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3 December 2017

Why Trump retweeted anti-Muslim propaganda

Why did Donald Trump retweet three videos posted by an ultra-nationalist British organization to incite hostility to Muslims?

ISIS is on the run, and there have been no terrorist attacks by Muslims in the U.S., England, or Western Europe for months. But next week two federal appeals courts will hear oral arguments on the third iteration of his travel ban.


I know what you’re thinking. Why would the president indulge himself in ugly anti-Muslim propaganda when the core argument against the ban is that its purpose is not to protect national security, as the Administration claims, but to keep Muslims from coming to America?

Indeed, in October a federal judge limited enforcement of the ban as a likely violation of the Establishment Clause because it disfavored Muslims. “The ‘initial’ announcement of the Muslim ban, offered repeatedly and explicitly through President Trump’s own statements, forcefully and persuasively expressed his purpose in unequivocal terms,” wrote U.S. District Court Judge Theodore Chuang.

Now the president’s lawyers will not just have to argue that his call for a “total and complete” ban on Muslims entering the country during his campaign isn’t relevant to his presidential exclusion of all travelers from six majority-Muslim countries (plus North Korea). They’ll also have to argue that retweeting a video clip of a Muslim cleric smashing a statue of the Virgin Mary shows no hostility to Islam on his part.

Besides handing the other side real-time evidence of such hostility, Trump also signaled, in a twitter rejoinder to criticism from British Prime Minister Theresa May, that he isn’t actually worried about Islamist threats to our national security:

“.@theresa_may, don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine!”

If I were his lawyers I’d be tempted to jump into the Potomac.

But to return to the question at hand, why is he making his case for a travel ban more difficult? The answer, I submit, is that he doesn’t actually want to win it.

Not winning lets him keep the issue alive, for use in beating up the federal judiciary and playing the Islamophobia card with abandon, to the cheers of his fans at home and abroad. In other words, losing in court is, from his perspective, win-win.