Trump Was Asked Leading Questions, But The Questions Were Still Valid
November 20, 2015

On the subject of Donald Trump's headline-grabbing refusal to reject Nazi tactics, I think Kevin Drum has a point:

It would be one thing if Trump floated the idea himself of warrantless searches and special IDs [for Muslims in America]. It's quite another if a reporter brings them up and Trump tap dances a little bit. Needless to say, in a better world Trump would have explicitly denounced all these ideas. Obviously we don't live in that world. Still, the only thing Trump actually said here is that we're going to have to look at a lot of things very closely. The rest was just a reporter fishing for a headline.

Drum is correct to say that Hunter Walker of Yahoo News threw out a couple of scenarios in his Trump interview and Trump was noncommittal, offering the kind of response we generally get from him when his lack of grounding in an issue leaves him incapable of an intelligent and informed answer. (Although, yes, he shouldn't need to be informed to reject the ideas Walker floated.)

Yahoo News asked Trump whether his push for increased surveillance of American Muslims could include warrantless searches. He suggested he would consider a series of drastic measures.

“We’re going to have to do things that we never did before. And some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule,” Trump said. “And certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy. And so we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.”

Yahoo News asked Trump whether this level of tracking might require registering Muslims in a database or giving them a form of special identification that noted their religion. He wouldn’t rule it out.

“We’re going to have to -- we’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely,” Trump said when presented with the idea. “We’re going to have to look at the mosques. We’re going to have to look very, very carefully.”

I agree with Drum: It's important to note that Trump didn't actually endorse "yellow star"-style identification for Muslims in America, or endorse warrantless searches or a registry of Muslims.

But it's worth knowing that if he's elected he plans, by his own admission, to adopt security measures that have been "frankly unthinkable." It's worth knowing that he wouldn't reject the approaches Walker enumerated out of hand. It's entirely possible that, when confronted with headlines such as "Trump Won't Rule Out Database, Special ID for Muslims in US," he'll double down and explicitly endorse special IDs, warrantless surveillance, and/or the database.

And it might be nice to get a few other presidential candidates on the record on all this. How far would they go? Don't we need to know that? When even "moderates" such as Jeb Bush and John Kasich are essentially calling for the United States to rebrand itself as an anti-Muslim Judeo-Christian nation, why shouldn't we ask how they'd treat Muslims who've done no harm to America?

Drum writes:

We know how to fight dangerous people. We know how to fight terrorism. And we don't have to shred the Constitution to do it. Instead of fishing for headlines and stoking the latest round of fatuous fearmongering from Republicans, maybe we'd be better served if reporters started asking them hard questions instead.

Is Drum saying that Republicans won't stoke fear unless reporters goad them? If he thinks that, he and I have been living in very different Americas, and not just since Friday's attacks in Paris.

Yes, ask Republicans hard questions -- but in all likelihood they'll just respond with the same poll-tested talking points. Then, two years from now, we could wake up with one of these people in the Oval Office executing plans to oppress innocent Americans in ways even Trump never dreamed of. (Back in 2000, we didn't George W. Bush was going to do what he did, did we?)

So why not prod and provoke the SOBs? If they have a sense of decency and respect for American ideals, they'll make short work of the questions. And if not, forewarned is forearmed.

Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog

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