When progressives call for action in response to tragedies involving white supremacists or huge gun casualties, the right, including President Donald Trump, immediately criticizes such calls for being “politicized” too soon. Yet Trump is doing just that following a terrorist attack in New York city on Tuesday evening.
After eight individuals were killed by an Uzbekistan immigrant named Sayfullo Saipov, Trump immediately pressed blame against an immigration policy he said was a “beauty” of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s.
Trump said he wanted to eliminate that program, called the Diversity Visa Lottery Program (sometimes shortened to DV Lottery), in favor of a merit-based approach.
The terrorist came into our country through what is called the "Diversity Visa Lottery Program," a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 1, 2017
The DV Lottery, however, has its own set of criteria before anyone can participate in it. It requires applicants to be from a nation where less than 50,000 immigrants have come to the U.S. in the last five years. Applicants must also demonstrate that either educational or occupational criteria have been reached, and all applicants must be vigorously vetted before consideration can even begin.
Trump's idea that stricter immigration standards are needed — ultimately, those that target Muslim immigrants — is a flawed position as well, and one that is rooted in bigotry. Most Muslims who enter the U.S. are law-abiding people, and to propose limits to the already-vigorous vetting standards would endanger many who are seeking asylum from less freedom-loving nations.
In other ways, Trump's proposed ban is a recruiting tool for the very people he's trying to oppose, allowing organizations like ISIS to demonstrate his bigotry in order to grow a larger following internationally.
Schumer was quick to respond to Trump’s tweets Wednesday morning.
I guess it's not too soon to politicize a tragedy.— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) November 1, 2017
Schumer is absolutely correct in making that assessment. Whenever a tragedy occurs involving guns or white supremacists, we often hear that we shouldn’t politicize these events or rush to even debate legislation that would work to combat them in the future. But mere hours after this terror attack in New York, Trump is already calling for the end of an immigration program that he opposes.
The hypocrisy is laid out thick, and anyone with a discernible eye is able to see it. Trump is quick to condemn terror attacks involving Muslims and use those attacks to promote his agenda, like he did earlier Wednesday. But when white terrorists hurt or even kill others, Trump will opt to say “both sides” are to blame for agitation, as he did with the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, that led to the death of Heather Heyer.
Trump is also less likely to condemn acts of violence involving guns, like the Las Vegas shooting, for instance. His press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, even said in the days after 58 invididuals were killed and hundreds more were injured that, "I think that there will be certainly time for that policy discussion to take place, but that's not the place that we're in at this moment."
One could respect the president and his administration for delaying their responses to these tragedies if they were consistent in doing so. We may not agree with such maneuvering, but if Trump and his surrogates did so equally for every tragedy, it would at least be reasonable.
It's clear, however, that Trump isn't interested in doing that — he's more interested in delaying discussion of the issues he doesn't agree with or that his base would be upset with him addressing, and using other tragedies to his advantage to promote bigoted policies he vigorously wants passed.
This isn’t leadership. This is political opportunism, and the president ought to be ashamed of himself.