One would think everyone in America, citizens and legal residents alike, would be clapping for the redrafted and narrowly tailored executive order President Trump signed on Monday. It plainly aims to protect all of us from radical Islamic terrorism. But do not expect universal applause any more than you can expect everyone to stand for the widow of a fallen Navy SEAL in a joint session of Congress. These days, no good deed goes unpunished.
This executive order (EO), as explained by Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, supersedes a broader one that was rejected by a federal court last month. It requires elevated vetting for persons seeking to enter the United States from six terror-ravaged nations.
It also avoids due process concerns raised by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which refused to stay a district court’s poorly reasoned temporary restraining order. It exempts permanent residents and other visa holders, delays implementation for 10 days and drops one nation — Iraq — from the original list of seven “countries of concern,” a list originated by the Obama administration and Congress.
According to Homeland Security, some 300 of 1000 open terrorism investigations “involve those admitted to the United States as refugees,” many presumably from countries covered by the order. The Justice Department confirms this number.
But do not expect this redoubled commitment to legal t-crossing and i-dotting to make any difference. Do not expect Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) or House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to make any concessions, thank the president for protecting America or give him credit for learning the process. They could barely bring themselves to clap for the most bipartisan — actually, nonpartisan — presidential address to a joint session since George W. Bush addressed the Nation in September of 2001.
Watch what happens next. The first outcry, despite public exhaustion with Democratic outrage over everything, will be that the president has no intent to protect America, that he is trying to single out Muslims for exclusion.
Of course, as one of the Ninth Circuit judges pointed out, only 15 percent of the world’s Muslims live in the seven countries that were initially identified. If the EO is based on religious animus, it seems rather ill-aimed and under-inclusive. Conversely, common sense suggests it is motivated by something else entirely. How about … national security? The First Amendment argument, claiming religious discrimination, will not stand up. Not this time.
Then watch the outrage pivot. Next will come filings of frivolous lawsuits, all aimed at undermining the EO as poorly crafted, probing probity and fairness of extensive vetting for foreign nationals, implying that the EO presents previously unmentioned due process and equal protection concerns. The real aim of these attacks will be to drag the issue back into federal district court — any court, but preferably an activist one — to block the EO again.
And why, you may fairly ask, would anyone do this and place our national security at risk again? Answer: To keep the issue alive, to further undermine and embarrass an outspoken president with whom those on the Left viscerally disagree.
They disagree with his enforcing national sovereignty, elevating border security, identifying foreign terrorist groups by name, religious and national affiliation, bluntly talking about patriotism or putting America “first,” subjecting foreigners to “extreme” vetting, raising respect for law enforcement, restoring defense budgets and respecting tradition. Mostly, they want to keep litigating — long sigh — their election loss.
The real irony is this: Whether Trump’s detractors, hoping for another temporary restraining order and possible redraft, choose to litigate the language or intent behind this EO or just keep fussing, fuming and staging more outrageous outrage, the Left loses.
Why? Because this EO is becoming symbolic. It now represents something more than protection from six bastions of exportable terrorism. It represents America’s desire to protect herself, a desire to preserve America’s innate sovereignty, enduring identity and future.
Behind this embattled EO is a broadening consensus that President Trump, if uncharacteristically vocal, fast-paced and emotionally reflexive, is right. It is time for America to protect America, and this EO says it all. We are not going to back off that priority.
We know the price: In a world where every human foible triggers new outrage and another demand for resignation, where politics prevents members of Congress from standing for a brave patriot’s devastated widow and where no good deed goes unpunished — standing for truth is getting harder. This EO reminds us that we need to keep standing.
Robert Charles is a former assistant secretary of state for President George W. Bush, former naval intelligence officer and litigator. He served in the Reagan and Bush 41 White Houses.