mead berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn bayles
Base Politics
Refugee Fight Splinters Democrats

Despite President Obama’s high-minded moral posturing, Americans remain deeply concerned about the White House’s resettlement plan for Syrian refugees in the wake of the Paris attacks. A Bloomberg poll found that only 28 percent of Americans want to proceed with the plan. Even high-ranking Democratic politicians are not persuaded by the president’s hectoring, as forty seven House Democrats have joined with virtually all Republicans to pass a bill toughening refugee screening with a veto-proof majority. Moreover, Democratic governors, including California’s Jerry Brown, reportedly sparred with the White House over its plans in a recent conference call.

The bill now moves to the Senate, where Democrats have sworn to filibuster it. Even if Democrats cannot muster the votes for a filibuster, it seems unlikely that the GOP will be able to pick off enough Democratic votes to override the veto that President Obama promises is awaiting the bill if it arrives at his desk. So the White House’s plan to accept 10,000 refugees over the next year (a symbolic and relatively inconsequential gesture at a time when ten million Syrians are displaced, thanks in part to the White House’s Middle East failures) seems likely to move forward one way or another.

It’s unfortunate that the main political fallout in the United States from the tragic attacks in Paris has been an ugly and divisive culture war eruption. The president bears no small share of responsibility for this. The most impassioned part of his post-Paris remarks were his attacks on Americans who were worried about the security implications of the refugee program. Instead of addressing and responding to these concerns, he denounced them as bigoted on their face. And instead of offering even token concessions on security and screening to Republican governors and legislators pushing refugee bills, he immediately promised to veto them, ruling out any changes to the program.

The president is right that there is an ugly side to the anti-refugee politics of the last week. Donald Trump is veering into fascist territory, suggesting that the identities of Muslim Americans should be put in a database. But the president’s moral lectures have amplified, not ameliorated, this problem. By writing off all concerns as illegitimate, and by contemptuously talking down to large swathes of his constituents, the president has turned what should be a period of mourning, unity, and productive discussion about anti-terror strategy into a political brawl over an issue with little long-run significance.

Features Icon
show comments
  • JR

    Obama’s gonna Obama.
    Republicans should still make the Democrats go on record as opposing extra security measures. I’m sure there will be tons of support from Democrats to go up to the barricades once again for their leader.

    • Rick Caird

      The Republicans should also work to get the Senators who support the Syrian refugees to also commit to taking them all into their States and leaving the other states alone. That should work to dump another 10 Democratic Senators.

  • Ed

    What I don’t understand is the politics of Obama’s move. Sure, let’s say he truly believes it is the right, moral thing to do. But what’s the upside? 10,000 refugees is a drop in the bucket compared to what Europe is dealing with, and the downside risk is suicidal–if there is an attack in the US, whether perpetrated by a refugee/wolf-amongst-the-sheep or not, anyone who supported his move is done politically. If there isn’t, there’s still no benefit at all, apart from feeling morally superior. Is that worth the risk, both politically and physically?

    • Jim__L

      Yes, that’s worth the risk, because that risk will be borne by others. Philosopher-king 10%ers don’t care if their policies hurt 90% of the country, as long as those policies make the 10%ers feel good.

      • adk

        For him, it’s also a way of changing the topic — instead of defending his serial monumental failures in Syria/ME, he wants to talk about Republican bigotry/racism/Islamophobia/etc. And sure enough, many in the MSM already are.

        • MikePM

          You nailed it on the head. The only things he truly excels at are 1) dividing people and pitting Americans against each other, and 2) blaming others and distracting everyone from the grand failure of his (non) strategy.

  • Jim__L

    “Instead of addressing and responding to these concerns, [Obama] denounced them as bigoted on their face.”

    “Never deny, seldom affirm, always distinguish” is a formula for respectful and intelligent debate where you politely defend your position in the face of challenges or contradiction. When I manage to follow it, it improves the tenor of my Internet comments… I think Obama could salvage some scraps of his early promise of uniting the country rather than dividing it, if he were to practice it too.

    • Andrew Allison

      What makes you think he’s interested in uniting the country? There’s lots of evidence to the contrary.

      • Jim__L

        Are you suggesting Obama (*gasp*) LIED when he talked about racial healing?!

        Someone get me to a Safe Space…. my deeply-held convictions are being violated…

    • darthlightbringer

      Obama never intended to unite the country. He said whatever was necessary to get elected.

  • Anthony

    A simple formulation from John Quincy Adams: “prevent troublesome forces from getting among us – foremost of these objections is the upsetting effect on the body politic of ingesting something essentially foreign and indigestible, however alluring.”

    Essentially, be mindful that what it means to be American is divisive enough without complicating it with foreign considerations regarding 10,000 refugees – at the same time remembering that “the attachments, enmities, interests, hopes and fears of leading individuals assuming the pretext of some public motive, have not scrupled to sacrifice the national tranquility to personal advantage or personal gratification….” (Federalist Papers)

  • Beauceron

    “What I don’t understand is the politics of Obama’s move. Sure, let’s say he truly believes it is the right, moral thing to do. But what’s the upside?”
    The upside is for the Left, not Obama. Obama is a far-Left point man. More muslims mean more diversity– the Left can use this as a wedge to attack all those evil right-wing Christians who go on about America’s “Judeo-Christian values.” The Left has also worked assiduously for the past 30 years to “transform the country” as Obama puts it– by that they mean the “brown wave” so celebrated by the press in the 2008 and 2012 elections that brought Obama to power. They’ve imported tens of millions of people that will, in overwhelming majorities, vote Left. They know full well these are voters they’re bringing in. One thing the Leftist elite hates more than anything else in this world, more than Republicans, more than global warming, more than big business, more than balanced budgets: the white middle and working class. They utterly loathe them– and they are going to destroy them. Tens of thousands (I think this will be just a first wave) of muslims will really help.

    • JR

      I don’t know about you but i do not intend on going quietly into that good night…

  • adk

    “So the White House’s plan to accept 10,000 refugees over the next year (a symbolic and relatively inconsequential gesture at a time when ten million Syrians are displaced…”

    It is inconsequential with regard to the total number of the displaced Syrians, but it would be hugely consequential for the Democrats and for the American people if only a few of those 10,000 commit a Paris-like terrorist act in the US. A growing number of Congressional Democrats understand that, even if out of fear of losing their jobs.

  • Pete

    Based on its history of violence, why isn’t islam labeled a hate group like the KKK is and aggressively monitored?

    • Andrew Allison

      It’s not Islam, but radical Islamists that are the terrorists. Unfortunately, the Temporizer-in-Chief and his fellow-travellers are unable to bring themselves to acknowledge the fact.

      • Pete

        I disagree. It is islam which breeds ‘radical’ islam. The two can’t be separated.

      • CrassyKnoll

        Bass ackwards.

        Islam, unabashed and unabridged is “radical Islam.” It is only when adherents cease to follow many of it’s violent and oppressive tenets does it become non-radical Islam.

      • darthlightbringer

        The silent majority in Islam support the Islamists. It is why the crowds gather to watch a gay man get thrown from a roof top….and when he does not die from the fall the masses finish him off. Islam and true freedom cannot coexist.

      • Dale Fayda

        “There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam and that’s it” – Recep Erdogan, PM of Turkey.

        Pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?

        • Andrew Allison

          Islam is a religion, terrorists are people (c.f. The Crusaders, the Inquisition, etc.). The trouble with religion (any religion even, as we have seen in Myanmar and elsewhere, Buddhism) is that it gives adherents an excuse to violence unto “non-believers”.

          • SDN

            With one small difference: You cannot point to a single verse in the New Testament that justified the Inquisition, and the Crusades were defensive wars against Muslim aggression.

            The Koran is full of justifications for killing infidels, and it has no room for modifications.

          • Andrew Allison

            And the Old Testament? Defensive wars by Europeans against Muslim aggression in the Holy Land? But you are correct that, unlike Christianity, the Koran does have proscriptions against non-believers. However, Islam is the World’s most populous religion and if all, or even most, adherents followed the proscriptions, there’d be few Christians left. Let me be clear that I’m not defending (any) religion, just suggesting that we acknowledge that religion doesn’t kill people, people do.

          • SDN

            Talk to your rabbi about the Old Testament.

          • Dale Fayda

            Lately, Islam has been breeding a whole lot of “people” who are terrorists explicitly in the name of Islam, wouldn’t you say? What other religion’s tenets specifically compel its faithful to fight the “unbelievers” wherever they may find them? Mohammed was NOT a man of peace and contemplation – he was a warrior, a slaver, a pedophile and a rapist and he decreed that his followers must do likewise.

            As CrassyKnoll said below, Islam in its original form IS “radical Islam”. For Moslems, religious fanaticism is the default position, since nothing else has worked for them – not socialism, not nationalism, not their feeble attempts at representative democracy. Islam is rapidly regressing into what it has always been – a motley collection of rancorous, indignant, un-industrious, ignorant tribes, spreading poverty and oppression wherever they set foot. The glories of Islamic civilization are in the very distant past – they have achieved nothing with modernity, except spreading a particularly vicious and unthinking brand of violence in their wake.

          • Jim__L

            You can get ingroup / outgroup dynamics with pretty much any situation. Singling out religion here is a fallacy, making it an offense to both religion AND reason.

  • InklingBooks

    Why should Obama worry about terrorists lurking among these refugees? Not only are huge sums spent for his security each year, that security will continue for the rest of his life. He is not one of us. He doesn’t face the dangers we face. Nor does it seem likely the ISIS would target him. He’s the best thing that could happen to them.

    As for Donald Trump and his Benito Mussolini imitation, down to the silly faces and postures, more than one of us suspect that he and the Clintons are working together to discredit Republicans and put Hillary in the White House. Notice how much effort Trump is making to offend traditional Democratic voting blocks who in the 2016 election just might go Republican.

  • DiaKrieg

    Why does Obama want so desperately to gamble with American lives? It’s the same question I had when he railroaded us into the dangerously weak Iran deal. He demagogued and bullied his way to political victory there, but the consequences will surely catch up with him the day Iran carries out a nuclear test. What will Obama’s defense be then? Oops?

    And if Americans are killed in a Paris-style attack perpetrated by poorly vetted Syrian “refugees,” what will his defense be? That might actually happen on his watch.

    The hypocrisy here is stunning when you compare Obama’s risk tolerance in domestic matters.

    Recall this is the same administration that wouldn’t permit the keystone pipeline even after it was shown to be environmentally neutral. Zero risk tolerance was the standard there. In other examples of private sector risky behavior that ends badly, consider how the Obama administration punished oil companies after the BP spill, and banks after the financial collapse.

    If citizens could sue the federal government for the personal harm they suffer as a result of predictably bad policy decisions like welcoming 10,000 Syrian refugees no questions asked or lifting crippling sanctions on an unreformed Iran, the sky-high liability risks would bar their enactment.

    I’m not saying citizens should have the ability to sue the government for injury stemming from bad policy. I’m just pointing out Obama’s hypocrisy on the subject of risk-taking.

    • Gary Hemminger

      Obama believes that the best path to peace and freedom is to just be nice, be fair, promote equality and multi-culturalism. He isn’t evil; he just doesn’t want to live in the actual world that most of us live in. He is an ideologue that firmly believes if he just treats everyone nice, they will treat us nicely back. That is why so many folks keep saying the Putin is living in the last century. These people don’t get that some people don’t think they way they do. It is really a condemnation of their social intelligence; as they are unable to think outside themselves to what others think and do. Obama is intelligent from the standpoint of university education, but from a social intelligence standpoint he is very weak. He is actually very similar to the coddled children that are coming out of our universities. They have very little emotional intelligence and collapse at the slightest bit of a challenge.

      In Obama’s case his ideology is impervious to reality. He will not change. He cannot change. He must not change.

  • The Roll-Over Party gave up the power of the purse, which could have been used to stop this effort by Obama. Now all they can do is fuss and bluster, and then explain to us “Why Nothing Can Be Done”.

  • naturgesetz

    If France can take the refugees it had planned to, even after last week, so can we. It’s disappointing that Americans succumb to hysteria so easily.

    • Rick Caird

      Oh, so now we should follow France on refugees, but not on fighting back at ISIS? How do you pick the one, but not the other?

      • SDN

        Same way Leftists pick and choose from the Bill of Rights and the Bible: with total dishonesty and hypocrisy.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2017 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service