As President Donald J. Trump and his team revise his hotly contested executive order on immigrant travel, they should think long and hard about how they present it to the public. Their original effort, to put it charitably, left plenty to be desired.
For starters, the term “Muslim ban” was grossly inaccurate and equally inflammatory. While this label was more the work of Trump’s foes than of his friends, it quickly stuck and proved harder to scrub off than petroleum on a seagull after an oil spill. The so-called “Muslim ban” did not target all — or even most — Muslims. Instead, it affected people in just seven of Earth’s 51 Muslim-majority nations and territories: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Those in the other 44 predominantly Muslim states never were touched by this measure. These seven “countries of concern” — as Obama, not Trump, designated them — are chest-deep in radical Islamic terrorism. Some of them also are failed states, or too close for comfort to that volatile condition. Those problems, not Islam itself, landed them on this list.
If, during Central America’s tumultuous Marxist insurgencies of the 1980s, President Reagan had barred immigrants from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, his critics could have called this a “Catholic ban,” since those nations were (and are) overwhelmingly Catholic. However, such a charge would have been as unfair and inaccurate as the “Muslim ban” lie, since Reagan would have been shielding America from civil strife and political violence, not those nations’ widely held Catholic faith.
Also, President Trump’s executive order is not a “ban,” which suggests a permanent, or at least long-term, prohibition or restriction. Instead, this restriction is designed to expire after 90 days, or what economists call “one quarter.” This policy is chiseled in drywall, not marble.
The Trump administration, thus, should rechristen the notorious “Muslim ban” as a “90-Day Security Review for High-Risk Nations.” Using that name, and encouraging supporters to do so, will make it tougher for Trump’s relentlessly voluble critics to caricature it as a door slammed once and for all in the faces of everyone who worships Allah.
This new name puts the Left on the defensive. Do Democrats really want to oppose a security review? Do liberals really want to leave America vulnerable to high-risk nations? Do Hollywood stars really want to deny Washington 90 days to improve vetting procedures for those who approach America from these seven terror-plagued countries?
For once, let’s see the Left explain themselves on this issue, rather than leave the tough questions to Trump and his supporters.
The Trump administration should rechristen the notorious ‘Muslim ban’ as a ‘90-Day Security Review for High-Risk Nations.’
Team Trump also should retire the term “extreme vetting.” While this phrase has a certain visceral appeal, and surely electrifies those of us in Trump’s base, it also revolves around the word “extreme.” As a wise man from Westchester named Jonathan Rothenberg told me, “‘Extreme vetting’ sounds like something designed by extremists. Why play into the Left’s fantasies about the Right?”
“Rigorous vetting,” “robust vetting,” and “smart vetting” may lack the pyrotechnic sizzle of “extreme vetting.” But those names also are less likely to incinerate the underlying policy that they describe.
Team Trump also should unveil its new executive order along with photographs, biographies, and rap sheets of individuals from the seven targeted countries who have attempted or accomplished radical Islamic terrorism. These include Somali refugee Abdul Razak Ali Artan, who stabbed 11 Ohio State University students on November 28. Iraqi refugee Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan pled guilty October 17 to providing material support to ISIS, specifically plotting to bomb two shopping malls in Houston. And on January 12, 2016, Syrian refugee Nabil Fadli blew himself up at Istanbul’s Blue Mosque, murdering 10 German tourists and wounding 11 others.
Showing Americans and the world that, yes, militant-Islamic immigrants from those seven countries have shed plenty of Western blood, and were eager to spill much more, should make Trump’s new, improved order easier to defend.
Finally, sharing these public-relations details in advance with allies on Capitol Hill, in the media, across the conservative movement, and around the world will lead to far fewer tied tongues and much smoother communications once President Trump signs his travel-related Executive Order 2.0.