By default, President Trump leads with an extreme position in order to draw attention to a more subtle underlying problem – an opening “bid” within a broader negotiating framework those sick and tired of “political correctness” find refreshing. But with respect to trade policy and immigration, even adjusting for his negotiating approach he appears to be driven more by ideology than economic reality. Trade deals can always be tweaked, and our illegal immigrant population must be addressed; but trade deficits are not necessarily symptomatic of unfair trade practices, and the vast majority of illegal immigrants are not rapists and drug dealers. Objectively, these are Trump’s two worst policy areas, likely by far.
On the flip side, in my opinion one of Trump’s most misunderstood policy strengths is his approach to National Security, specifically with regard to radical Islamic terrorism. His opening “bid” was a campaign proposal for a complete and total Muslim ban until US officials could more comprehensively assess the global terror threat. Yes it was extreme, but it highlighted an extraordinarily serious underlying issue: Should Islam be treated as a religion or a political ideology, or some combination thereof? (More on this in a bit.) Unfortunately it was too politically incorrect for the headline-driven masses unwilling to spend a second thinking thru the issue, and as a result his far softer temporary six-country travel ban has thus far been thwarted by liberal circuit courts. Further, because of a horrific roll-out and religious overtones in the initial version, the ban has been – in my opinion unfairly – lumped in with Trump’s ideologically-driven immigration policies (as noted in the first paragraph).
The legality of the travel ban is now squarely in the lap of the SCOTUS. And while it appears there is a maneuver or two the SCOTUS can pull to avoid a ruling, my gut says the judicial overreach by the circuit courts is so egregious that the SCOTUS will want to take a firm stand. The fulcrum statute of the Immigration and Nationality Act, per the Congressional Research Service, is as follows:
“Whenever the president finds that the entry of any aliens or any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”
I very well could be way off – as I am far from a legal expert – but this strikes me as something the SCOTUS would want to quickly place back into the lap of Congress…since it is Congress that granted the POTUS such sweeping authority over immigration in the first place. As such, I put the over/under on the final SCOTUS ruling at 7/2 in support of the temporary six-country travel ban.
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To reiterate, the key question is this: Should Islam be treated as a religion or a political ideology, or some combination thereof? In a recent WSJ interview, Ayaan Hirsi Ali argues in favor of political ideology over a religion that must be protected at all costs by the First Amendment:
“The US, she believes, is in a ‘much weaker position to combat the various forms of nonviolent extremism known as dawa because of the way that the courts have interpreted the First Amendment’ – a situation where American exceptionalism turns into what she calls an ‘exceptional handicap.’ …Yet she asks whether the judicial attitudes of the 1960s and 1970s…might have left the US ill-equipped to suppress threats from groups that act in the name of religion.”
While Ali represents only one opinion, the following stat from page 142 of this Pew Research Center report goes a long way toward suggesting she may not be all that far off base: 8 percent of US Muslims believe suicide bombing is sometimes justified.
While I am far from Steve Bannon’s stance that Western civilization is at war with Islam, I am very interested in exploring the religion v. political ideology debate a bit further. Yes, it is extraordinarily delicate; but the fact that almost 10 percent of the most peaceful Muslim population on earth supports suicide bombing, in my opinion, warrants closer inspection.