On Sunday, President Trump declared that “if something happens”—the “something” in question, implicitly, being an Islamist terrorist attack—Americans should blame the “court system” and James Robart, the federal judge who temporarily stopped the Trump administration from enforcing its 90-day ban on people from seven majority-Muslim countries.
To imply that federal judges should be blamed for the consequences of following the law, or that the “court system” makes America unsafe, shows alarming contempt for the United States Constitution. To see a president engage in preemptive blame shifting at this early date in his tenure, as if he were unaware of the courts when he pledged to succeed at counterterrorism, inspires no confidence among those worried that he’s in over his head.
And while Trump ought to be concerned about terrorism, which remains a threat, his rhetoric would be easier to take if he weren’t unwittingly making his country less safe.
First, Trump’s executive order shows an economic illiterate’s disregard for opportunity cost. At the stroke of a pen, he ensured that the parts of the U.S. government that vet immigrants, whether at foreign consulates or U.S. ports of entry, would spend months of additional time and effort on tens of thousands of people who’ve already been through years of vetting. It would be as if TSA forced a bunch of people who’d already gone through security to line up again for screening without realizing that less time and attention would be paid to folks who’ve not been screened. What’s more, are new hurdles for, say, Iranian grandparents or Libyan children who aren’t even old enough to have been alive on 9/11, possibly the best use of scarce resources? How many additional smugglers from unaffected countries slipped through customs last week while agents were busy handcuffing Green Card holders? If you were a “bad guy” from an unaffected country like Saudi Arabia, what better time to try slipping into the United States than the chaos of last week? And who focuses on countries that pose terror risks without listing Pakistan?