The noteworthy things about President Trump’s decree on Muslim immigration were how unnecessarily cruel it was, how incompetently it was drawn and how it caught everyone by surprise.
The other noteworthy thing was how mass protests against his decree pressured him to back down from one of the worst parts of it—the forbidding of Green card holders and other legal foreign residents from returning to the country if they are out of it.
I think these things will be hallmarks of his administration—that is, cruelty, stupidity and unpredictability, but also vulnerability to public opinion and public pressure. Trump does not have the power of a dictator, although he would like to have it.
Even conservatives who strongly believe in keeping out unauthorized immigrants and immigrants from the Muslim world thought Trump handled this wrongly.
But the most dangerous trait that Trump revealed was unpredictability.
Being unpredictable is a strength when you’re fighting against adversaries, whether on the battlefield, the marketplace or an election campaign. It also is a strength of a showman, which Trump most definitely is.
It is, however, a dangerous trait in the head of government of a great nation. The most important defining characteristic of a free country is the rule of law. People who live in a free country need to be able to know what the laws are, and to know that they are safe so long as they obey the law.
If they live in fear that the head of state can change the law at any minute, they are no longer free. Sadly the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations have broken down limits to the use of arbitrary power, and now we are seeing the fruits of this.
I hope that progressives and traditional conservatives will have learned the need for the rule of law when Trump passes from the scene. I fear that progressives will draw the lesson that Trump’s actions are justification for any lawless action they themselves care to undertake.
The Betrayal of Legal Immigrants Who Followed the Rules by Conor Friedersdorf for The Atlantic. What Trump backed down from.
Malevolence Tempered by Incompetence: Trump’s Horrifying Executive Order on Refugees and Visas by Benjamin Wittes for Lawfare.
Trump’s Order on Refugees: Right Substance, Wrong Rollout by the editors of National Review.
What Conservatives Get Wrong About Trump’s Immigration Order by Conor Friedersdorf for The Atlantic.