In the last 24 hours, Donald Trump has said he “absolutely” would implement a database of American Muslims and that participation would “have to” be compulsory. Asked how that would differ from the registration of Jews in Nazi Germany, he responded only, “You tell me.”
Is his campaign imploding? Fat chance.
Just as Trump’s provocations aimed at Mexican immigrants and John McCain’s war record have fueled his presidential run rather than destroyed it, his latest demagoguery on Muslims plays straight into his populist appeal.
“He has made so many other inflammatory irresponsible statements … that I’m skeptical this will hurt him either,” said Colorado-based Republican consultant Dick Wadhams. “He definitely benefits from this notion of he tells it like it is and he doesn’t care what people think.”
On terrorism, as on so many other issues, what sounds outrageous to political and media elites can sound reasonable to large swathes of the American electorate, said veteran New Hampshire-based Republican strategist Dave Carney.
“When [elites] sit around and have a wine after work and some brie and they talk about the situation and geopolitics and what’s going on in the Mideast they’re talking about the Sunnis and the Shia and Alexander the Great and … what font the f**king French should’ve used to draw the maps after World War I,” he said. “Americans after work, if they can have the time to have a beer and see what’s going on, think there are these radical Islamist terrorists who want to kill us.”
On Friday, Trump’s Republican rivals condemned his position. Jeb Bush called it “just wrong,” John Kasich said it “strikes against all that we have believed in our nation’s history,” and Ben Carson called the singling out of religious groups for monitoring a “dangerous precedent.” Even Ted Cruz, Trump’s staunchest defender in the Republican field, disavowed the idea. “I’m a big fan of Donald Trump’s, but I’m not a fan of government registries for American citizens,” he said at a campaign stop in Iowa.
But rather than apologize or back down, Trump shifted the blame to the media, a tactic that has so far served him well in navigating the never-ending controversies sparked by his words. “I didn’t suggest a database-a reporter did. We must defeat Islamic terrorism & have surveillance, including a watch list, to protect America,” he tweeted on Friday afternoon. A spokeswoman for the Trump campaign did not respond to a question about whether Trump still supports requiring American Muslims to register for a government database.
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