Despite all the hoopla over General Mike Flynn’s resignation as national security adviser, don’t let it surprise you that the media has once again missed the most important political story to emerge from Washington.
No one is going to remember Flynn’s name when the next election rolls around. Of far greater significance is that President Trump has successfully maneuvered Democrats into opposing his antiterror policies. This is not going to end well. Just ask John Kerry.
How deeply have Democrats buried their heads in the sand on this issue? Boston Mayor Marty Walsh told a radio station interviewer he didn’t know the Marathon bombers came to America as refugees. Such casual ignorance is worrisome in someone who has become a national spokesman against Trump’s travel restrictions.
The Tsarnaev brothers did not just spring up from the soil. They came here from somewhere else, in this case the Muslim-dominated Russian republic of Chechnya. Before anyone points out Chechnya is not among the seven nations whose citizens Trump wants to temporarily stop from entering the United States, let me just point out the obvious: The White House list is based on a their current threat assessment. If someone wants to argue for adding Chechnya, I’m all ears.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose country is on the list, confirmed that among his population leaving for the West are “definitely” terrorists. As to how many, Assad noted the 9/11 attacks were carried out by fewer than 20 terrorists out of millions of foreigners who arrive on our shores. “It’s not about the number, it’s about the quality, it’s about the intentions,” he said.
Nevertheless, one indication of that number came after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the president’s order because, as the court said, there was no evidence of danger. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, 72 individuals from the countries named in the travel ban have been convicted on terrorism-related charges in the United States since 9/11.
No matter what happens on appeal to the Supreme Court, there is no question Trump occupies the safer political ground. Right now, voters may be evenly divided over the travel ban. Trump’s low approval rating may be holding down support for his policy initiatives.
But as we saw following the San Bernadino terrorist shooting in 2015, American concern about the terror threat rises in the wake of an attack. The only thing uncertain about the next one is its timing.
In 2004, President Bush won reelection by hammering then-Senator Kerry for saying he was prepared to accept some level of terrorism as a “nuisance” that could be addressed as a law enforcement matter. Bush convinced voters he had the right policies and the personal qualities of strength necessary to fight the war on terror.
Everyone wants America to be a welcoming place, and it has been a failure of Trump’s not to recognize there are millions of peaceful Muslims, around the world and among our own citizens, who make a positive contribution to society. But he is right about the danger posed by Islamist terror.
Still, many Democrats have not caught up with the new strategic realities. They reject a policy of self-interest in response to clearly defined threats and continue to rage against Trump’s “extreme vetting,” even though it represents a major step back from the unwise “Muslim ban” he talked about in the campaign.
Trump may seem like an easy target, but it is actually the Democrats who are courting political trouble.
Eric Fehrnstrom is a Republican political analyst and media strategist, and was a senior adviser to Governor Mitt Romney.