Criticism of Donald Trump's vow (video below) at a campaign rally Monday evening to bar all Muslims from entering the USA was swift.
The evening hosts on MSNBC were apoplectic at what they seemed to believe is a singularly dangerous proposal, with Steve Benen, writing for Rachel Maddow on the host's website ,contending that "to a dangerous and genuinely scary degree" Trump "has out-Trumped" (GOP rivals) who "have been caught dabbling in the discrimination." Similarly, Politico reporters termed it "a surprising escalation of rhetoric—even for him."
The Anti-Defamation League called the plan "unacceptable and antithetical to American values." Intimate Clinton aide Huma Abedin sent out an e-mail blast noting "I'm a proud Muslim -- but you don't have to share my faith to share my disgust" (because) "Trump wans to literally write racism into our law books." (Trump doesn't want literally to write anything and Islam is not a race- but never mind.)
Even Republicans rivals joined the chorus. Chris Christie, the guy who believes law enforcement should be kept in the dark when mentally ill individuals apply for an expungement of residential treatment in order to buy a gun (no joke), maintained Trump's idea is "a ridiculous view." John Ellis Bush called the leading presidential contender in in his Party "unhinged" and John Kasich described it as "just more of the outrageous dissension that characterizes his every breath." Candidates Huckabee, Rubio, Fiorina, and Graham also criticized the front-runner. Even Dick Cheney panned Trump's scheme, suggesting it "goes against everything we stand for and believe in."
These folks are right, but we may be losing perspective, and not only because, as Lizz Winstead tweeted, "all Trump has done is amp up the existing rhetoric created by the current GOP. It's a joke to watch them clutch their pearls." A few weeks ago, the candidate said he would "certainly implement" a program to track Muslims in the USA. After criticism (including a comparison to pre-war Nazi Germany) his campaign manager claimed Trump was speaking of a terrorist watch list.
But given that Trump never actually retracted his proposal, and that a terrorist watch list has been in effect for several years, it appears that Trump really likes the idea of a national database, which he defended by arguing "It would stop people from coming in illegally. We have to stop people from coming into our country illegally."
The criticism now eclipses that over his support of creating a national database of American citizens (and individuals legally in the country) which, upon reflection, is a little odd. The candidate who wants to humiliate and disadvantage persons already in the USA legally has decided that we should not admit any of those individuals.
Ce un outrage! However, the questions that beg to be asked are:
1) Why would someone want to get into the country, only to be persecuted because of her religion; and
2) Why would we want to welcome someone we hold in so low esteem, and whom we consider sufficiently dangerous, that we would require her to register?
The answer to (1) is: no one with good sense. That forms part of the answer to (2). The other part can be extrapolated by the remarks to Maddow of NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Richard Engel, back in the states after a long stint in the Middle East, who asked rhetorically "what has happened since the last time I spoke to you?" Moments later, he explained
The reason there are 5,000 people from western Europe who've joined ISIS and left Europe is because they feel ghettoized, because they feel they're not part of the community, and the reason we have only 250 or so people from the United States who have gone to join ISIS is by and large because they feel they're getting a fair shake and have a shot at the American Dream. If you change that equation, you change the number.
We want, or should want, Muslims in this country, consistent with our immigration and refugee policies. However, the worst approach is not to bar them from coming in but to treat those already here, or who would immigrate, in such a way that they sense they are not getting a fair shake. That would create a situation far more dangerous than we now have. It is an outcome that characterizes Europe, as Engel pointed out, and one which would be nearly unequalled as a recruiting tool for ISIL.