Terrorism & Migration

Terrorism and Migration: Part III                                                  31 January 2017

by

Howard Adelman

What follows in the third part of “Terrorism and Migration” that was supposed to be sent out automatically last Wednesday (one of the great benefits of the new system – if I were not so technically challenged). The ending began prophetically – after all, it was written last weekend – “In Donald Trump’s Executive Order on Migration and Terrorism, in the provisions for reporting, there is no mention of an independent review as provided in section 11 of the existing legislation. There are many grounds upon which this presidential executive order may be challenged.” Judge James L. Robart, appointed to the bench by President Bush in 2004 and now labeled by Donald Trump as a “so-called judge”, is a Republican and a constitutional conservative. It was on those grounds that he issued a restraining order on the application of Trump’s executive order on migration and terror.

As he noted when grilling the lawyer from the Justice Department who could not produce a single name from one of the seven countries who had been involved in a terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11, “The answer is none.” In his appointment hearing before the Senate, he had stated, “If I am fortunate enough to be confirmed by the Senate, I will take that experience to the courtroom with me, recognize that you need to treat everyone with dignity and with respect, and to engage them so that when they leave the courtroom they feel like they had a fair trial and that they were treated as a participant in the system.” Equal treatment to all and individual treatment with respect to the dignity of the Other are foundational principles of a conservative approach to the law.

I was delighted to be proven correct in the results of the many court challenges that were launched across America. Just over a year ago, on 20 January 2016, Senator Ben Cardin (Dem. Maryland), the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, introduced a bill related to the restriction of the use of the Visa Waiver Program. He had become a guru on immigration and refugee legislation. On 4 February 2017, Ben Cardin issued a “Statement on the National Restraining Order Against the Trump Travel Ban” as a response to the most widespread application of the various legal challenges successfully launched against the application of Donald Trump’s new executive order on migration.

“Our founders wisely created three co-equal branches of government, including an independent judiciary, to serve as a strong check and balance on both the president and Congress. Like the president, our judges – and our Congress – are sworn to uphold the Constitution.  When the president of the United States abuses or ignores the Constitution, and attacks the integrity of the judiciary by calling a ruling ‘outrageous’ or calls a judge a ‘so-called judge,’ he is undermining the entire system of government, not only the decisions with which he disagrees.

“The international chaos caused by the rushed and ill-conceived executive order targeting Muslim refugees and travelers is wrong and should be rescinded.  This executive order has made America less safe.  I will continue working with the Departments of State and Homeland Security as they promptly implement the court’s order to again permit the lawful travel to and from the United States. There is no way to know how many law-abiding citizens and travelers have been hurt by the president’s actions, but I will do everything in my power to minimize the damage being done.”

As I indicated above, Ben Cardin is no newcomer to the issue of migration and terrorism. Further, since the election of Donald Trump, he has been at the forefront of criticizing Trump, not as President, but in how Trump acts and serves as President. On 22 November 2016, Ben Cardin announced his intention to introduce a resolution expressing the sense of Congress (not Congress requiring) that President-elect Trump “convert his assets to simple, conflict-free holdings, adopt blind trusts, or take other equivalent measures, in order to ensure compliance with the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution,” lest dealings by Trump-owned companies with any entity owned by a foreign government “potentially” violate the Constitution. Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution provides that “no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” Cardin went on to write, “The Founding Fathers were clear in their belief that any federal office holder of the United States must never be put in a position where they can be monetarily or otherwise influenced by a foreign governmental actor.” (Rosalind Helderman and Drew Harwell wrote an article for The Washington Post (4 February 2017) that pointed to a number of documents that confirmed that Donald Trump was still benefitting from his business.)

Cardin also opposed the confirmation of Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Agency, Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General and Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. He also questioned the appointment of Dr. Tom Price as “Secretary of Health and Human Services, not only because, as a member of the House of Representatives he advocated tearing apart “The Affordable Care Act” that would deny tens of millions of Americans access to affordable, quality health care coverage (70% of whom in Maryland come from communities of colour), but also because of his past opposition to restrictions on how the cigarette industry advertises and markets a cancer-causing weed,  his support for Trump’s cutting off U.S. global health funding to foreign NGOs which work on the frontlines combating many diseases, particularly in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Cardin has been clear that Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration and Refugees and the unfounded link to terrorism is but the leading edge of a much broader and more general attack on the well-being and security of Americans in the name of a totally irrelevant and very marginal fear and claim to protect that security. On the Monday following the issuance of that heinous executive order, he, along with other Senators introduced a bill to rescind the Executive Order.

It is now estimated that 90,000 individuals were immediately negatively affected by the Executive Order, quite aside from the millions around the world affected in the long run. Constituents from every part of America had loved ones temporarily detained, others denied the right to board a plane and others who decided not to travel lest they risk detention – and this does not count the citizens of all the countries around the globe, such as Canadian citizens of dual nationality, that were affected in the first iteration and interpretation of the Executive Order.

The operations of universities as well as large global corporations were detrimentally affected.  Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber along with Amy Gutman, currently President of the University of Pennsylvania, drafted the letter that was signed by 47 other American college and university presidents and sent to President Trump urging him to “rectify or rescind the recent executive order closing our country’s borders to immigrants and others from seven majority-Muslim countries and to refugees from throughout the world.”

February 2, 2017

President Donald J. Trump
The White House
United States of America

Dear President Trump:

We write as presidents of leading American colleges and universities to urge you to rectify or rescind the recent executive order closing our country’s borders to immigrants and others from seven majority-Muslim countries and to refugees from throughout the world. If left in place, the order threatens both American higher education and the defining principles of our country.

The order specifically prevents talented, law-abiding students and scholars from the affected regions from reaching our campuses. American higher education has benefited tremendously from this country’s long history of embracing immigrants from around the world. Their innovations and scholarship have enhanced American learning, added to our prosperity, and enriched our culture. Many who have returned to their own countries have taken with them the values that are the lifeblood of our democracy. America’s educational, scientific, economic, and artistic leadership depends upon our continued ability to attract the extraordinary people who for many generations have come to this country in search of freedom and a better life.

This action unfairly targets seven predominantly Muslim countries in a manner inconsistent with America’s best principles and greatest traditions. We welcome outstanding Muslim students and scholars from the United States and abroad, including the many who come from the seven affected countries. Their vibrant contributions to our institutions and our country exemplify the value of the religious diversity that has been a hallmark of American freedom since this country’s founding. The American dream depends on continued fidelity to that value.

We recognize and respect the need to protect America’s security. The vetting procedures already in place are rigorous. Improvements to them should be based on evidence, calibrated to real risks, and consistent with constitutional principle.

Throughout its history America has been a land of opportunity and a beacon of freedom in the world.  It has attracted talented people to our shores and inspired people around the globe. This executive order is dimming the lamp of liberty and staining the country’s reputation. We respectfully urge you to rectify the damage done by this order.

The Executive Order, instead of promoting values at the heart of America, instead of being consistent with the constitution of the United States, legalized discrimination based on religion and nationality. The fact that ALL Muslim countries were not included does not mean the order is non-discriminatory. Hitler’s action in the 1930’s initially only targeted Jews in Germany. Trump’s ban is inherently discriminatory because there is no connection between the ban and the threat, not even a thin thread of a connection let alone one that is proportionate based on the evidence. The Executive Order completely ignores the fact that America is steeped in “extreme vetting” already, for before 2017 it already took 18-24 months just for the screening process.

But what must also be noted is that the war on new immigrants and on refugees had already become part of American practice. A year ago, on 20 January 2016, the Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice sent Senator Ben Cardin the following letter:

Dear Senator Cardin:

On behalf of the Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice (UUSJ) in the National Capital Region, I ask you to urge President Obama to halt mass deportation of immigrants. These practices are contrary to our nation’s and our Unitarian Universalist values. We also urge you to vote against H.R. 4038, the SAFE Act. In addition, we continue to urge Congress to come together to pass bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform to address the needs of the undocumented and other immigrant groups which would address our broken system that cruelly tears families apart.

There are more than 6,500 Unitarian Universalists in over 23 congregations in the greater Washington, D.C. National Capital Region, and 4,654 in Maryland. Unitarian Universalists embrace a diversity of religious beliefs. We put our faith into action through social and environmental justice work in our communities and the wider world. Unitarian Universalists affirm and promote seven Principles, which we hold as strong values and moral guides. We are called by our first Principle, “The Inherent Worth and Dignity of Every Person.”

In 2013 our Unitarian Universalist General Assembly passed a Statement of Conscience on “Immigration as a Moral Issue.” Among other actions, it calls for:

  • Alternatives to detention for those not considered a threat to society and humane treatment for those being detained.
  • Preservation of family unity, including same-sex and transgender couples and families. • Provision of asylum for refugees and others living in fear of violence or retribution.

As people of faith, we are called to remind our decision makers about the worth and dignity of every person, of whatever parentage or nationality, as American society copes with immigrants arriving from around the world, especially from Central America and the Middle East.

Right now, in defiance of a court order to stop detaining children, the Obama administration has increased the detention of families by 173% over the last several months [my bold], according to the Migration Policy Institute. And now the administration has announced it will search for and deport asylum-seeking families back to the danger they are trying to escape. And they are putting this into practice, as evidenced by the very recent deportation of at least 121 families to Central America.

Our faith calls upon us to stand on the side of love and to support the human rights of all those in need of help, including undocumented immigrants and those seeking asylum from violence, repression, and extreme poverty. Nearly all religions are filled with admonitions to treat strangers among us with love and hospitality. Yet, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office continues to detain entire families, including children, who have fled persecution, trauma, and threats against their very lives, re-traumatizing them, and threatening to deport them to the very places where their lives will again be threatened. Our immigration courts continue to deny asylum to many people who clearly do have a well-founded fear of persecution and if returned to their country of origin could face fatal consequences.

One of the most ancient, ethical injunctions on us as human beings is for the humane treatment of strangers. Our immigration policy is a reflection upon our worth as a people, and we currently fall far short of the standard. UUSJ therefore request that you: 1) Ask the President to order a halt to the actions that the Department of Homeland Security is taking against mostly Central American families and children. 2) Vote against H.R. 4038, known by the misnomer, the SAFE Act, a divisive, punitive and …unnecessary bill. 3) Continue to speak out in favor of comprehensive immigration reform legislation similar to what was contained in S. 744 that the last Congress considered. Please do everything in your power to ensure our immigration laws are enacted in a humane, just, and fair manner. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contacts us through our Immigration Steering Committee chair, Dean Wanderer, at deanwanderer@verizon.net or (571) 214-2710.

Sincerely,

Lavona M. Grow Board Chair UUSJ.

I think these Unitarian Universalists may now be praying for Obama to return to office even though the grounds were set when the Obama administration took defensive measures in restricting the entry of refugees in the face of enormous pressures from the Republican-dominated Congress.

There is much room for hope from the activities over the last ten days. Constitutional Conservatives are beginning to peel away from any support for Trump. The Democratic Party and its members of Congress have demonstrated that they can act together and effectively. The legal community has been aroused. Universities have come not only to recognize, but to oppose Trump insofar as his initiatives detrimentally effect their mission. People on the street and from NGOs took immediate action. Opposition has grown from the business community detrimentally affected by these decisions.

However, perhaps most revealing is the chaos from within the Trump administration. Clearly Stephen K. Bannon, who probably drafted the executive order along with senior policy adviser Stephen Miller without consulting either the State Department or Homeland Security, began to be boxed in as Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly began to issue orders qualifying the ban. When Bannon moved to counter this, Kelly simply said that Bannon had no position in the chain of command. At the same time, White House Chief of Staff approved new procedures for issuing executive orders. President Trump in his first two weeks had demonstrated not only his extensive ignorance, but a gross insensitivity not only to legal processes, but to administrative ones necessary to allowing any administration to function.

What started as an effort to “pause” the processing of refugees instead became a pause on issuing executive orders. But it is a pause only. Sarah Posner has already revealed that an Executive Order is in the works “Establishing a Government Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom,” which would allow civil servants and others on the basis of “conscience” the ability to refuse services to everyone equally. On the basis of nativism, xenophobia and ideology of the alt-Right, efforts are well underway to undermine the principles of equality and respect for the dignity of individuals in the American constitution.

This is a real fear. But it also offers grounds for hope that the resistance to Trump’s autocratic propensities will be resisted by constitutional conservatives as well as liberals.

The Virtues of Donald Trump I: Calculating and Clever

The Virtues of Donald Trump I: Calculating and Clever

by

Howard Adelman

One response to yesterday’s blog asked the following: Is it more useful to call Donald Trump a fascist because he espouses a contemporary form of ethno-nationalism intent on destroying the liberal state and its humane values even when he is disinclined to adopt military models and ideals or a coherent model and set of objectives? Is what he offers a new version of fascism given that he shares with the vintage version so many traits – demagoguery, the cult of the great leader, nihilistic messianism – especially since many of these traits are shared with the so-called neo-fascists plaguing contemporary Europe? I will come around to a more concise answer, but I first want to fill out Donald Trump’s character.

I could begin with his negative character flaws. For example, Donald has a propensity to demonize and not just defame the Other. I do not include Trump’s efforts to delegitimize because the counter-attack has focused on Donald Trump’s complete lack of qualifications in temperament, in track record and in experience to be a presidential candidate let alone president of the United States of America. I leave aside for now lack of experience and his rotten record in the conduct of his business pointed out by Michael Bloomberg in his speech at the Democratic Convention.

Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City for twelve years with at least ten times the wealth of Trump, a political independent and former Republican, called Donald a demagogue and con artist (as a New Yorker, Bloomberg could recognize one when he saw one), risky, radical and reckless, a hypocrite and a failure as a business man who left unpaid workers and contractors, naïve investors and sophisticated banks, licking their wounds in the wake of his business exploitation. Donald Trump, he declared, had a “well-documented record of bankruptcies, numerous lawsuits and a history of hiring undocumented immigrants.” Donald Trump, he could have declared, gives billionaires a bad name.

Instead of beginning with these and other smears, generally justified, on Donald Trump’s record and performance, temperament and character, I want to examine his purported virtues. Below, I list six, two c’s, two p’s and two s’s.
• Calculating
• Clever
• Pushy – an unstoppable determination to see things through
• Promoter of tolerance of others, in particular, ethnic mixing (controversial!!!)
• Stiff-necked
• Stubborn

Critics may not agree with this list or the descriptors used, but I ask for the reader’s indulgence as I elaborate. Calculating when applied to a spread sheet may suggest accuracy, care and caution, but in the case of Donald Trump, a whole set of other characteristics are associated with depicting Donald Trump as calculating – more “c” words – crafty, cunning and conniving. They imply a man who is both shrewd and wily, devious and designing, ruthless and determined. In some circles, these are considered admirable traits. These are words that in the past were often used to stereotype Jews by anti-Semites.

How did I select and check the relevance of these descriptors? Reading journalist reports did not help. There are too few references to his virtues and certainly very few calling him calculating and clever, much to my surprise. I collected a ream of articles on Donald Trump and not one of them applies the words “crafty” or “cunning” or “conniving.” There were several references to his being shrewd in his business deals – he had “a shrewd aversion to staking his own money” and he shared with other wealthy successes in business – “they’re worth millions and billions of dollars…because they’re tough and they’re shrewd.” In the context, these are hardly insults or deprecatory comments. I distilled these characteristics, though not the terms, from the speeches of his children, acolytes and other supporters.

If you try to google Donald Trump’s name in association with a term like “calculating,” what you find is a long list of articles about how he inflates his wealth by a wily method of arithmetical calculation. The juxtaposition of hyperbole and calculation applied to spread sheets seems very similar to how we all put our best foot forward in presenting our net worth when applying for a loan or a mortgage, but perhaps nowhere near the nth degree taken by The Donald. The difference seems to be both at the level at which he operates and his enormous capacity for exaggeration.

However, there were a few references to his being calculating in the sense that I mean. The Washington Post had a piece by Dana Milbank when Donald Trump first appeared to have secured his place on the Republican ticket for president. It was about the Donald’s misogyny and his backing away from a time when he used terms like “slob,” “dog” and “piece of ass” to describe women. Milbank concluded that when he accused Hillary of playing the “woman card,” the attack was “rational” and “calculated” and that he was building an election platform on gender resentment.

John Cassidy wrote a piece in The New Yorker (9 May 2016) and asked the question, “Is Donald Trump a Flip-Flopper or a Wily Politician?” That was the last place in the article to read the term, “wily.” He was presented as a flip-flopper on the minimum wage – no increase, yes a needed increase, but left to the states – cut taxes and then flipped to raising taxes on the rich. But isn’t a flip-flopper just another name for a wily politician who changes his or her opinion to suit the shifting mood of the electorate?

Calculations in the arithmetic sense were used to accuse Donald Trump’s tax policies, little different than those proposed by Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. As a result, Trump’s plan was criticized for being “fiscally irresponsible, mathematically unsupportable, and extremely regressive” that would provide the bottom 20% with an extra average of $128 a year but the top 0.1% a tax benefit worth $1.3 million per year. Subsequently, Trump said that the rich would have to be taxed much more. Similarly, initially he objected to raising the federal minimum wage standard above $7.25 as that would be counter-productive and lead to a loss of jobs. Subsequently, he supported the need to raise the minimum wage, but insisted it was a state responsibility. Was Trump being calculating in the second sense and adjusting his policies to be more congruent with the public demand?

Want about his being clever? After all, how could he have accumulated so much wealth if he were not clever? A little over a year ago (27 July 2015), when Trump had already achieved a double-digit lead over his rivals, Bob Taylor wrote an article asking, “Donald Trump: Loose cannon or deceptively clever?” He referred to Wayne Allyn Root describing what Trump has done is to magnify the situation in America – “the unholy conspiracy between big government, big business and big media” – to the point that Americans no longer trust anything anyone says in Washington, regardless of political affiliation. His wealth gave him free reign to do his own thing independent of lobbyists and outside influences. Taylor wrote, “Americans simply want somebody to tell them the truth. Or, at the very least, the truth as a candidate honestly perceives it. Trump has done exactly that.”

But he has not. And he does not. And he will not. Railing against the establishment is not telling the truth or even telling the truth as Trump perceives it since it has been well demonstrated that he seems incapable of distinguishing a statement of truth from a lie. It may be that the establishment in both the Democratic and Republican parties neglected to attend to the needs of the middle class workers who have been disadvantaged by globalization. It may be that young people who made such a large part of Bernie Sanders supporters are burdened with too much educational debt and too few career opportunities in spite of the enormous numbers of jobs created since the Great Recession. These are situations that require analysis of the causes and proposed prescriptions to deal with the problems. Railing against the establishment – of which there are many different ones, often far from being in accord – is no substitute for hard attention to detail, careful and precise analysis and imaginative alternative proposals.

Taylor in his piece never directly answered the question about whether Donald Trump was “deceptively clever.” He did write:
Certainly, when the debate season begins, ratings will skyrocket for networks who broadcast the Republican talk-fests. Trump will be front and center with the headlines. In that sense he has become the Tiger Woods of politics. Realistically, Trump may be too much of a loose cannon to handle the daily crises that erupt during a presidency. For all of Barack Obama’s hesitation and “reviewing of situations,” Trump is 180-degrees the opposite, thus possibly making him too quick to respond. Certainly his business skills, like those of Mitt Romney, would be a boon to the American economy, but the question is whether Trump has the appropriate temperament to deal with global issues. One could easily see The Donald telling Vladimir Putin “You’re fired!”

With hindsight, particularly in light of Trump’s record a comments about Putin, and particularly his most recent ones over the last few days, Trump would be more likely to say to Putin, “You’re hired.” For Trump’s cleverness does not have to do with international affairs, but with attracting news coverage, with being the story of the day, with outflanking the Democratic Party in his appeal to older voters, particularly anti-establishment working class male voters in the rustbelt states. Rush Limbaugh insisted that Donald Trump was “quite clever” last week when The Donald invited Russia to hack into Hillary’s emails. It was a “masterstroke of political theatre.” For his provocative answer kept him in the headlines. His provocative answer proved that he would reply to any question thrown at him and dodge the bullets afterwards. Hi provocative answer succeeded in keeping the voters’ distrust of Hillary, especially for her handling of her emails, front and centre.
But why not turn to what Donald Trump says about himself rather than looking elsewhere? “I’m like really a smart person,” including the term “like” both as an inarticulate reflex as well as an unintended suggestion that, though he is not a clever person, he is similar to one in that he has a head on his shoulders and a brain in that head. But the similarity may stop there. For if he used that brain properly, he would not be so stupid as to walk around telling people how clever he is.

But he is not the only one to describe Donald Trump as clever. At the end of May, Kim Jong Un of North Korea suggested that Donald Trump was a very clever American and described him as a “sensible politician” and a “far-sighted presidential candidate” after Trump offered to directly talk to the North Korean dictator. After all, Trump suggested, wouldn’t it be nice to have friendly relations with Russia – and with North Korea and the Assad regime and all the other tin pot dictators around the world?

What about the rebuke to Khizr Khan and his wife that Donald Trump shot back at them after they appeared at the Democratic Convention as the parents of an American war hero and attacked Trump for his attacks on their co-religionists? “Has he not read the constitution?” Khan asked him as he offered to lend Donald his copy. Donald shot back that Khizr’s wife (Ghazala) just stood silently beside him and was probably “not allowed” to speak, throwing even more aspersions on Islam for their treatment of females. Surely, attacking a Gold Star mother must rank as the stupidest, or, at least, among the top of the heap of Trump’s asinine blurts. On the surface, it seems so counter-productive at the very least and demonstrates a temperament so apposite to one needed by and essential to a president who must not and cannot have a trigger finger. When the options are available, Donald Trump can always be counted on to respond with aggressive rhetoric rather than a gracious response.

So the Donald can be reasonably accurately described as calculatingly clever, not knowledgeable, not reflective, not deliberative, but driven by an instinct for the opportunity, a drive to take advantage of a situation and a magnificent belief in his own merits.

With the help of Alex Zisman