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A Conservative Take on Trump's Immigration Order


A federal appeals court dealt another blow to President Trump last night. The court upheld a temporary order against the administration. The president's plan to block refugees as well as visitors from seven majority-Muslim nations is itself blocked until a judge can hear more arguments over this case. Jonah Goldberg of National Review and the Los Angeles Times is in our studios. His publication National Review has put out a number of articles saying the administration did a bad job making its case, but that the judges made a bad unanimous ruling. Jonah, good morning.

JONAH GOLDBERG: Good morning.

INSKEEP: What's wrong with this ruling?

GOLDBERG: Well, there are a bunch of things that are - let's just say are very concerning. First of all, I don't think the administration was correct in saying that the courts have no ability to review this.

INSKEEP: That was part of the administration argument, was...


INSKEEP: ...You have no business talking about immigration.

GOLDBERG: I think that's kind of nuts. I think what the court owes is deference. Which is, you know, the president is the guy who - or gal - who enforces foreign policy, who conducts foreign policy. And courts aren't supposed to get in the way and second guess that.

INSKEEP: Micromanage, yeah.

GOLDBERG: And the court did that in this case. It was saying - it basically second-guessed the president on a bunch of different things. It also said that states have standing to sue for this kind of issue, which I find somewhat baffling. And it also said that the president's campaign statements on the campaign trail are relevant to a court case, which I also think is concerning.

INSKEEP: Let's clarify all of this because it's really interesting, this ruling. And you can read the ruling, by the way, at npr.org. We've posted the whole thing. You're reminding us that a couple of states are who actually sued in this particular case.


INSKEEP: They said that various institutions within the state like universities would suffer harm as students can't get back to study in class and so forth. The court said that was good enough for standing, not that that's the final argument, but that they can have an argument about it. Now, you said something else about the president's campaign statements. Let's remember here, President Trump while campaigning repeatedly said in writing, on video, I want a Muslim ban. I want to ban Muslims from coming to the United States. His supporter Rudolph Giuliani said on television the other day this was the way that we adjusted it to try to be legal with the Muslim ban.


INSKEEP: The court said that's all relevant, or suggested it may be relevant. What's wrong with that line of reasoning?

GOLDBERG: Right. Well, for the - first off, I think one of the clear lessons of this is Rudy Giuliani should stop helping.


GOLDBERG: And - but second of all, and I - for the record, I thought the idea of a blanket Muslim ban was both outrageous and unworkable and dumb. But the whole point of a democracy is that when someone actually gets into power and starts listening to his advisers and is told that X is unconstitutional or X is a bad idea, maybe you should go with Y. You can't then say that, well, Y is actually really X in disguise.

INSKEEP: Because you said earlier you intended to do.

GOLDBERG: Right. Because if you actually look at the - just the black letter law, the four corners of the executive order, it's not a Muslim ban. It doesn't apply to the vast majority of Muslim countries or the vast majority of Muslims. It's about seven countries that were designated by the Obama administration as particularly problematic.

INSKEEP: But I was thinking about this. I was thinking about an analogy here when I was trying to figure out the court's logic. If we had police stopping black motorists for busted taillights, it would be true that a busted taillight is wrong and they wouldn't be stopping every black motorist. But we would still understand there's a problem there if they're just stopping a bunch of black motorists for busted taillights. Isn't that something that is happening here? The president said he wanted a Muslim ban and tried to figure out some way that it's technically legal to do so.

GOLDBERG: Right. Well, so first of all we should all say that out of deference to our eternal souls, neither of us is a lawyer.


GOLDBERG: But second of all, my first problem with that analogy is you're talking about American citizens with constitutional rights. This is assuming that somehow foreign nationals - not talking about green card holders now, we're talking with actual foreign citizens - have constitutional rights that are different from American citizens. If the president Unites States has the power to impose a naval blockade around the United States, that is going to have disparate impact on different states that have different kind of immigrants coming to them. Do those states all get to sue the federal government?

Well, war is going to affect certain universities or certain states more than others economically. Are we really going to have judges intervening and trying to stay the president's power to, you know, conduct foreign policy like that? I think it just is a weird situation that we've gotten into. I - one of my favorite lines from Orwell is a man could be a failure and take to drink and become all the more of a failure because he drinks. And I think that this was a badly written, badly rolled out executive order that then got thrown to a court that turned it into an even worse decision. And now we are just in a hot mess all over the place.

INSKEEP: And what is the bottom line for you, that courts are interfering in foreign policy and they really should be giving the president some room to decide who is safe to let in the country or not?

GOLDBERG: I think the bottom line for me is that first of all we need to damp - tamp down a little bit of the rhetoric. This is not a constitutional crisis, nor is America's security fundamentally at stake as Donald Trump keeps saying. This is - this was a poorly executed executive order that the courts and these states turned into a constitutional crisis that didn't need to be.

INSKEEP: OK. You said American national security is not fundamentally at stake.


INSKEEP: You are saying something that's in line with a lot of terrorism experts who said I don't understand why we need this travel ban. Aren't there other things that the president could be doing to secure the country while this court battle goes on? Because this is not the most - even though it was in terms of politics the most important thing for him in terms of expertise on national security, it's not the most important thing for...

GOLDBERG: Oh, absolutely. I think this has been a huge distraction from a chunk of his agenda. I think that he could be still doing all of the new vetting, extreme vetting, hyper-vetting...

INSKEEP: Could be improving security procedures right now.

GOLDBERG: We could be doing all of that. But the idea that somehow if we stop people from these seven countries that therefore we've substantially improved our national security situation, I just don't see the evidence for it. And one of the reasons we're in this mess is he didn't provide that evidence to the court. So it gave the court this ability to say, well, you've provided no evidence that this is so important so why can't we stay at this?

INSKEEP: How would you get out of this? In a few seconds.

GOLDBERG: I would rewrite it. I would let the time frame elapse and start over.

INSKEEP: OK. Simple enough. Jonah, thanks very much, really appreciate it.

GOLDBERG: Great to be here. Thank you.

INSKEEP: Jonah Goldberg is a columnist for National Review and editor for that publication, and also a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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