Trump’s reaction to the recent London terrorist attack was not only arrogant and tasteless. It was frightening.
Before issuing any message of condolence to or solidarity with the British people, he exploited the London attack to defend his Muslim ban and bully the U.S. courts. He accused the courts of taking away “our rights.” Think about that.
The Constitution protects the basic rights of all Americans. The courts, in citing the establishment of religion clause as a reason to strike down a religious test for entry to our country, are protecting our right to live in a country that does not “favor or disfavor one religion over another.”
Yet Trump seeks to use the fear of terrorism to divide Americans into “us” and “them,” suggesting that the courts, in striking down the ban as unconstitutional, have been defending their rights at the expense of our rights.
Trump has to know – or at least his attorneys must have told him – that his repeated tweets about Muslims undermine his beloved travel bans. And yet he persists to the point that it becomes apparent his real goal is to stoke fear and division. Just last weekend he tweeted, “we are EXTREME VETTING people coming into the U.S.” So, then, why do we need the travel ban? What other purpose does this posturing serve but stoking anti-Muslim sentiment?
What is the endgame to all this?
A chilling possibility came from Trump’s favorite “news” source. On Fox News, British politician and commentator Neil Farage called for internment camps for terrorist suspects. Sounding a lot like Trump, he blamed “political correctness” for preventing “genuine action.”
You might think it is farfetched that an American politician would even mention internment camps as a solution. But, remember, during the presidential election campaign, then-candidate Trump refused to say whether he would have supported or opposed the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
“I certainly hate the concept of it,” he said. “But I would have had to be there at the time to give you a proper answer.”
Incredibly, Kris Kobach, a Trump transition team member, later cited the internment of Japanese Americans as “precedent” supporting a Muslim registry. Then-Fox host Megyn Kelly struck back, “You can’t be citing Japanese internment camps as precedent for anything.”
Sadly, the legal basis for sending Japanese Americans to camps has never been completely erased. The ACLU lost its constitutional challenge to the wartime orders that authorized the internment – Korematsu v. United States. The disgraceful 1944 Supreme Court decision has never been overturned. At the time, Justice Robert Jackson wrote in dissent that the decision “lies about like a loaded weapon, ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need.”
What would happen if this country suffered an attack like those that have recently hit Europe? Would Trump reach for the “loaded weapon?”
In 1988, Congress passed and President Reagan signed legislation apologizing to the approximately 120,000 placed in U.S. detention camps during World War II and authorizing reparations. The legislation declared of this shameful chapter in our nation’s history: “The internment of the individuals of Japanese ancestry was caused by racial prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.”
That last sentence, in quotes, is exactly 140-characters – the maximum length of a tweet. If only our current president could tweet anything that true, vital and just.