Politics: Three months ago, Candidate Trump promised that on Day One of his presidency he would, if elected, "suspend immigration from terror-prone regions where vetting cannot safely occur." President Trump didn't get around to that until Day Seven, which means he was a week late. Yet everyone is acting as if this all came out of the blue.
The executive order Trump signed Friday afternoon instituted a 90-day suspension of immigrants from countries listed by the Obama administration as having a significant foreign terrorist organization presence. The reason is to give relevant agencies the breathing room to review their procedures and make sure that "adequate standards are established to prevent infiltration by foreign terrorists or criminals."
The order also suspends the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days, giving Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence time to "determine what additional procedures should be taken" to make sure that terrorists aren't slipping in under the guise of refugees — a legitimate concern. It also sets a slightly lower 50,000 cap on refugees for this year than has been in effect over the past decade.
Trump's actions should not have come as a surprise to anyone who was paying even the slightest attention to the presidential campaign.
Before issuing his Contract With The American Voter in October — in which he listed in detail his plans for his first days in office — Trump regularly promised on the campaign trail to suspend immigration from terror-prone countries, as he did in June when he said he would suspend immigration from countries "where there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies until we fully understand how to end these threats." Trump has promised, too, to halt Syrian refugees, given that ISIS had specifically targeted refugee populations as ways to infiltrate the West.
Obama once even mocked Trump for this, saying last spring that Trump's travel suspension "doesn't reflect our democratic ideals."
Nor is what Trump has done particularly unusual, let alone extreme.
The countries involved in the 90-day suspension — Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen — weren't named in Trump's executive order. They were listed by the Obama administration as countries of special concern under a 2015 law that requires anyone who even visited one of these terror-prone countries to undergo special scrutiny before coming to the U.S. — even if they hail from a country that otherwise doesn't require a visa to visit the U.S.
President Obama himself barred large groups of immigrants from entering the U.S. at least six times out of national security concerns, according to a review last June by the Washington Examiner. In 2011, the administration suspended refugee processing from Iraq for six months to make sure terrorists weren't exploiting the program.
The Examiner also found that "President Bill Clinton issued six immigrant bans; George W. Bush six immigrant bans; and former President Ronald Reagan four. And in 1980, former President Jimmy Carter banned Iranians after Tehran seized the U.S. embassy."
Nor is Trump's refugee cap in any way draconian. Data from the Migration Policy Institute shows that, while the cap was higher under the previous two presidents, the actual number of refugees admitted over the past 15 years has been at or below 50,000 most of the time. In fact, the average number of refugees admitted under Bush was 48,000 a year.
In any case, Trump's halt to Syrian refugees won't make a difference one way or another in the Syrian refugee crisis. In the five years after the Syrian war started in 2011, Obama had admitted all of 1,883 Syrian refugees. Obama's highly controversial decision last year to let in 13,000 didn't make a dent in the 4 million-plus Syrian refugee population.
What's extreme isn't what Trump did, it's the entirely out-of-proportion reaction from his political opponents, the press,
and many weak-kneed Republicans.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren decried Trump's order saying that "a Muslim ban by any other name is still a Muslim ban," and that it "is a betrayal of American values."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer shed crocodile tears as he called Trump's actions "mean-spirited and un-American," adding that "it was implemented in a way that created chaos and confusion across the country."
The New York Times and other news outlets ran pieces suggesting — without a shred of evidence — that Trump had selected only countries in which his company didn't have business dealings.
Various Republicans are, not surprisingly, now complaining about Trump's order in the wake of the controversy it's sparked.
"This was an extreme vetting program that wasn't properly vetted," said Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio.
This isn't to say that the implementation of Trump's order was without fault, or that he should have been better prepared for what he had to know would be an intense reaction. As National Review's Andrew McCarthy explained,
Trump "would've been wise to give government agencies and foreigners time to prepare." Trump also had to modify his order to exempt green card holders.
But let's be clear — implementation hassles are just that, hassles that will be dealt with in due time. And in any case the number of people unfairly hassled was apparently small. These problems have nothing to do with the substance of
Trump's order or its merits, about which there is certainly room for reasoned debate.
Indeed, much of the "chaos and confusion" that Schumer complained about was the result not of Trump's order, but the false, misleading and inflammatory claims spread by Democrats, protesters who instantly swarmed into various airports, and the mainstream press that vigorously fanned the flames.
This has, unfortunately, been the pattern since Trump took the oath of office. All the actions Trump has taken so far are ones he promised months ago to tackle immediately, yet they are all treated as shocking developments.
It is hard to see how Trumps' critics are helping their cause when they react to everything Trump does as if it were a world-ending catastrophe.