There is little we can add to the outrage provoked by the United States' temporary ban on immigrants and visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries. The condemnation has been universal and well expressed. What the world now needs to focus on is the ominous message in the way the executive order behind it was created and implemented.
President Donald Trump rightly points out that every country is within its rights to control immigration and to take steps to protect citizens. He insists that his ban is targeting terrorists, not Muslims.
But the lack of evidence justifying the ban, and the inconsistent nature of its application – targeting some countries in the Middle East and Africa while exempting others – tell another story. We know from his statements that Mr. Trump wants to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. – an obvious violation of the First Amendment. This is the Muslim ban he thinks he can get away with.
But why bring in the ban in the slapdash fashion that caused mass confusion at airports and sparked multiple protests? Why ban legal permanent residents and dual nationals? Why risk the approbation of allies with a move that won't make the U.S. safer from terrorism, and might even make it less safe?
Numerous well-sourced accounts of the drafting of the executive order indicate that it was prepared unilaterally by Mr. Trump's closest political advisers. They deliberately ignored legal advice that the ban should not extend to permanent residents, and consciously failed to inform the government branches that would have to implement it.
In short, it was a brazen political move; a deliberate bit of theatre designed in the White House to reinforce Mr. Trump's image as a crusading leader who is unafraid to protect his supporters from a religion he has demonized as a threat.
His message is simple – and terrifying: Not even the rule of law or the necessity of good government will be allowed to hurt the narrow interests of Mr. Trump's "movement," as he calls the people who voted for him. Americans must fight the excesses of the immigrant ban through the courts and elsewhere, and demonstrate to Mr. Trump that he will fail when he puts crude populist politics ahead of the national interest.