Editorial Board

Trump's Un-American Travel Ban, Part II

Trump will need a new approach to the inevitable court ruling.

Don't lash out, Mr. President.

Photograph: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump’s latest executive order restricting immigration from several majority-Muslim countries is less sweeping and careless than his last one, which federal courts put on hold last month. But even if it withstands judicial scrutiny, it is still un-American and unwise -- and if it doesn't, the president needs to resist his impulse to lash out.

The new ban affects six nations instead of seven, exempts permanent U.S. residents who may be working or traveling abroad, and deletes a provision that seemed aimed at providing special protections to Christians. That’s all for the good.

That said, it's a mistake to think that this order will make the U.S. safer, and it can still be used as a propaganda tool by terrorist organizations, giving false credence to the idea that the U.S. is engaged in a war with Islam. And bear in mind: The number of visas issued to nationals from these countries is relatively small and the refusal rate is already high. In addition, although the order requires enhanced vetting of immigrants from the six nations, the president has proposed drastic cuts to the agency -- the State Department -- that would play a central role in carrying it out.

In the courts, meanwhile, controversial policies are routinely put on hold until full hearings can be held. When this happened with the previous version of the travel ban last month, Trump accused a “so-called judge” of putting the country in peril. “If something happens,” Trump tweeted, “blame him and the court system.”

Sorry, Mr. President. The buck stops on your desk. Presidents are responsible for upholding both the nation’s security and the rule of law. This is not an either/or proposition. Attempting to shift blame to the judiciary for future terrorist attacks is gutless and duplicitous.

Too few Republicans objected to Trump’s belittling and bullying comments, but his Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, said he found the attacks on the judiciary disheartening and demoralizing. In truth, they are worse than that: They are dangerous.

The genius of the U.S. Constitution is the checks and balances it places on the three branches of government. The separation of powers is essential to the preservation of individual rights and the survival of the nation’s democracy.

Trump has thus far shown precious little capacity for mature restraint. If he cannot be persuaded that demeaning the courts is dangerous for democracy, his advisers would do well to tell him that it’s also a foolish legal strategy -- not because judges may feel insulted, but because it will be difficult for them not to see Trump as a threat to their constitutional authority.

As much as Trump loves winning, he will face judicial and legislative setbacks during his term, as every president does. He needs to understand that losing with dignity -- or at least a bit of decorum -- is part of the job.

New Trump Travel Ban Targets Six Mostly Muslim Countries

    --Editors: Michael Newman, Francis Barry

    To contact the senior editor responsible for Bloomberg View’s editorials: David Shipley at davidshipley@bloomberg.net .

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