Wednesday, March 1, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He decided to put off signing a new executive order on immigration for publicity purposes.

When a series of federal court decisions stayed the implementation of Trump's wide-ranging ban on immigration from certain countries and refugees, he ominously predicted that even the slightest delay could allow terrorists to infiltrate the country. In fact, Trump's central argument was that the threat posed by refugees and other legal immigrants was so urgent a matter of national security that courts had no right to review it. 

Meanwhile, his administration has worked to produce a new, more narrowly targeted order more likely to pass constitutional muster. The new order was to have been signed today, but after his relatively restrained speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday generated a rare positive news cycle for Trump, his political advisers convinced him to wait until tomorrow at the earliest to sign it. 

A senior administration official openly admitted that this was a political calculation designed to allow the new order "to have its own 'moment'" and, by implication, to prevent any new controversy from overshadowing coverage of the Tuesday speech.

Who cares?

  • It's bad if a president deliberately chooses flattering press coverage over something he thinks is a matter of urgent national security.
  • It's just as bad if a president claims drastic emergency measures are necessary but does not actually believe it.