President Trump's temporary ban on travel to the United States from seven predominantly Muslim countries has filled the news space today. There have been suggestions that Trump is in retreat under a barrage of criticism from Democrats, civil libertarians, refugee advocates, employers of foreign-born workers, protesters and others. Don't believe it.
Trump is not losing much, if any, support with his executive order. Trump's base, the people who gave him his victory three months ago, are not crying over travel bans that target Muslims or Muslim countries, any more than they are crying over the border fence Trump says will be under construction soon.
The question is why all the critics who are filing lawsuits and staging protests are surprised by this action. As someone in another Muslim country said 70-odd years ago, "I am shocked! Shocked!" at gambling in Casablanca. Keeping Islamic terrorists out of this country and building a wall to keep out Mexican immigrants were two of Trump's most frequently repeated campaign promises. Why is anyone shocked that he is doing what he said he'd do?
Opponents may complain, but Trump's supporters will cheer. Their man has carried out two of his key promises. That means their support for him is stronger than ever.
The ban on persons from seven predominantly Muslim countries may be un-American, ill-conceived, offensive to European allies and Middle Eastern governments, and it may condemn former U.S. government employees to remaining in their native countries at great danger to their lives and their families. But the Trump supporters don't care about the tears shed by separated family members or the betrayal of interpreters for the U.S. military or the condemnation of other governments. They won't even notice that Islamic countries that were not included in the order included countries where Trump had business interests. After all, Trump said he was going to put America First, and by golly, he's doing it. So the rest of you can go to hell.
Besides the facts that the travel ban is totally lacking in compassion and will likely encourage radical Islamists to attack U.S. interests, its issuance reveals a more surprising fact about the Trump administration. News reports show that the executive order was issued after being drafted by a small cadre of Trump's close advisers without input from the agency heads and cabinet members who are in charge of homeland security, immigration and international diplomacy.
Furthermore, Trump seems to be drawing the leash around his inner circle tighter and tighter so that he is getting advice from fewer and fewer people. Unlike Abraham Lincoln, who famously appointed a "Team of Rivals" (Doris Kearns Goodwin's book) composed of former opponents and antagonists, Trump is building a Team of lackeys who will not disagree with the president on anything. He has banished the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of National Security from a key advisory committee to make room for his political adviser, Steve Bannon. Trump, it appears, is incapable of leading a team of rivals, only a team of sycophants who will hail whatever the Great Man does.
And that is more worrisome than either the travel ban or the border wall.