The list of Americans – and others – suspicious and fearful of US president-elect Donald Trump’s first national security appointments is long. Their complaints are many – and they often present them with the facts.
Retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, who will be President Trump’s national security adviser, everyone points out, is Islamophobic. He has described Islam as a “political ideology” that hides “behind what we call freedom of religion.” He has previously tweeted that “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL.”
Congressman Mike Pompeo, who will be CIA director in the Trump administration, has pretty extreme views on fighting terrorism. He apparently believes that reforms to US government surveillance have weakened its power to prevent terrorist attacks. Mr Pompeo also thinks it a good idea for the administration to create an enormous database that would start with telephone numbers and phone records and go on to “publicly available financial and lifestyle information.”
All of this, as the Washington Post recently editorialized, “could presage a harsh and counterproductive US approach to the Muslim world, a dangerous turn toward Russia and the re-embrace of tactics for handling terrorism suspects that violate international law.”
To which I say, it’s possible. It’s possible that this will happen. It’s possible that all of that will come true. And it’s possible that there will be a “harsh and counterproductive US approach to the Muslim world, a dangerous turn toward Russia and the re-embrace of tactics for handling terrorism suspects that violate international law.”
But we’re not there yet.
There are indications that Republican Congressmen will subject the Trump administration to some scrutiny (though not, of course, as harsh and unyielding as to Democratic President Obama’s.)
Civil society, the media and smartphone technology will be watching closely.
Let’s wait to see if and when the Trump administration indicates it wants to undermine civil rights, constitutional freedoms and the principles of natural justice. Let’s wait to see how the administration proposes to do it.
In other words, let’s not cry wolf till we actually see one. That way, we won’t weaken the argument at the time it really needs to hit home.
To those who scoff at this, just consider the words of Charlie Sykes, a conservative anti-Trump who hosts a radio talk show on WTMJ in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Explaining the political rise of Donald Trump – and the fact that Republicans seemed not to mind supporting a candidate who’s comments were in fact racist – Mr Sykes said that conservative-minded people had so long been denounced as “racist” for simply everything that the term had lost impact. Previous Republican candidates such as Mitt Romney were denounced as racist. Previous Republican presidents, including George W. Bush, were similarly criticized. So when a manifestly racist Republican candidate like Mr Trump showed up, the “racist” label had no purchase.
In the end, the same sort of effect may be produced by yelling anti-Muslim about everything the Trump administration does. The wiser move may be to wait until they try to introduce unconstitutional or unjust anti-Muslim measures and then call them out. And agitate.