Editor’s Note: Raul A. Reyes, an attorney and member of the USA Today board of contributors, writes frequently for CNN Opinion. Follow him on Twitter @RaulAReyes. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.
Raul Reyes: Donald Trump has been all over the place on many issues
Reyes: His willingness to shift extreme positions on key issues is brazen, self-serving
Get out your Etch A Sketch – Donald Trump might be about to redraw another one of his positions.
According to CNN, Trump is expected to soften his position on Muslim immigration to the United States in a new policy memo to be rolled out soon. In it, the campaign is expected to shift away from a temporary ban on Muslim immigrants to a ban on people coming from countries with known terrorism links.
While this new position from Trump might seem less offensive than his earlier call for a ban on all Muslim immigration, this policy is still problematic. Not only is it impractical, but it could potentially make fighting terrorism more difficult.
Moreover, it gives further credence to the troubling notion that Trump will say or do anything to get elected.
It was only six months ago that Trump called for a “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” But this weekend, he told CNN’s Jeremy Diamond that he only wants to focus on the people coming from “the terror states.”
The problem here is defining what constitutes a “terror state.” The Wall Street Journal reports that there have been attacks attempted or carried out against the United States and Europe by people from the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Egypt, Nigeria and Syria, among other countries. Does that make all those countries potential “terror states?” China could be linked to terrorism over the alleged transfer of sensitive technology to Iran. Would Trump ban immigration from China?
Ascertaining which nations are “terror states” becomes even more difficult when we focus on the Middle East. Saudi Arabia has been linked to terrorism, yet the country is one of our strongest and most reliable allies in the region. If a Trump administration were to antagonize the Saudi Kingdom, it would make our intelligence gathering in the region more difficult.
Or consider Syria, which the U.S. State Department has labeled a state sponsor of terrorism. If we were to ban immigration form Syria, we would be slamming the door on refugees and asylum seekers who are desperate to escape the conflict and violence that has racked their nation. This is as un-American as it is inhumane.
What Trump doesn’t understand is that the fight against terrorism, as well as the immigration issue, is inherently complex, so any potential solution must be thoughtful and nuanced. If it were as easy to clamp down on terrorism as Trump thinks it is, our government would have done it long ago.
Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks told CNN that Trump no longer supports a blanket ban on Muslims and only wants to ban Muslims from terror states. Yet a limited ban on Muslim immigration is just as offensive as a full-out ban on Muslim immigration. Under such a policy, a Muslim from Syria might not be able to enter the United States. But a Christian from Syria would be allowed in. This sort of religious test for entry into the U.S. strikes at the core of who we are as a nation and would likely be judged unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
While Trump’s new position on immigration may signal his pivoting to the center in advance of a general election, this too is an eyebrow-raiser. Remember, Trump made his opposition to Muslim immigration a key point of his campaign. Then he seemed to double-down on his anti-Muslim immigration stance as recently as June 12, after the Orlando shootings. He tweeted then that he was “right” about terrorism, although that shooter was a U.S. citizen. That Trump would now back away from one of his signature immigration positions must seem something of a “bait and switch” to the more than 12 million people who voted for him in the GOP primaries.
Then again, Trump has been all over the place on many issues. He has reportedly changed his political affiliation on multiple occasions. He has been both pro-choice and pro-life. He once praised the DREAMers (young undocumented immigrants), now he is an immigration hardliner. Taken together, this all suggests a lack of an ideological core and a consistent policy vision.
Trump has even lately adjusted his stance on illegal immigration. While he plans to get rid of what he calls “bad dudes,” he says there will be none of his previously threatened “mass deportations.” It is enough to make a Trump supporter wonder if everything is negotiable with their businessman candidate.
True, it is not really a surprise these days when a politician flip-flops on an issue. Although Hillary Clinton once called the Trans-Pacific Partnership “the gold standard” for trade agreements, for example, she now opposes it. But the trade agreement was never central to Clinton’s campaign the way immigration has been to Trump’s 2016 bid. It’s easy to surmise that Trump’s new immigration position was motivated by his latest, not-so-great poll numbers; one national poll by the Washington Post gives Clinton a double-digit lead over The Donald.
For all his bluster about taking on Washington and “telling it like it is,” Trump sure is acting like a typical politician. And his willingness to shift extreme positions on key issues is as brazen as it is self-serving.
Take two. The second night of the Republican National Convention was a chance to get past the messiness of Day 1, which began with a floor fight over rules and ended with allegations of plagiarism by Melania Trump. Tuesday’s theme was “Make America Work Again,” and the Republican National Committee and Trump’s campaign were tasked with showing how Trump will get America working again, and to present a unified party showcase.