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The Travel Bans That Failed

Now that President Donald Trump has surrendered the United States to the coronavirus — without much available testing, except for himself and his White House cronies — the toll of illness and death is sure to explode. As America counts the cost of their horrific incompetence, in the midst of his reelection campaign, the president will trumpet his sole attempt to stem the looming pandemic: his closing of the nation's borders to China and later Europe.

"I put the ban on China, as you know," he said at a press briefing on April 20, uttering the defensive mantra he repeats whenever anyone mentions his refusal to do anything useful. Lately, he has congratulated himself that way at least once a day. It's an essential element of the administration's policy of deflecting blame toward Beijing. Sometimes he mentions that he "put a ban on Europe" and even says that his courageous actions "saved many lives."

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#EndorseThis: Colbert Returns To Covfefe Nation

Stephen Colbert returned from vacation to the America of “covfefe.”

It’s still Trump country and in his lexicon — never mind those Justice Department attorneys begging him not to say it — what the president demands, on Twitter, is a “TRAVEL BAN [all caps in original]. What he doesn’t want is “the watered down, politically correct version” that Justice brought to the Supreme Court, “but the original travel ban.”

Beyond the infamous covfefe tweet were the mischievous messages that followed, as Trump urged the nation to “enjoy.”

Actually, there’s plenty to enjoy in the tragicomedy of Trump’s presidency —  with Colbert interpreting the dark journey.

Enjoy indeed.

Striking Down New Travel Ban, Court Cites Trump Adviser’s Blithering On Fox News

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Senior presidential advisor Stephen Miller’s February 21 admission of intent on Fox News has ensnared President Donald Trump’s proposed Muslim ban in its second attempted rollout.

The Trump administration’s first version of the likely unconstitutional Muslim ban was previously blocked by multiple federal judges, and one of the decisions was already unanimously upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The 9th Circuit court noted that Trump and his supporters’ previous statements expressing their intent to discriminate on the basis of religion and ban Muslim immigration can “be used in proceedings” to prove the policy’s unconstitutionality.

For example, Trump advisor Rudy Giuliani admitted to Fox News that after Trump announced the original “Muslim ban” the then-presidential candidate asked Giuliani to show him “the right way to do it legally.”

On March 6, Trump enacted a slightly altered version of the first Muslim ban, hoping to avoid judicial concerns with the possible unconstitutionality of the original. This new “Muslim Ban 2.0” was also immediately challenged and on March 15, the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii issued a temporary restraining order on the ban.

In addition to referencing Giuliani’s admission of the unconstitutional religious discrimination behind the original ban, the district court’s decision also cites Miller’s February 21 appearance on Fox News. In that interview, while defending the second version of the Muslim ban currently under challenge, Miller argued that “nothing was wrong with the first executive order” and admitted to host Martha MacCallum that this redraft of Trump’s executive order would be designed to “have the same basic policy outcome” as Trump’s original rejected Muslim ban.

As the court explained, “These plainly-worded statements, made in the months leading up to and contemporaneous with the signing of the Executive Order, and, in many cases, made by the Executive himself, betray the Executive Order’s stated secular purpose. Any reasonable, objective observer would conclude, as does the Court for purposes of the instant Motion for TRO, that the stated secular purpose of the Executive Order is, at the very least, “secondary to a religious objective” of temporarily suspending the entry of Muslims.” From the February 21 edition of Fox News’ The First 100 Days:

MARTHA MACCALLUM (HOST): So, everybody is anticipating the next rollout of the next executive order, which is supposed to clarify some of the issues that were perhaps wrong with the first one and then got too caught up in the courts. So how is it going to be different this time?

STEPHEN MILLER: Well, nothing was wrong with the first executive order. However, there was a flawed judicial ruling that was erroneous. The president recently read the statute from the Immigration and Nationality Act, which clearly states, he has the power as president to impose any restrictions he deems necessary when it’s in the national interest.

However, because of the exigency of the situation and the need to protect our country, and to protect our citizens, the president is going to be issuing a new executive action based off of the judicial ruling, flawed though it may be, to protect our country and to keep our people safe, and that is going to be coming very soon.

MACCALLUM: Alright. Grant Burschet is 18 years old, but he wants to know specifically how the second order is going to be different.

MILLER: Well, one of the big differences that you’re going to see in the executive order is that it’s going to be responsive to the judicial ruling, which didn’t exist previously. And so these are mostly minor technical differences. Fundamentally, you’re still going to have the same basic policy outcome for the country, but you’re going to be responsive to a lot of very technical issues that were brought up by the court and those will be addressed. But in terms of protecting the country, those basic policies are still going to be in effect.

IMAGE: Senior White House Advisor Stephen Miller waits to go on the air in the White House Briefing Room, February 12, 2017.  REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Travel Ban: Why Trump (And Bannon) Mirror ISIS So Perfectly

What if the purpose of the Trump administration’s travel ban is not to protect America from terrorist infiltration, as the president and his top advisers insist? What if the true aim of their anti-Muslim rhetoric, articulated over and over again, is instead to offend Muslims and intensify their alienation from the West?

Those questions are salient because the newly revised restrictions, announced on Monday, are certain to accomplish only that: They will inflame resentment in the Muslim world, without improving security in this country at all. According to actual experts on terrorism, as distinct from the ideological amateurs in the White House, the ban is not just ineffectual but provocative.

And again, countries long implicated in Islamic extremism and terrorist activities remain exempt from restrictions (possibly because some of those same regimes also host Trump Organization enterprises).

Only days ago, the Trump flacks argued strenuously that Iraqi immigrants are dangerous, but now the revised travel ban exempts Iraq too, after protests from our military — whose officers were enraged by the White House betrayal of Iraqi translators and others who had aided them in battle.

Backing down on Iraq doesn’t answer the real riddle, however: Why would Trump provoke conflict with a Mideast ally, whose army has courageously charged into battle against the Islamic State? And why would he seek to fracture that alliance when Iraqi forces, advised and supported by our military, were headed toward a major victory over ISIS in Mosul?

Perhaps “chief strategist” Stephen Bannon, White House policy adviser Stephen Miller, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and all the Trump aides who have conceived and defended the travel ban are simply too dense to understand that bigotry doesn’t work as policy. But although they often appear incompetent, they aren’t quite that stupid.

As we learn more about their extremist ideology, an alternative explanation emerges: Bannon, Miller, Sessions, and presumably the president himself understand very well that attacking Muslims and Islam must exacerbate divisions between the West and the Muslim world, as well as between Muslim-Americans and the rest of American society. Intensified conflict is the only foreseeable result of their actions and outbursts — and appears to be the only result they want.

Beyond Trump’s own clumsy attempts to isolate and demonize Muslims — against the advice of his military advisers — there is much documented evidence of his administration’s chilling outlook. Recently, the Huffington Post revealed that Bannon sees the modern world through the prism of a frankly racist and Islamophobic French novel, The Camp of the Saints, which envisions a dystopian future when the Christian West is overrun by millions of savage migrants from the East and South. That novel’s hero, who slaughters the migrants and their white sympathizers, “harkens back to famous battles that fit the clash of civilizations narrative,” from Vienna and Constantinople to the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. Cited often by Bannon and promoted by other right-wing extremists, the book is “nothing less than a call to arms for the white Christian West, to revive the spirit of the Crusades and steel itself for bloody conflict.”

Maybe that is why Trump and his gang felt no shame in expressing their callousness toward the suffering of Muslim refugees, including small children. That may also be why they felt no compunction in disrespecting a Muslim Gold Star family — and why they showed so little concern over the president’s blatant call for a “Muslim ban,” until that became a legal liability.

Of course Bannon, Miller, Trump and company aren’t alone in adopting the cataclysmic belief that an inevitable war between civilizations has already begun. By rejecting tolerance and ecumenism, the Trump White House mirrors the Islamic State and every other jihadist group, whose shared objective is to incite enmity between Western and Muslim societies by every available means. So even as our true enemy is pushed back and obliterated on the ground — by Muslim soldiers! — Trump’s aggressive policies will advance the jihadist cause worldwide.

.If this is the secret Trump plan to defeat ISIS, they could have written it themselves.

IMAGE: Iraqi soldiers gather to go battle against Islamic State militants south of Mosul , Iraq, June 15, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer