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#EndorseThis: Conan Goes To Mexico, Faces ‘Extreme Vetting’

On last night’s episode of Conan, the fearless late night host packed a bag and took his show on the road — to Mexico. O’Brien’s goal: Use his comedic platform to build goodwill among our Mexican neighbors.

En route to his “Made in Mexico” special, a dusty O’Brien wheeled his suitcase directly to the border where he is stopped by Mexican border control. “Clearly they’re not sending us their best,” mused one guard as O’Brien showed clips of his show in an attempt to prove he really is a comedian.

In an obvious spoof of Trump’s proposed border control policies, the guards wondered aloud if he is one of those “bad hombres,” and decided that Conan will need to pass their “extreme vetting” test to enter the country.

You won’t want to miss what the guards find in Conan’s bag during their vetting process. Just watch.

The Right Way To Oppose The Muslim Ban

Donald Trump says his ban on people entering the country from seven predominantly Muslim countries wasn’t a Muslim ban. But it was a Muslim ban, according to Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani.

Let’s get something straight. Most Americans, your author included, want stringent vetting of immigrants entering the country. I can easily envision Islamic terrorist groups trying to sneak operatives into this country. It’s a fact that some terrorists have entered Europe hiding in the flood of refugees.

But there are other facts. Not a single refugee admitted to the United States has committed a fatal terrorist attack here. For that we can largely thank the comprehensive vetting process put into place by Barack Obama. If there’s room for improving the process, go ahead and make changes. But where is the need for even a temporary ban? That implies we are facing a dire emergency.

Americans concerned with national security, and count me in, can’t help but see dangers in the amateurish nature of this policy rollout, now frozen by the courts. Some may have found comic relief in Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway’s reference to the nonexistent “Bowling Green massacre.” But such dumb statements from top administration officials have turned America into an international laughingstock.

Trump himself tweeted that the attempted machete attack at the Louvre Museum in Paris showed the wisdom of his policy. It happens that the machete man (the only person injured) was an Egyptian living in the United Arab Emirates — two countries not on the Trump ban list (which skirted Muslim-majority countries in which the Trump Organization does business).

The most worrisome threat may be the Islamic State’s growing capacity to recruit American-born misfits, some with no family connection to the Mideast, and remotely direct attacks through the internet. One was Emanuel Lutchman, a convicted felon in Rochester, New York, planning to launch a New Year’s Eve assault on a bar. Federal and local law enforcement tell us that they rely on local Muslim residents to share information on suspected radical activity within their communities.

Trump’s point that Christians have been horribly persecuted in some Muslim countries is true. Not true is his contention that “if you’re a Christian, you have no chance.”

In fact, it is a lie. In the last year of the Obama administration, nearly as many Christian refugees were admitted to the U.S. as were Muslim refugees.

How might one express both support for refugee screening and displeasure with the Trump approach?

For one thing, let’s not take the need for vetting lightly. I am not the commissar for protest signage, but it would be helpful for its artists to avoid conveying the idea that anyone who wants in should get in.

I also avoid emotional anecdotes about so-and-so’s being delayed for hours at the airport — or some grandmother unable to reunite with a son’s family. Not every grandmother belongs in this country. We shouldn’t mind some entrants going through more paces, as long as there is a rational process whereby all comers are checked out and, once given the green light, can enter the country and go about their business.

Insulting vast swaths of humanity is not a thinking person’s path to national security. And when the good people we do business with and fight alongside are inconvenienced, we should also at least say, “Thank you for your time.”

In sum, let’s not confuse cruelty with being tough. But let’s also concede that we live in a dangerous world. Keeping the bad people out makes a country more accepting of the good people.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com.

IMAGE: Ibrihim Al Murisi listens as his father tells reporters about their story as Yemeni nationals who were initially denied entry into the U.S. last week because of the recent travel ban, as they arrive at Washington Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Virginia, U.S. February 6, 2017.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

#EndorseThis: Chris Cuomo Grills ‘Extreme Vetter’ Congressman

After the bombing Saturday night of New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood and subsequent discovery of many more bombs around New York and New Jersey, Donald Trump and his klan have been out in force, calling again for shutting down immigration from entire religions and regions of the world.

Donald Trump Jr., for example, who is openly buddies with a white supremacist, recently Tweeted a picture of a bowl of skittles, with the caption, “If I had a bowl of Skittles and I told you just three would kill you. [sic] Would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem.”

It’s wrong on its face: many more terrorist acts are committed by Americans than refugees or immigrants, and the bowl of Skittles, as reported by the Washington Post (and mentioned by Chris Cuomo this morning) would have to be one and a half olympic swimming pools large to accurately represent the risk of an attack. Also, though a poisonous Skittle may kill you, personally, there is no terrorist attack large enough to kill all of America, and deaths from terror attacks are a minuscule threat relative to things like heart disease or unstable living room furniture.

But when Chris Cuomo interviewed Trump surrogate Rep. Sean Duffy this morning, it was a bizarre display of just how irrelevant these facts have become.

No matter how frequently and accurately Cuomo insisted that our vetting system for refugees has been thoroughly effective (no Syrian refugees have attacked the United States), Duffy changed the conversation.

Ultimately, without the facts on his side, Duffy tuned to public opinion about “hot regions,” which we can assume from his description means any country with brown people in it. “America wants you to keep them safe,” he said, abdicating responsibility for his policy decisions to reflect reality.

It sure would be helpful if politicians like Duffy stopped letting the blind, politically-potent fear of their constituents drive America’s immigration policy.

#EndorseThis: ‘The Daily Show’ Shows Trump Voters What ‘Extreme Vetting’ Looks Like

On Monday, Donald Trump proposed a system of “extreme vetting” to screen immigrants hoping to enter the United States. “We should only admit into this country those who share our values and respect our people,” he said, proposing an ideological screening test inspired by Cold War measures designed to block the entry of communists and anarchists.

But a special report by The Daily Show illustrated that some Trump supporters would fail the test their candidate laid out.

Currently, Trump’s criteria for blocking immigration is pretty vague. However, he did specifically call out “extreme views about religion such as its oppression of women, gays, and non-believers.” That’s where The Daily Show‘s Jordan Klepper started out. You can probably see where this is going.

Standing outside of a Trump rally in Wisconsin, Klepper found one supporter who called same-sex marriage “disgusting.” Another said that women are not qualified to be president because “a female has more hormones.” Not exactly what you’d hope for among voters who purport to be against the oppression of women, gays, and non-believers.

This man-on-the-street style is not an accurate representation of the average Trump supporter. However, it does point to an inherent contradiction in the GOP candidate’s rhetoric: though he purports to defend these groups which he alleges are under attack, he has also made and encouraged disparaging remarks about many of those same groups.

Trump’s description of “extreme vetting” does sound eerily similar to his proposed bans on immigration. As liberal Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent puts it:

It’s pretty obvious what this “new” plan is really about. Trump wants to basically repackage his proposed Muslim ban — which has been widely denounced as fundamentally at odds with American values — by somehow making it seem in sync with American values such as pluralism and tolerance.

But the United States does have experience with ideologically screening prospective immigrants, beginning in the 18th century and continuing through the Cold War. Even today, immigration applications include several ideology-related questions: for instance, current applicants are asked whether they are affiliated with Communist or totalitarian parties. While the ethics of these measures can be up for debate, it has historical — and maybe legal — precedent.

Photo: Comedy Central/The Daily Show with Trevor Noah