban on Muslims would be illegal, of course, even considering the president's broad authority over immigration, so instead he picked seven Muslim countries and banned their citizens from entering the US for 90 days—by which time, presumably, Trump will have figured out what's going on. He also banned refugees from everywhere for 120 days. The result has been rampant chaos and pointless suffering because no one knows precisely who this applies to or how it's supposed to work.
A friend writes: "I'm amazed at how badly Trump, et al. have been handling the executive orders they've been churning out. Don't they know the orders are legal documents, not corporate memos?" That's a good question. As near as I can tell, Trump is treating his executive orders the same way he treats his tweets: they're designed as communiques to his fans, and that's about it. The actual consequences hardly matter.
What other conclusion can you draw from this latest bumbling fiasco? Consider:
But residents of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, and other US "allies" are exempt, even though their citizens have committed acts of terrorism here. By coincidence, these are also countries where Trump has commercial interests.
The executive order mis-cites the relevant immigration statute. Ed Whelan wonders if this means the Office of Legal Counsel is out of the loop:
If this error signals that White House is bypassing ordinary OLC review of EOs, that would be bad news. Important to get EOs right. https://t.co/iObtMa1QjK
There's no excuse for this. The EO could have exempted green card holders. At the very least, it could have gone into effect for them after a warning period. But nobody in the White House gave a damn. So now airports are jammed with legal residents who are trying to return home to their families but are being denied entry.
The Secretaries of State and Homeland Security are allowed to issue exemptions on a case-by-case basis. Does this mean either of them can, or that both have to sign off? Because there is no Secretary of State right now.
Republicans are mostly too callous, or too craven, to speak up about this debacle. I don't need to bother checking to see what Breitbart and Ann Coulter think. I'm sure they're thrilled. But even mainstream conservatives are largely unwilling to speak up about this. The Wall Street Journal editorial page has been unable to rouse itself so far to express an opinion. Ditto for the Weekly Standard. I thought the same was true of National Review, but no: they roused themselves to mostly approve of what Trump is doing. Paul Ryan, who once thought this kind of thing was terrible, is also on board. So is Mitch McConnell. And Mike Lee. And most of the rest of the GOP caucus. This is how we got Trump in the first place. Is it really worth it just for another tax cut?
Airports are now flooded with stranded travelers. People who have lived in the US for years are unable to return to their homes. Nobody knows if any exceptions will be forthcoming from our Secretaries of State or Homeland Security. It's chaos everywhere.
And for no reason. Refugees are already extremely tightly vetted. Visas are tightly vetted too from the countries on Trump's list. The green-card chaos could have easily been avoided if anyone had cared enough to think through the executive order before issuing it. Or if Trump had thought that any high-ranking Republicans would make him pay a price for being so ham-handed.
But they didn't. As always, Republicans are ruled by a mean-spiritedness that's just plain nauseating. They're perfectly willing to go along with a plan that will cause tremendous hardship for other people even though they know perfectly well it will do nothing for national security. Its only real purpose is to send a message to a GOP base eager for a show of bravado against the rest of the world. Is that worth a bit of senseless cruelty aimed at defenseless foreigners? Of course it is. Hell, that's the whole point. And the suffering this causes? As usual, they just don't give a damn.