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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Presidents win the day when invoking national security

President-elect Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up as he

President-elect Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up as he speaks during the Leadership Luncheon at Trump International in Washington, D.C., Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. Credit: AP

Any president acting in the name of national security will have the people who elected him immediately behind him.

That is a basic rule worth remembering as this still-new immigration fight unfolds.

Within his base, President Donald Trump pays no political price for moving to temporarily deny immigration for citizens of seven majority-Muslim nations.

Quite the opposite, several Long Islanders insist.

“You’ve got to have a border to be a country, and that’s what it really amounts to,” said a Newsday reader, who called to respond to coverage of the criticism.

“Maybe they’re not doing it right. So straighten out the problems. But we love what Trump is doing.”

Trump did tell everyone during the campaign he would take this type of action.

Whether opponents like it or not, it rates as a promise kept.

Earlier this month a Quinnipiac University national poll showed American voters support, 48 percent to 42 percent, “suspending immigration from ‘terror prone’ regions, even if it means turning away refugees from those regions.”

Fifty-three percent of respondents approved “requiring immigrants from Muslim countries to register with the federal government.”

Other presidents — notably Barack Obama — used executive orders to make immigration changes, later shot down in court. Trump’s controversial orders remain to be fought out in the judiciary.

No doubt, Trump’s move means harder fates for Syrian refugees, and causes bureaucratic chaos at airports and delays for legal immigrants.

And seasoned experts argue that the step will do little or nothing to thwart terrorism.

Former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden said: “What we’re doing now has probably made us less safe today than we were Friday morning before this happened, because we are now living the worst jihadist narrative possible — that there is undying enmity between Islam and West.”

Even if Hayden is right, though, opponents cannot prove Trump’s posturing alone couldn’t prevent or discourage some heinous act.

That is, you cannot prove a negative — or say for certain what caused some attack not to happen.

And we know Trump has a shock-jock way of prodding reaction. Will he claim that simply by issuing his executive order that he averted dozens, hundreds or even thousands of domestic terrorist acts on Monday alone?

Tough to predict.

For the moment, though, the longer-range risks for him include:

  • Reports that the White House didn’t first run its plans past top officials in relevant agencies could play into a future negative narrative about the administration’s competence.
  • Those who deem Trump’s action anti-Islamic rather than pro-security could have constitutional concerns, a matter that might erode congressional GOP support.
  • While Trump is fine with his voter base, the move does little or nothing to expand it or create national unity. Democrats and left-of-center activists will be rallying in reaction to him with each issue that unfolds.

Despite all the static, though, the slogan “Make America safe again!” resonates widely, as it would for any new incumbent.


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