Trump in Saudi Arabia

I wrote this piece for The Guardian regarding Donald Trump’s first trip out of the USA as president.

Donald Trump is a man full of good ideas. Take his schedule this coming week as an example. On Friday, Trump hightailed it out of a confrontational United States to begin his auspicious first foreign trip as president. Good idea.

Previous US presidents have visited either Canada or Mexico on their initial ventures out of the country but – as everyone knows – you can drive to those countries from the United States, so they don’t really count. Trump, on other hand, will visit Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Vatican on his first departure from the US, proving once and for all that he’s a better president.

While on this undrivable trip, Trump will also pursue the modest effort of uniting Islam, Judaism, and Christianity in the common cause of fighting “intolerance” and radical extremism, according to White House officials. What a good idea. And why did no one think of this before?

The good ideas keep coming. According to his National Security Advisor HR McMaster, Trump is set to deliver an “inspiring but direct speech on the need to confront radical ideology” in a major address to about 50 leaders of Muslim-majority countries assembling in Saudi Arabia for his official visit. And this is one of those good ideas that just gets better because Trump’s important lecture concerning Islam in the contemporary world has reportedly been written by none other than Trump’s senior advisor Stephen Miller. Brilliant.

Stephen Miller is, of course, well known as one of most strident anti-Muslim voices in an already anti-Muslim-oriented administration. Miller was the first national coordinator of the Terrorism Awareness Project, an initiative of David Horowitz’s extreme right-wing Freedom Center. (The Southern Poverty Law Center calls Horowitz “the godfather of the modern anti-Muslim movement.”)

The 31-year-old Miller is also acknowledged as a key architect of Trump’s Executive Order 13769, the initial “Muslim ban”. When that order was subsequently challenged in the courts, Miller famously said on the television show Face the Nation that “the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned,” proving that he too is a man full of good, though perhaps rather autocratic and even somewhat bigoted, ideas.

Meanwhile, are we really supposed to forget that Trump is the man who told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that “Islam hates us”? Or that he is the man who has called for a “complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”? Or that he signed the executive orders barring entry of nationals from those Muslim-majority nations? So, now we are supposed to believe that Trump suddenly has the best interests of the Muslim world at heart?

Read the rest here.

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