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Trump naturalization-ceremony stunt goes from bad to worse

If Team Trump is going to use human beings as props in political theater, the least it can do is let the people know they're members of a production.
President Donald Trump looks on as five candidates for naturalization coming from five different countries recite the oath of allegiance during the largely virtual 2020 Republican National Convention broadcast from Washington on Aug. 25, 2020.
President Donald Trump looks on as five candidates for naturalization coming from five different countries recite the oath of allegiance during the largely virtual 2020 Republican National Convention broadcast from Washington on Aug. 25, 2020.RNC

One of the Republican National Convention's most jarring moments came on Tuesday night, when Donald Trump turned a naturalization ceremony into a partisan stunt, effectively playing the role of a game-show host handing out a cherished prize.

Indeed, even by this president's standards, it was a cynical spectacle, brazen not only in its politicization of government functions, but also in its contradiction of the immigration policies espoused by the White House in which the stunt took place.

A Washington Post analysis explained, "That ceremony, the culmination of five long journeys toward achieving recognition as American citizens, happened in the White House quite obviously so that it could be filmed and incorporated into Trump's reelection effort. The legitimate achievements of those five people was something that, for [acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad] Wolf and Trump, became an opportunity to score political points."

Vox's Zack Beauchamp added that the display was offensive because of "the way in which real live human beings -- five people, new Americans achieving something they've wanted for years -- participating in what should be a moving and deeply personal ritual, were reduced to bit players in a very special episode of the Trump show. They were being deployed for a specific purpose: to pull the wool over America's eyes about who Donald Trump is. The scene was meant to reassure: Trump isn't a xenophobe; look at these immigrants he's welcoming -- people of color to boot!"

Late yesterday, however, the story managed to get a little worse. The Wall Street Journal reported that at least some of these new citizens were put on display at a political convention without their consent.

Sudha Narayanan and Neimat Awadelseid looked forward to Tuesday -- the day, after a yearslong process, they would become U.S. citizens. They found out only minutes before the ceremony that President Trump would attend, and they didn't know it would be aired during the Republican convention that night.... Several critics said in interviews that it was inappropriate not to tell the participants that they would be part of a political event, and noted that the Trump administration had sought to curb illegal and legal immigration.

By all appearances, Narayanan and Awadelseid were gracious about the whole thing, and they said they didn't mind being featured in the convention. (We don't yet know if the other new citizens who participated in the ceremony were notified in advance of the circumstances.)

But whether or not they were bothered isn't really the point. If members of Team Trump are going to use human beings as props in political theater, the least they can do is let the people know they're members of a production. It's not too much to ask.

The WSJ report on this added, "The White House directed inquiries related to the ceremony to Mr. Trump's campaign, which declined to comment."

Or put another way, Team Trump apparently couldn't think of a defense for this.