Late last week, as was first reported on The Rachel Maddow Show, Donald Trump boasted that through “good management,” he could create some kind of federal registry of Muslim Americans. It was hard not to wonder where the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination could possibly go next.
The answer became clearer yesterday when Trump sat down with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, who pressed the GOP candidate on some of the pertinent details of his radical vision.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You did stir up a controversy with those comments over the database. Let’s try to clear that up. Are you unequivocally now ruling out a database on all Muslims?TRUMP: No, not at all. I want a database for the refugees that – if they come into the country. We have no idea who these people are. When the Syrian refugees are going to start pouring into this country, we don’t know if they’re ISIS, we don’t know if it’s a Trojan horse. And I definitely want a database and other checks and balances. We want to go with watchlists. We want to go with databases. And we have no choice.
Note, Trump was asked about a database for “all Muslims,” which he answered by directing his attention to “Syrian refugees,” making it difficult to know what in the world he’s talking about.
From there, Trump also endorsed torturing detainees with waterboarding. “I would bring it back, yes,” the Republican said. “I would bring it back. I think waterboarding is peanuts compared to what they’d do to us, what they’re doing to us, what they did to James Foley when they chopped off his head.”
When the discussion turned to the issue of the government closing mosques, the candidate added, “You have very, very tough people that you’re dealing with. They only understand strength.” Asked for his criteria for closing American houses of worship, Trump eventually clarified, “Well, I don’t want to close mosques; I want to surveil mosques. I want mosques surveiled.” But not all of them, he said, just the “bad ones.”
Well, that ought to clear things up.
Finally, the “This Week” host noted Trump’s recent claim that ”thousands and thousands” of Jersey City residents “cheered” when the Twin Towers fell on 9/11. It led to a striking exchange.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, the police say that didn’t happen and all those rumors have been on the Internet for some time. So did you meek – misspeak yesterday?TRUMP: It did happen. I saw it.STEPHANOPOULOS: You saw that…TRUMP: It was on television. I saw it.STEPHANOPOULOS: – with your own eyes.TRUMP: George, it did happen.STEPHANOPOULOS: Police say it didn’t happen.TRUMP: There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down. I know it might be not politically correct for you to talk about it, but there were people cheering as that building came down – as those buildings came down. And that tells you something. It was well covered at the time, George. Now, I know they don’t like to talk about it, but it was well covered at the time. There were people over in New Jersey that were watching it, a heavy Arab population, that were cheering as the buildings came down. Not good.STEPHANOPOULOS: As I said, the police have said it didn’t happen.
That’s because it didn’t happen.
Yesterday afternoon, Trump made matters just a little worse with more racially charged allegations, and we’ll have more on that a little later.
Postscript: Asked if he’d consider running for president as an independent, presumably next year, Trump replied, “Well, I’m going to have to see what happens. I will see what happens. I have to be treated fairly.” Trump signed an official Republican Party loyalty pledge in early September, binding him to his party’s nominating process and ostensibly ruling out a third-party campaign.
I noted at the time that Trump may not honor the agreement. His on-air comments yesterday suggest Trump is keeping his options open.