President Trump has pulled back on his temporary ban of visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries, but not before unleashing chaos and inflicting incalculable damage to the basic ideals that have long set America apart from other countries.
Trump's executive order, issued just before 5 p.m. Friday, suspended entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days and specifically blocked citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen from entering the country over the next 90 days. Refugees from war-torn Syria were barred indefinitely. (Curiously, the order did not include Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, where Trump happens to have business operations. Most of the Sept. 11 terrorists came from Saudi Arabia.)
Fortunately, a federal judge in New York blocked part of Trump's order, ruling the ban violated its targets' "rights to due Process and Equal Protection guaranteed by the United States Constitution." Three other federal judges in Massachusetts, Virginia, and Washington issued rulings barring authorities from deporting people detained in U.S. airports, but not before shock waves rippled around the world as the Land of the Free slammed the door in the face of huddled masses.
Thousands of protesters clogged airports, including in Philadelphia International, where elected officials and civil rights attorneys worked to free travelers.
The poorly explained roll-out, quick pullback, and slap-down by the federal judges exposed an authoritarian arrogance and incompetence inside the Trump White House. Trump blamed the confusion and airport delays on everything from Delta Air Lines computer problems, Sen. Charles Schumer, protesters, and, of course, the media. Constantly blaming the media for his missteps is quickly turning Trump into the Boy Who Cried Wolf.
Not lost among the weekend's red flags was Trump's elevation of Steve Bannon from political strategist to membership on the National Security Council. Before joining the White House, Bannon headed Breitbart News, a far-right website that promotes conspiracy theories and white nationalism. Historian Ronald Radosh wrote in the Daily Beast last year about meeting Bannon at a book party in 2013 in which Bannon said: "I'm a Leninist. Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that's my goal, too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today's establishment." Bannon said he did not recall the conversation.
Bannon's new role underscores the need for Congress and the courts to maintain a constant check on President Trump going forward. Fortunately, some leading Republicans are also speaking out. Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Trump's ban "may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security."
Trump took to Twitter to say the "senators should focus their energies on ISIS, illegal immigration and border security instead of lobbying to start World War III."
Loose talk by a president about starting a world war is alarming enough. But the refugee ban goes against the Constitution and core American values. Trump's early actions and rhetoric have created a real clear and present danger.