Editorial Board

The Dangerous Simplicity of Donald Trump

Trump's travel ban reflects a larger problem with his presidency.

Sloganeer in chief.

Photographer: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

President Donald Trump has always had a weakness for simple and fantastical fixes. Illegal immigration? Build a wall. Jobs moving overseas? Tax imports. Unemployment in Appalachia? Dig more coal. Rising medical costs? Repeal Obamacare.

Trump’s gift for simple slogans served him well as a candidate. As president, however, it is failing him and endangering the country.

When the Supreme Court partially resurrected his executive order banning travel from six mostly Muslim nations, Trump called it “a clear victory for our national security.” It should be abundantly clear -- by looking at the nationalities of terrorists who have plotted attacks against the U.S. -- that closing America’s borders to the countries on Trump’s list offers only false comfort. It should also be clear that the rationale for the temporary travel ban -- the need to review screening procedures -- was little more than pretext.

In the original executive order, Trump directed his secretary of homeland security, secretary of state, and director of national intelligence to submit a report within 30 days detailing “the information needed from any country to adjudicate any visa, admission, or other benefit” necessary to verify an individual is not a security threat. The administration has yet to produce such a report, and has made few changes to the visa screening process.

Nor do Trump’s budget priorities indicate he understands how to keep the country safe. His executive budget proposes a 7 percent increase for the Department of Homeland Security, but much of that funding is directed to the Mexican border. A porous border is indeed a national security threat, but no wall would have stopped the Sept. 11 hijackers or more recent attackers, who also would have met the Supreme Court’s criteria for entry under Trump’s travel ban: bona fide relationships with American people or entities.

Trump’s budget proposes a 25 percent cut to the Urban Areas Security Initiative, which provides counterterrorism funding to cities. Yet local police forces, in cooperation with federal agencies, have a played a vital role in thwarting numerous attacks. The recent tragedies in London and Manchester underscore the importance of empowering and equipping cities to fight terrorism.

An effective national security strategy also requires the use of soft power overseas, which rests partly on our commitment to humanitarian efforts, which Trump is proposing to cut back, and partly on America's perceived moral authority, which Trump has been busy undermining.

A new survey shows that the world -- including many close U.S. allies -- does not trust Trump to do the right thing. Little wonder, when he has failed to defend NATO’s Article 5, which has been the bedrock of transatlantic relations for nearly 70 years, while playing footsie with Vladimir Putin.

Trump can no longer lay the blame on the judiciary for any future terrorist attack, as he once shamefully did. Yet if he continues to focus on closing doors and building walls to the exclusion of more effective approaches, the risk of more deadly attacks will grow.

    --Editors: Francis Barry, Michael Newman

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

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