For Trump, a Late Spring Obsession with the Travel Ban

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President Donald Trump almost immediately fulfilled one of his foremost campaign promises with the executive order that barred migration from seven majority-Muslim countries. Trump, with his alt-right campaign aide Steve Bannon, promulgated anti-Muslim sentiment, claiming that Islam threatens the interests of the western world.  The idea of a Muslim ban became a common talking point of Trump campaign, and the now president received criticism from figures on both the right and the left. The Trump movement’s scorn for Islam culminated in the drafting of the first travel ban that blocked the entry of migrants from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and Syria.

Tumult ensued when Arab immigrants were detained at the border, federal courts attempted to strike down the first travel ban, and Barack Obama’s Deputy Attorney General was dismissed for opposing the president’s orders. The president received backlash for excluding nations like Saudi Arabia that have produced known terrorists, calling into question the motives of this decision. Many speculated that Trump’s business interests drove the exclusion of Saudi Arabia, but the Russia probe has overshadowed the Saudi Arabia suspicion.

The upheaval of the first travel ban produced a revised version that reduced the amount of countries barred, but two federal judges from Maryland and Hawaii blocked the second executive order. Attorney General Jeff Sessions expressed support for Trump when he dubbed the Hawaii judge “a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific”. Jeff Sessions’ attempt to delegitimize the Hawaiian judge is consistent with the president’s bellicose attitude toward any opposition to the executive branch. He has shown his desire to undermine the system of checks and balances through his hostility toward the opposition, and this inability to cope with criticism poses a real threat to our constitutional democracy.

Sally Yates, the Deputy Attorney General under Barack Obama, was dismissed by Trump ten days into his presidency for refusing to cooperate with the president’s orders regarding the travel ban. In her testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, she claimed that the travel ban violated the Constitution for discriminating on religious grounds. For the Trump administration to succeed in their judicial battle against the federal courts, they must deny that the order is a travel ban that targets Muslims. For this to occur, the courts must ignore that the travel ban was formerly called a Muslim ban, that Trump repeatedly called for the barring of Muslim immigrants during his campaign, and that via Twitter the president chose to dub his executive order a travel ban. To pay no heed to Trump’s obvious intentions when he instituted the travel ban would be dishonest: Trump’s rhetoric shows his obvious intention to discriminate against Muslims.

The travel ban was a landmark policy in Trump’s agenda. To prevent self-destruction, subduing Trump from being his usual belligerent self is crucial for the Trump administration. Until this week, the President seemed to be able to stifle himself. However, for some reason, the president erupted: he petitioned to reinstate the travel ban last Thursday and has become increasingly hawkish about the matter. Using the London Bridge attack, Trump has reaffirmed the need for a travel ban and simultaneously ignited a feud with London mayor Sadiq Khan. These recent remarks may threaten the travel ban’s likelihood of going into effect.

His newly aggressive sponsorship of his travel ban is nothing new: everyone already knows of the president’s emotional instability. Instead, what the president’s response reveals is his volatile opportunism. This opportunism first manifested itself when the heartbreak of his daughter compelled him to retaliate against Bashar al-Assad’s chemical attack, contradicting his promise to reduce military action targeting the Assad regime. It’s problematic that external stimuli drive much of the president’s political agenda. But what’s more terrifying than Trump’s fanatical, imperious ideology is his tendency to stray from it. Such a reaction to the London attack portends a future where a single provocation can influence the president’s whole agenda. Fortunately, the president’s political incompetence, as displayed in his harebrained comments about the travel ban, can temporarily shield the United States and the world from his dangerous intentions.

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About the author

Matt Walsh is a VI Form day student from Southborough, Massachusetts. He leads Openly Secular, plays trumpet and French horn, and leads the young Democrats club. His academic interests include public policy, political science, and chemistry, and he plays baseball and runs cross country. In his free time, he curates Spotify playlists and pets his dog, Portia. Matt hopes that The Parkman Post can be a hub for intellectual thought, ideological diversity and meaningful debate.

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