Most of Donald Trump’s big speeches tend to raise questions about his competence, but yesterday’s address on foreign policy and national security was stranger than most. It left many wondering, for example, if the Republican presidential candidate is familiar with his own past opinions.
Trump, for example, is on record supporting the war in Iraq, the ouster of the Mubarak government in Egypt, and the U.S. military offensive in Libya. Yesterday, Trump not only pretended he never held those positions, he also blamed these policies for contributing to the rise of ISIS.
It led MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin to note that the national security framework he described “was so contradictory and filled with so many obvious falsehoods that it’s virtually impossible to tell what he would do as president.”
There was, meanwhile, one part of the speech that deserves closer scrutiny. NBC News reported:
Donald Trump on Monday promised “extreme vetting” of immigrants, including ideological screening that that will allow only those who “share our values and respect our people” into the United States.Among the traits that Trump would screen for are those who have “hostile attitudes” toward the U.S., those who believe “Sharia law should supplant American law,” people who “don’t believe in our Constitution or who support bigotry and hatred.”
All of this is intended to shed light on Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States, unveiled in December. A month ago, the GOP nominee added a geographic “expansion” to his idea, saying he wants closer scrutiny of immigrants from countries “compromised by terrorism” – a policy that would apparently include most of the planet.
Now, evidently, there’s a new prong to the policy: an ideological test. Those immigrants who declare their hostility for American law and their contempt for pluralism won’t be allowed in.
What’s to stop would-be malcontents from giving less than truthful answers during their “extreme vetting”? Would Trump and his more radical supporters struggle to pass the same test?
Making matters slightly worse, we’ve received no real clarity on the state of Trump’s overall policy. As the NBC News report added, “It’s unclear whether or not this is in addition to, or in place of, his original temporary ban.”
As a rule, the point of presidential hopefuls giving speeches like these is to offer Americans a better sense of what a candidate intends to do if elected. Donald J. Trump, however, has a unique talent: giving “policy” addresses that leave his audience more confused about his intentions than when he started.