The Supreme Court of the United States [has] upheld key elements of the Trump administration's so-called "travel ban." President Trump claimed the ruling is "a clear victory for our national security." But, my guest asks, is a temporary travel pause from six countries a true national security victory? Joining us to talk about it, Cliff Smith is Washington Project director with the Middle East Forum -- great organization, folks, it's been doing great work since 1994. As a matter of fact, they are an independent 501(c)3 promoting American interests in the Middle East, protecting Western values from Middle Eastern threats since that time. And Cliff has been involved in this for a number of years, also here on the hill as well. Cliff, it's an honor to welcome you to the show, thanks for joining us.
Thank you very much, Don, I appreciate it.
Early in your column you noted that the President's original travel ban had a lot of flaws in it, "unconstitutional" I think were your words, "unacceptable," "unworkable," "unstrategic." Let's start there. What were some of those original flaws and have they been pretty much corrected even for the short term?
Yeah, I think they have. So President – then-candidate – Trump said that he wanted a ban on Muslims, until we figure out what's happening at least. That is unworkable for a lot of reasons. Having an explicitly religious test is not only constitutionally problematic, but I think it's very difficult to implement practically. You can't really tell somebody is a particular religion because they say so. ... It's not good for national security, frankly. We have a lot of Muslim allies in the Middle East and elsewhere. Banning them from traveling to the U.S. is not only not helpful, it's counterproductive.
MEF Washington Project Director Cliff Smith on vetting immigrants: "The real issue is their ideology, not the country they're from."
Now, banning travel from six countries that were already singled out for scrutiny -- Iran, which is the world's leading sponsor of terror, Syria, which is a failed state, so on and so forth -- there are some understandable reasons for that. I understand, especially when it comes to Syrian refugees, that people are concerned about not being able to vet them properly.
However, at the end of the day, there are anti-Ayatollah, anti-radical-Islamic Iranians. I know some of them personally. They hate the regime. They do not like theocracy. They want some form of American democracy every bit as much as you or I do. There are other ones who support [theocracy]. So the real issue is their ideology, not the country they're from.
So I don't necessarily see the pause as really doing a lot. ... It has probably blocked a few bad guys from getting here, perhaps. But it's also blocked some good people from here, and in the long run ... what we need to look at is who are these people and what do they believe. If they believe in democracy, if they believe in freedom of religion, if they believe in things of that nature, I have no argument with them, I don't think we should either. I think they're our friends and allies, or at least have that potential.
"If they believe in theocracy ... I don't think we should be giving them freedom to live here."
If they believe in theocracy, if they believe in implementing Islamic law on everybody, if they don't believe in the Constitution, that's a different story. I don't think they're our friends, I don't think they're our allies, I don't think we should be giving them freedom to live here just because [they say] they want to, that's just helping our enemies.
... We need to identify people by Islamist ideology and not let them immigrate here. It's really quite simple. We should ask them questions, like "Do you believe the law of your religion supercedes the Constitution?" and "Do you believe that women should have to ask their husbands' permission to get educated, or drive?" Things of that nature that are common to radical Islam, but not common to moderate Muslims, not common to Christians, not common to secularists -- so whatever [religion] they may be doesn't really matter. The issue is that people who do share these beliefs shouldn't be included, should not be allowed to immigrate here.