And when the press gets the vapors, so do its obedient readers. And yes, there are still plenty of those.
Another thing that happens is that I’m sometimes moved to violate my Never On Sunday rule and write a Sunday post. As you can see.
Every day there are certain internet sites that I check. One of them is memeorandum, which highlights a bunch of articles the memeorandum-powers-that-be have decided are the important must-reads of the day. I certainly don’t read them all, but I skim the headlines to get a rough idea of what’s being talked about, and if anything seems especially interesting I’ll read it.
Here’s memeorandum right now, as I’m writing this. You can see how very many stories there are—nearly all negative—about Donald Trump’s executive order regarding a temporary and limited halt to immigration from seven countries (countries which are not mentioned in the order; see this for a fascinating discussion of that) in which terrorism is rife. The coverage is so hysterical that one would think he had announced he would deport every Muslim in America. And in fact, quite a few of the article headlines disingenuously call it a “Muslim ban” (sometimes at least using the scare quotes, but sometimes not, as in this NY Times editorial entitled “Trump’s Muslim ban is cowardly and dangerous,” without any scare quotes at all).
Let’s see what the Times has to say:
First, reflect on the cruelty of President Trump’s decision on Friday to indefinitely suspend the resettlement of Syrian refugees and temporarily ban people from seven predominantly Muslim nations from entering the United States. It took just hours to begin witnessing the injury and suffering this ban inflicts on families that had every reason to believe they had outrun carnage and despotism in their homelands to arrive in a singularly hopeful nation.
The first casualties of this bigoted, cowardly, self-defeating policy were detained early Saturday at American airports just hours after the executive order, ludicrously titled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” went into effect. A federal judge in Brooklyn on Saturday evening issued an emergency stay, ordering that those stuck at the airports not be returned to their home countries. But their future and the future of all the others subject to the executive order is far from settled.
It must have felt like the worst trick of fate for these refugees to hit the wall of Donald Trump’s political posturing at the very last step of a yearslong, rigorous vetting process. This ban will also disrupt the lives and careers of potentially hundreds of thousands of immigrants who have been cleared to live in America under visas or permanent residency permits.
The Times goes on to a Holocaust reference, and then on and on and on in the same vein as that beginning. Remember that his ban is about delaying entry for people from suspect nations for between 90 and 120 days until better rules are put in place. That’s it. It’s not a ban on Muslims; it’s not even a ban. But the Times is misleading, and it is purposefully so. Believe me, most of the people I know will be talking about this and thinking about this as though it’s a Muslim ban.
Anyone who reads this blog knows that I’m not a Trump fan. I also think this was a flawed presentation, especially the fact that there was not an exception for people already in transit. That had the effect of creating tailor-made visuals for the press to focus on, and undermined the policy in that way. I support the policy of introducing ideological vetting, however, and have for a long time—long before Donald Trump adopted the idea.
What’s more, I am firmly convinced that if, say, a President Cruz had announced something similar (and I believe he would have), and if he’d done it with an exception for people in transit and had also exempted those with green cards, that the press would have managed to give him equally negative coverage. That’s no reason that Trump had to play into their hands.
Actually, we can look at history to tell us that when President Obama put visa restrictions on individuals who had traveled to those countries, the reaction was crickets chirping. Or when Jimmy Carter banned travel from Iran during the hostage crisis:
Fourth, the Secretary of Treasury [State] and the Attorney General will invalidate all visas issued to Iranian citizens for future entry into the United States, effective today. We will not reissue visas, nor will we issue new visas, except for compelling and proven humanitarian reasons or where the national interest of our own country requires. This directive will be interpreted very strictly.
I don’t recall a hue and cry or accusations of “Hitler” back then. And I bet there may have been people stuck in transit, too. But Carter was a Democrat, so it didn’t matter. What’s more, the country hadn’t yet lost its mind.
Some of the criticism of the executive order centers on Trump’s supposed selection of these countries and his lack of selection of countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia from whence many of the 9/11 hijackers hailed. But not only is that disingenuous because Trump didn’t name the seven countries; Obama did, but also because much has changed since 9/11. 9/11 was an event that helped to get America’s attention about terrorists’ intentions towards us, but since then terrorism’s major sites have changed somewhat and spread out.
On the question of whether the executive order applies to green card holders, it appears that it doesn’t, although early reports said it did. I’m basing that idea on this:
News reports suggested the White House overruled the Department of Homeland Security’s recommendations on excluding green-card holders from the executive orders. Preibus, on Meet the Press, denied that, then appeared to suggest that the order won’t affect permanent residents going forward, but when pressed appeared to contradict himself.
“We didn’t overrule the Department of Homeland Security, as far as green-card holders moving forward, it doesn’t affect them,” he said. But when pressed by Chuck Todd, the show’s host, on whether the order affected green-card holders, he replied: “Well, of course it does. If you’re traveling back and forth, you’re going to be subjected to further screening.”
So it seems it will “affect” them, but the mechanism will be that they will be asked some more questions during transit—not that any ban will affect them. Here’s another article about the Priebus interview:
[Priebus] also suggested the executive order could come to encompass more than the current seven countries included in the ban, and that the order focused on people coming from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen because those were identified by Congress as “being the seven most-watched countries in regard to harboring terrorists.”
“Perhaps other countries needed to be added to an executive order going forward — but in order to do this in a way that was expeditious, in a way that would pass muster quickly, we used the 7 countries” already identified by Congress, he said.
Priebus added that the order was rolled out quickly because “this is all done for the protection of Americans, and waiting another three days, waiting another three weeks is something that we don’t want to get wrong.”
“President Trump is not willing to get this wrong which is why he wants to move forward quickly and protect Americans,” Priebus added.
You know what would have been a good idea? As this was announced, in addition to this long, complex, and rather legalistic press release, President Trump should have given a much shorter speech highlighting and explaining exactly what the order is and what it isn’t, and why it was being done so quickly. That way at least he would have made the press’s self-appointed job of obfuscation somewhat more difficult, although they would have probably been up to the task anyway.
[ADDENDUM: By the way, the NY Times has reported on the clarification about the green cards issued by the administration. But in doing so, the paper chooses the headline, “White House Official, in Reversal, Says Green Card Holders Won’t Be Barred.” But this was not some big reversal. In fact, the original report that green card holders would be banned was based on an email sent by Gillian Christensen, acting Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman. But very quickly the matter was clarified by another spokesman (on Saturday), declaring that green card holders would merely undergo “routine rescreening.” That was somehow missed yesterday, and the whole thing is being treated by the Times as some enormous reversal announced today by Priebus.]