Of the many words to describe Donald Trump, “measured” and “precise” are not among them. This, of course, is not necessarily a bad thing for a larger-than-life figure like Trump. His grandiose demeanor and over-the-top rhetoric is not only responsible for his celebrity status and immense wealth, but his political fortunes as well.
The hallmark of the 2016 Trump presidential campaign was Trump’s broad, sweeping pronouncements about the “sad” state of America; on issues from immigration to terrorism to outsourcing, and more. His ability to channel populist angst about the failures of the Establishment to address the real problems facing Americans was masterful, especially considering his solutions to such problems were no less vague and simplistic. The tactic worked, and Trump won the election. However, that was the campaign, in which exaggerated rhetoric and bite-sized solutions are a candidate’s stock-in-trade.
Serving as president of the United States, however, is far different; or at least it should be. A sure sign of this is the hullabaloo over Trump’s executive order regarding the temporary halt of refugees from foreign countries, and a pause in travel for residents of seven countries considered terrorist hotspots. On intentions alone, the executive order was both a reasonable and a practical first-step to ensuring America’s national security interests were not being sacrificed in the name of globalist altruism. Given Europe’s ongoing battle with domestic terrorism due in part to the flood of refugees from the Middle East, it would have been irresponsible not to immediately review our policies in this regard.
Yet, as the saying goes, the road to Hell -- or in this case the federal court system -- is paved with good intentions . . . and, poor execution.
Such seems to be the case with the so-called “travel ban” executive order. Instead of working with the various federal agencies involved with immigration policy -- prepping them on the incoming changes and soliciting their advice for its implementation -- the Trump White House reportedly rushed its release; giving little notice to Homeland Security and failing to have the policies properly reviewed by the Justice Department. The final result of what should have been a noteworthy policy change was mass confusion, mass protests, and a continuing court battle over its constitutionality.
The White House did itself no favors with the release of the order or in its subsequent explanations; using terms like “extreme vetting” to describe the changes, without ever defining what, exactly, “extreme vetting” actually means.
For starters, “vetting” is not a legal term, so its use to describe changes to a legal process only muddies the water. Secondly, the federal government (and the president in particular) already possesses broad powers to police America’s borders and ports of entry. Such powers include warrantless searches of persons, luggage, or vehicles; powers which the president or those agencies involved can change or expand anytime, without issuing an executive order or calling on Congress for legislative authority.
Furthermore, the Obama Administration frequently asserted the government’s right to inspect and detain electronics from all persons traveling into the United States, and to copy any information stored on those devices. Add to this the fact that U.S. Customs and Border Protection recently started collecting social media account information for those applying for travel to the United States, and you have an extremely robust “vetting” process already in place.
Thus, outside of any updates to the internal processes of the State Department and other agencies involved in approving refugees or foreign travelers, the government already has at its disposal a broad arsenal of “extreme vetting” powers. So, if the changes were, in fact, behind-the-scenes, why was this not explicitly detailed by the Trump Administration when announcing the policy, rather than brushing aside the changes with overly simplistic and utterly meaningless terminology?
Regardless whether one agrees or disagrees with the changes made by the executive order, Administration officials, if not Trump himself, have a responsibility to clearly and precisely explain significant policy changes. There is a practical reason for this, as the chaos following the immigration policy illustrated. So-called “Green Card” holders were left stranded in airports -- a result that allowed the liberal judges on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to hang their hat in finding Trump’s Order unconstitutional.
If the White House will not define its policy changes, others will, including Democrats looking for any chance to undermine the legitimacy of the Trump Administration. That is exactly what happened here; and guess with which narrative the Mainstream Media ran?
Trump has already proven detractors of his abilities as Executive-in-Chief wrong with several of his cabinet picks, not to mention his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Avoiding stumbles like his immigration executive order, by keeping in mind that he is no longer on the campaign trail, will help him keep this momentum and out of unnecessary controversies; otherwise, further unnecessary challenges and set backs will result.