Donald Trump, reading awkwardly from a teleprompter Monday, confirmed he’s learned virtually nothing about foreign policy nor does he have anyone around him who has even basic familiarity with jihadism, the Constitution or national security policy. Simultaneously childish and menacing, Trump risks being mocked openly by the media and Hillary Clinton.
Aside from a silly immigration proposal (“extreme vetting,” he called it), Trump essentially recycled stump speech material. “Anyone who cannot name our enemy is not fit to lead this country,” he proclaimed. “Anyone who cannot condemn the hatred, oppression and violence of radical Islam lacks the moral clarity to serve as our president.” We have no idea to whom he is referring, since Clinton has done both. He makes bold announcements, with no explanation of the means to attain them. “We will defeat radical Islamic terrorism, just as we have defeated every threat we have faced in every age before.” How? Ya got me.
His position on Iraq is muddled if not thoroughly incoherent. He falsely insists he opposed the war — but wishes we had commandeered Iraq’s oil. He nevertheless thinks we should not be going after jihadists in Syria or Libya. He prefers meaningless phrases. (“Our current strategy of nation-building and regime change is a proven failure.” So he’s against going back into Iraq? Seeking regime change in Iran?) He wants — are you ready? — an international conference to figure out what to do about the Islamic State. He proposes cutting off Internet access to our foes. (Ummm, how?)
Moreover, he seems to think his extreme, unworkable immigration notions are a substitute for reasoned policy. He wants to befriend moderate Muslims, after maintaining we should ban them. He wants now to “0nly admit into this country those who share our values and respect our people.” What countries is he talking about? Don’t ask. What values is he going to decree must be followed? Don’t ask. It does not escape notice that he could be excluded under such a program. (“Those who do not believe in our Constitution, or who support bigotry and hatred, will not be admitted for immigration into the country. Only those who we expect to flourish in our country — and to embrace a tolerant American society — should be issued visas.”) All of this will be determined through “extreme vetting.”
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Um, wouldn’t the terrorists, you know, lie? He doesn’t seem to have considered that. The whole concept is preposterous, offensive and irrelevant to the problem of indigenous radicalized Muslims.
Former CIA director Michael Hayden was flabbergasted when I asked him about the idea of trying to sort through Muslim immigrants by religious viewpoint. He pointed to a line from a speech he delivered in 2007: “No matter the external threat, our DNA as a nation cannot be altered.” He added that “of course” the plan would be entirely unworkable.
The comparison to Cold War policy of attempting to exclude communists is inapt. We are talking here about individuals’ religious views, not their dedication to overthrowing the government. The vague reference to refusing entry to those “who support bigotry and hatred” raise a host of First Amendment issues. What about devout believers who think homosexuality is a sin? Can the United States impose a religious test for one faith?
Moreover, all of this may deeply offend and mystify our Muslim allies and American Muslim communities, both of which are essential to defeating Islamic terrorism. The prospect of American government officials deciding what variety of Islamic belief meets with our “values” is absurd and casts the U.S. government in the role of religious judge and jury, something it is not remotely capable of doing.
In response to Trump’s ideology test, Hillary Clinton adviser Jake Sullivan issued a written statement: “This so-called ‘policy’ cannot be taken seriously. How can Trump put this forward with a straight face when he opposes marriage equality and selected as his running mate the man who signed an anti-LGBT law in Indiana? It’s a cynical ploy to escape scrutiny of his outrageous proposal to ban an entire religion from our country and no one should fall for it.” The campaign also put out a devastating ad:
Mostly, however, Trump’s plan is dumb. Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute remarked, “So let’s get this straight: ‘Are you a terrorist? Believe in democracy? Want to kill infidels? Have a beard? Glittering look in your eye?’ This is now our immigration policy?”
This, mind you, was a prepared speech. Someone actually thought this up, wrote it down and told Trump it was a good idea. At this point, Trump is either trying to humiliate his supporters by advancing patently stupid ideas or has given up trying to think through policies logically. In either case, he is making Clinton’s point: He’s entirely unfit to be president.