Archive

February 3rd, 2017

Trump's immigration ban is a policy disaster

    The Trump administration's first attempt at implementing complex policy via executive order has been blowing up on them since it was signed on Friday. As Benjamin Wittes put it at Lawfare, the immigration ban targeting seven Muslim-dominated countries was "malevolence tempered by incompetence," and it was met by massive protests, several legal setbacks, denunciation by most major religious movements (yes, including evangelicals), practically unanimous condemnation by Democrats along with a fair number of Republicans (including members of Congress), and a partial (so far) retreat by the administration.

    So why is the new administration botching things so badly?

    I've seen a strategic explanation, and I've seen a personality-based explanation for why this appears to be a gang that can't shoot straight. I'll supply a structural one: Perhaps it's because they're trying to do policy from the White House, and that's usually a recipe for disaster.

    Wittes explains that this is apparently a White House operation in full:

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President Trump is handing Democrats a gift on drug prices

    President Donald Trump said he wasn't like other politicians. He wouldn't sell voters out to lobbyists in Washington. He would "drain the swamp." One piece of evidence for this argument was his promise to break with GOP orthodoxy and support the government -- especially Medicare -- negotiating drug prices directly with the pharmaceutical industry, saving billions. In typical Trump fashion, he overestimated those savings, but the stand against the industry was nevertheless an important symbol, particularly to older voters.

    Less than two weeks in, Trump is already waffling on that stand. His softening -- and what it portends -- is an opportunity that opponents cannot afford to pass up.

    It turns out that it took only one visit from the pharmaceutical industry to get Trump singing a different tune. As recently as three weeks ago, Trump said drug companies were "getting away with murder." He added, "We're the largest buyer of drugs in the world, and yet we don't bid properly." On Tuesday, though, meeting with the bosses of some of the world's largest drug companies, he shifted the blame elsewhere:

 

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Trump's travel ban is an attack on religious liberty

    President Donald Trump's executive order barring the U.S. entry of refugees from seven majority-Muslim countries -- while prioritizing refugees who are religious minorities, namely Christians -- is a shameful display of discrimination against people who are by legal definition innocent and in danger of their lives. It also violates the constitutional value of equal religious liberty.

    Whether the constitutional violation could be used by a court to strike down the order is a more difficult question. Classically, the courts haven't interpreted the Constitution to protect the rights of noncitizens living outside the U.S. To get into court to challenge the order, its opponents will need to argue that it violates the rights of people physically in the U.S. That will take some ingenuity, but it's a hurdle that could be overcome. The trick will be to claim that visa holders from the seven countries who are lawfully in the U.S. -- for example, people on student visas -- can sue because the order blocks them from leaving and returning as they would otherwise be able to do.

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We cannot possibly confirm Judge Gorsuch before the election

    Look, Judge Neil Gorsuch seems like a lovely person. I would gladly let him be the spokesman for my travel website. He possesses a sharp jurist's mind (framing the sentence that way sounds as if he has it in a jar somewhere, but I do not mean that he has it in a jar), and those who know him seem to like him. He has a groovy last name that I am stunned does not appear anywhere in the Harry Potter series as the name of a winged creature that lives in a cave. He says that a judge who likes every outcome he reaches is not a good judge, and if he is willing to subject himself to the constant misery of making decisions he does not like, I will not stand in his way.

    But how can we in good conscience allow the appointment of a new justice to the nation's highest court when we have not yet had the results of a democratic election?

    "I believe that awaiting the result of a democratic election, rather than having a nomination fight in this partisan election-year environment, will give the nominee more legitimacy and better preserve the Court's credibility as an institution," said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, once, and I agree with him.

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The danger of Steve Bannon on the National Security Council

    While demonstrators poured into airports to protest the Trump administration's draconian immigration policies, another presidential memorandum signed this weekend may have even more lasting, wide-ranging and dangerous consequences. The document sounds like a simple bureaucratic shuffle, outlining the shape the National Security Council will take under President Donald Trump. Instead, it is deeply worrisome.

    The idea of the National Security Council (NSC), established in 1947, is to ensure that the president has the best possible advice from his Cabinet, the military and the intelligence community before making consequential decisions, and to ensure that, once those decisions are made, a centralized mechanism exists to guarantee their effective implementation. The NSC is effectively the central nervous system of the U.S. foreign policy and national security apparatus.

    Trump's memorandum described the structure of his NSC - not unusual given that the exact composition shifts in modest ways from administration to administration. The problem lies in the changes that he made.

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The U.S. once invited me here because I'm Iraqi. Now Trump wants to ban me for it.

    Last Tuesday night, I got an unexpected and somewhat frantic call from my lawyer asking whether I was outside the U.S. and pleading with me to return immediately: "Trump might be signing an executive order that would ban people from Iraq, and a few other countries, from entering the country." I was in Vancouver to see my little brother's acting debut. There was no way I was going to miss that.

    But trying to be prudent and heed the lawyer's advice, I showed up at the airport five hours before my flight Wednesday morning to get through immigration before the potential ban could take effect. I'm an Iraqi citizen who works at Facebook as a software engineer. It was just a matter of lucky timing that I wasn't stranded far from my home the way so many people from the countries covered by President Donald Trump's arbitrary and unnecessary new immigration orders were.

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I tried to fly home to the US on Friday but I couldn't

    On Thursday night, I looked at the news while visiting my family here and realized I had a problem. President Donald Trump would be signing executive orders the next day. One of them would ban me from returning to my home in Greenville, S.C., and it did cause federal agents to block me from my flight from Dubai to Washington on Friday night.

    I've lived in South Carolina since 2013, when I started my doctoral studies in industrial engineering at Clemson University. I was born in a middle-class family in Tehran, raised by parents who taught me to love and respect people regardless of their race, religion or background. I learned to value education for its contributions to community life, its role in advancing social justice, its capacity to open worlds of cultural and artistic excellence - for the way it helps humanity flourish.

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The revolt of the American judicial branch

 

    In a swift and remarkable assertion of their constitutional power, Justice Department lawyers and a host of state attorneys general defiantly opposed President Trump's order to deny sanctuary to refugees and bar travelers from seven designated Muslim countries.

    The refusal of acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates, an Obama carry-over, to defend the Trump executive order triggered Trump to fire her Monday night, reminiscent of the stormy "Saturday Night Massacre" of 1973, in which President Richard Nixon forced the removal of his own attorney general and his deputy in a scandal that eventually led to Nixon's own resignation.

    Trump's steamroller of executive orders signaled his intent to fulfill his campaign pledge to change how Washington works. Instead, he fomented resistance from state attorneys general across the country, who filed stays to the Trump anti-Muslim refugee order.

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I had to flee Iran's repression. Trump's order may keep me from my only child.

    I am an Iranian, a journalist, a campaigner against Islamic extremism and a 40-year-old mother. I was forced to flee Iran's media crackdown with my teenage son, Pouyan, in 2009. I came to the United States as a green-card holder in 2014 after being a political refugee in the United Kingdom for five years. Due to my work, I cannot go back to Iran.

    After seven years of being in exile due to Iran's repression, I feel as if I am facing another crackdown, thanks to President Trump. His executive order to suspend the flow of refugees into the United States for 120 days, and to halt immigration for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for at least 90 days, could prevent me from seeing Pouyan, my only child, who is a now a student in the U.K. We feel as if we are both in limbo. I am unsure if he can come see me, or if can I go visit him, without being deprived of the right to come back to the United States. If were unable to return, it would be the end of my life here as I know it. When I think about not being able to see him, I feel sick.

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Democrats should use the coming court fight to spotlight Donald Trump's authoritarianism. Here's how.

    President Donald Trump's nomination of Colorado appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court presents Democrats with an opportunity. They can use the nomination fight to shine a light on Trump's authoritarian tendencies and serial undermining of our democratic norms, via lines of questioning that probe whether the courts can be counted on to act as a check on those impulses, which are already visibly motivating the Trump presidency.

    Gorsuch is being widely hailed by Republicans and conservatives for, among other things, his belief in constitutional originalist philosophy and his rulings on religious liberty. Liberals and Democrats, The Post reports, are blasting him as a "tool of conservative activists who would gut protections for consumers, workers, clean air and water, safe food and medicine and roll back the rights of women and LGBT people."

    All that will get litigated in due time, but another area that hopefully will also get aired out centers on whether our institutions -- in this case, the courts -- will function as a check on Trump's excesses.

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