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Pro & Con: Immigration Ban

Jiri and Leni Friedman Valenta / Jim Arkedis

Has Trump begun to destroy or to defend America?

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

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PRO: History Repeats Itself

“...Before we hopefully return Winston Churchill´s bust back to the Oval Office in 2016…” was how my wife, Leni, and I began our July 4, 2015, “Open letter to Donald Trump.” Then, we surely belonged to a very tiny minority of observers who believed Trump had a prayer of becoming our president. But it happened, and Churchill’s bust, removed by Barack Obama, is back in the Oval Office. Moreover, Martin Luther King’s has not been removed, despite fallacious rumors to the contrary spread by the anti-Trump brigade.

Our airports are now flooded with anti-Trump demonstrators in the wake of his temporary ban on visas for citizens from states that are “hotbeds of terrorism.” Here it is essential to recall past history. To win the fight against Fascism and Communism, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Ronald Reagan had to first battle domestic opposition. Long before Pearl Harbor, FDR was besieged by the conservative wing of the GOP — then the “opposition party,” as Trump today calls the press. “The Statue of Liberty is weeping,” they cried, reviling him as a fear monger, posturer, dictator and destroyer of the American image.

Yet even before any declarations of war, FDR risked impeachment by ordering the US Navy to engage in anti-sub warfare (ASW) against German subs. He also initiated anti-Nazi immigration laws to prevent terrorist attacks and propaganda from coming to America.

Among the three “furies” of the then “opposition party” were newspaper moguls Robert R. McCormick and two Pattersons — Joe Albright’s grandfather and his sister, Cissy. The Pattersons owned America’s then most widely read newspaper, the New York Daily News.

By Joe Albright I refer to the ex-husband of our past Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. Her father, the late professor Josef [Jozka] Korbel, a staunch Churchill supporter, was my mentor and friend from 1973 until his death in 1977. I bring this up because Madeleine Albright is one of the key inciters of the present airport crowd, which has also fed off the network of the post-inauguration march for women’s rights.

“I was raised Catholic, became Episcopalian and found out later my family was Jewish,” she proclaimed. “I stand ready to register as Muslim in solidarity.” Thus, on the eve of January 27, the day commemorating the Red Army’s liberation of Auschwitz, where some of both her and my relatives died, she declared her opposition to Trump’s temporary Muslim ban.

Aside from the fact that she is ready to change religions at the drop of an opportunity, Madeleine knew about her Jewish heritage long before 1997, when she supposedly “discovered” it with the help of her biographer, Michael Dobbs. Back in 1974, Jozka told me that Madeline knew she was Jewish.

Going back to FDR: After Pearl Harbor, he suspended naturalization proceedings for Axis country immigrants and required those present to register. Many have rightfully criticized his internment of Japanese Americans, yet certainly most of his measures were necessary. Following 9/11 and continued attacks on our homeland, Trump’s attempts to protect us are mild by comparison. The examples furnished by the Middle East immigration to Europe, as Trump has repeatedly said, demonstrate that the need for self-preservation must inevitably override some of our sacred ideals.

When political party roles reversed during the Cold War, Reagan, too was first labeled a warmonger and fear monger and vilified by an anti-Reagan brigade — this time it was the Democrats and segments of the U.S. press.

Now, yet another Democrat-turned Republican, Trump — facing Islamo-fascism, a new and deadly threat to America — is also staring down the descendants of the anti-FDR and anti-Reagan crowds.

In the 19th century, the Prussian statesman Otto Von Bismarck was known to have remarked, “There is a special Providence that protects drunkards, fools, children, idiots and the United States of America.” We do not consider Americans fools, but many of them have been again fooled, as in 1941 and 9/11. Yet, Providence has thus far given us Trump, and we hope for continued protection.

Dr. Jiri Valenta is a Czech-Jewish author and editor, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. His wife, Leni Friedman Valenta is a graduate of Brandeis University and Yale. Their Institute of Post-Communist Studies and Terrorism can be reached at They are working on Jiri’s memoir, “Are You Starting a Revolution Here?

CON: The Beacon Goes Dark

President Trump’s executive order bars immigrants and refugees from seven countries —Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, and Iran — from entering the United States for four months. It caps the total number of refugees at 50,000 in 2017, down from 110,000.

Countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Egypt are not on the list. Sixteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia. Many people have pointed out that Trump has business ties to these countries. 

Many commentators have said there was no academic rigor behind the order. It doesn’t seem to have been coordinated with federal agencies, which have said they don’t understand how to implement it. NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio said there was no notification or coordination with local authorities, either.

But it still hit fast and hard. Immigrants, including Iraq refugees who served as interpreters for the US military and ill people seeking hospital treatment, were detained at JFK airport.

Opposition came quickly as well. Spontaneous protests erupted and spread to major airports throughout the country. Many companies — particularly in the tech sector — have told their Muslim employees not to leave the country. Even those with a green card — permanent residence status on the way to citizenship — from those countries are impacted by the ban. Just think about the message that it says to green card holders around the country.

A federal judge issued a stay of the executive order, allowing entrance to airport detainees. That’s good. But the stays do not impact the order as a whole, which remains in place.

It has quickly become known as the “Muslim Ban,” which is technically not true. But it is very important for the broader narrative to define it as such. (The Executive Order makes an exception for “religious minorities” from the seven countries. This would allow an exemption for Christians, for example.)

But for all the opposition sweeping America, Republicans have been largely silent so far. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said nothing, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan issued a weak statement vaguely in support of the ban (despite criticizing Candidate Trump for proposing it). Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) has said it was hastily arranged and needed to be reviewed.

It is shameful that they remain silent on such a critical issue.

This executive order is un-American and un-Constitutional. It transgresses our values and violates the spirit of the Constitution to treat us equally. Trump is destroying the image of the United States as the beacon of hope and goodwill in the world.

And we’re just getting started.

After Trump issued another executive order to begin construction of the long-promised wall separating the US from Mexico, White House press secretary Sean Spicer floated the idea that Mexican imports could be hit with a 20% import tariff to pay for it.

Leveling a unilateral tax would threaten the stability of trade agreements, such as the WTO and GATT, where Mexico would almost certainly seek redress. NAFTA, of course, would be out the window.

After a mild uproar, Spicer backtracked, saying a tax was just one idea under consideration.

Testing major, disruptive policies in the media is amateur hour, clearly indicating the White House has no idea how to introduce considered and effective policy.

What they are good at doing is creating an alternate reality in which he sets the rules of what’s true and false.

Yes, ISIS-aligned terrorists have conducted horrendous attacks and killed too many Americans, but more die from school shootings and we still don’t have any semblance of gun control. Yes, we face stiff competition from abroad, but the idea that America doesn’t win any more is ridiculous.

I could go on.

The point is that Trump’s entire presidency is based on this depressing, invented world-view. And he’s trying to make the rest of us believe it, and that he’s the only person who can save us from it. There is a reaction happening in large cities along the coasts. There’s no question that there is a new energy among the progressive left to organize and resist Trump on every level, but will it start to move to the interior of the country?

It will be fascinating to see what form the resistance takes over the long-haul, but for the first time in weeks, people who have been completely disengaged are now excited again. Or as a good friend said to me: “I’ve been to four protests in my whole life, and three of them have been in the last week.”

Jim Arkedis is a political consultant in Washington, DC. You can follow him on Twitter @JimArkedis and receive his weekly political newsletter by emailing

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