Back in December, Donald Trump unveiled one of his most outrageous policy proposals: if elected, the Republican intended to implement a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” He put it in writing, and then he read his statement, out loud and in public.
Trump has reiterated his support for this absurd idea several times since, including last month. When there were reports that the GOP candidate was considering changes to his plan, Trump’s campaign insisted – one month ago today – that his proposal remained intact.
But soon after, the picture blurred. Team Trump said his Muslim ban was being “revised,” and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said the candidate had “pivoted” away from one of his signature ideas.
So, what exactly is the current state of Trump’s ridiculous proposal? NBC’s Chuck Todd sought some clarification from the candidate on “Meet the Press” over the weekend. Here’s how the New York Republican explained his thinking on the matter:
“[Y]ou could say it’s an expansion. I’m looking now at territories. People were so upset when I used the word Muslim. ‘Oh, you can’t use the word Muslim.’ Remember this. And I’m okay with that, because I’m talking territory instead of Muslim.“But just remember this: Our Constitution is great. But it doesn’t necessarily give us the right to commit suicide, okay? Now, we have a religious, you know, everybody wants to be protected. And that’s great. And that’s the wonderful part of our Constitution. I view it differently.“Why are we committing suicide? Why are we doing that? But you know what? I live with our Constitution. I love our Constitution. I cherish our Constitution. We’re making it territorial.”
It’s obviously difficult to know with certainty exactly what Trump was trying to say, but the gist of this seems to be a shift in focus: instead of simply banning a religious minority Trump doesn’t like, he intends to impose new immigration restrictions based on geography and nationality.
Or put another way, he GOP candidate envisions “extreme vetting” – whatever that means – for anyone entering the United States from any country “compromised by terrorism.”
In case the problem with such a posture isn’t obvious, the New York Times’ Andrew Rosenthal summarized the issue nicely: “Given that most of Europe, a great deal of Asia, the entire Middle East, and virtually all of Africa have been compromised by terrorism (not to mention the United States), it’s hard to imagine what countries would not make Trump’s T List. Even Russia, run by Trump’s buddy and role model, Vladimir Putin, has problems with terrorism, including Islamist terrorism.”
It’s problematic that Trump is pushing absurd and unworkable ideas that even his allies reject, but it’s arguably worse that the Republican candidate is making up policy measures on the fly, changing the scope and scale of his proposals depending on whom he’s speaking to at the time.
As his general-election candidacy gets underway in earnest, the GOP nominee should be going out of his way to demonstrate seriousness of purpose. “Expanding” his indefensible Muslim ban does the opposite.