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THE BIG IDEA: <span style=”color: #993300;”>President Trump reportedly suggested that U.S. soldiers shoot immigrants in the legs to slow them down if they cross the southern border, one of several ideas that the same aides who implemented his family separation policy had to explain would be illegal.</span>
Today’s New York Times reports that Trump’s proposal to wound migrants came during a private meeting after he faced blowback last fall for suggesting publicly that soldiers should shoot migrants if they threw rocks across the border.
“Privately, the president had often talked about fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators, prompting aides to seek a cost estimate. He wanted the wall electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh,” according to Michael Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis. “When he ordered wall construction sped up, [then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen] said they needed permission from property owners. Take the land, Mr. Trump would say, and let them sue us. … Today, as Mr. Trump is surrounded by advisers less willing to stand up to him, his threat to seal off the country from a flood of immigrants remains active.”
<h3>This is one in a myriad of examples of Trump pulling back from the principle of American exceptionalism.</h3>
This guiding creed, which not long ago was a point of both national consensus and pride, maintains that, while imperfect, the United States is not just another country on the U.N. roster somewhere between Albania and Zimbabwe. Presidents of both parties have historically recognized the essential role that the United States plays as a special and unique beacon of freedom. We have strived to be the world’s moral backbone, a leading champion for human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Even as previous leaders had to make uncomfortable compromises and partner with unsavory characters to advance the national interest, that self-conception and the welcoming attitude it entails have been steadfast.
<h3>But that’s not Trump’s worldview. He’s said so explicitly and repeatedly. More importantly, he’s demonstrated it through his actions and his embrace of false moral equivalency.</h3>
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