There were at least 180 reported cases of anti-Muslim violence in the U.S. in the year after Donald Trump announced his presidential bid in March 2015. The Huffington Post has tallied 233 broader acts of Islamaphobia in 2016 alone. In April, a woman at a Starbucks in Washington, D.C. was attacked and told she was a “worthless piece of Muslim trash.” A debate over whether to bring Syrian refugees to Missoula, Montana, has grown bitter, and an Arabic studies professor who has lived in the state for decades told the AP that he has started to see residents object when he visits towns for lectures. A study conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center found that a majority of teachers have had Muslim and immigrant students tell them that they’re worried about what might happen to their families after the election. Just last week, in Queens, an imam was shot and killed in the middle of the day.
Into this scene walks Trump, who told a crowd in Youngstown, Ohio, on Monday that “those who are guests in our country that are preaching hate will be asked to return home.” He was unveiling yet another foreign policy flight of fancy, specifically his plan to defeat RADICAL ISLAMIC TERROR. Trump didn’t reveal everything about his plan, of course, because if he tells you those secrets, ISIS will find out too. But you know it will work, he assured the crowd, because he has decided to believe that he was against the Iraq War from the start, which reveals his tremendous judgment in hindsight.
The GOP nominee can tell you, however, about his plan for what to do here at home. It’s called “extreme vetting,” an ad-libbed Trumpism that sounds like what would happen if presidential candidates selected their running mates by pouring Surge over their choices and seeing which ones didn’t melt. Trump, who has “a tremendous problem in Utah,” would not ban potential immigrants because of their religion. He would only seek to bar those who “do not believe in our Constitution, or who support bigotry and hatred.” In other words, Trump, who just this weekend professed misgivings about the First Amendment and didn’t see any irony in his subsequent decision to take a stand against bigotry, only wishes to keep out those who aren’t politically correct, according to Trump’s own rubric. He also said that those who don’t believe in gay rights wouldn’t be admitted, an ideological test that many members of his own party would be unable to pass. In short, “extreme vetting” is basically a Cold War paranoia expansion pack for the Muslim ban.
It is not clear how Trump would ascertain if someone is hostile to American values, as it seems unlikely that a hopeful immigrant would candidly profess an inclination for extremism during an interview with immigration officials. But wait, there’s more! For those countries that a Trump administration wouldn’t be able to vet through a magical, to-be-determined line of patriotic questioning, a blanket ban would be put into effect. He did not name what those countries might be, saying that his administration would figure that out later. However, none of this matters, because it seems likely that the idea of extreme vetting itself would be unable to prove that it isn’t hostile to American values, and would thus quickly be deported in the first 100 days of a Trump presidency.
Besides “extreme vetting,” Trump also plans to set up a commission on radical Islam. “The goal of the commission,” he said, “will be to identify and explain to the American public the core convictions and beliefs of radical Islam, to identify the warning signs of radicalization, and to expose the networks in our society that support radicalization.”
On one hand, uttering the word “commission” out loud in a positive manner is perhaps the most experienced politician-like thing Trump has ever done. On the other hand, Cold War–inspired commissions designed to track un-American activities haven’t aged well.
Trump has not, as of this writing, explained how the government would be able to deal with such a massive change in immigration policy. NBC News reported earlier this month that a Muslim ban, on top of maybe being unconstitutional, would be hugely expensive and impossible to enforce. It doesn’t seem like this revised, “do you love hot dogs and Katie Ledecky,” I Heart America questionnaire would be much simpler.
At least with refugees, the vetting is already intense. It can take years of grueling interviews to complete the process. If Trump’s latest variation on immigration is just as unrealistic as the edits that have come before, that only leaves his words. Before Trump got to the extreme vetting and the commission, he framed his policy rollout with the same fear that has cloaked most of his addresses this election cycle. At the end of the speech, he tried to wrap up the doom and gloom in a more optimistic bow. “Renewing this spirit of Americanism will help heal the divisions in our country,” he said. “It will do so by emphasizing what we have in common — not what pulls us apart.”
Out of all the platform edits he tried to make on Monday, this may have been the least believable. The image of Trump sitting in a rocking chair on the porch while the apple pie cools, trying to stitch America back up again so you can pass it on to the kids someday, isn’t one that has ever crossed anyone’s mind. After his decision to debut an ideological test that probably wouldn’t even allow him to enter the U.S., it still won’t.