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As the days after the Donald Trump immigration ban unfolded last week, the spin from his supporters turned to claiming that he was only doing what he promised to do during the campaign, so everyone who's complaining should just stop it.

He's doing what his voters wanted him to do, therefore no one should be surprised, insisted the Investors Business Daily.  Our own politicians from Sen. Ron Johnson to Congressman Paul Ryan asked what's the big deal? Apparently since Trump promised such outlandish behavior during the campaign, that makes it perfectly OK, no matter how onerous and dangerous and contrary to American values it is.

Others tried to contend that Trump wasn't doing anything more than others before him, including Barack Obama. The notorious right-wing Washington Examiner claimed Obama had issued six immigration bans during his eight years in office. A closer look, though, reveals they were all aimed at specific individuals who were known to be enemies of the United States, not the one-size-fits-all ban that Trump imposed on everyone in the seven Muslim countries covered by his edict.

Had Obama or George W. Bush before him issued anything close to what Trump has done, don't believe for a second that the career diplomats in the State Department and others involved in national and international security wouldn't have jumped on them just as they have jumped on Trump. 

Funny, isn't it, that when Obama introduced a new health plan, signed agreements aimed at combating climate change, and brought home troops from the Middle East, all issues on which he campaigned, few if any Republicans gave him a pass because he was only doing what he told his supporters he'd do. Come to think of it, even a majority of Americans voted for him — twice.

But none of Obama's initiatives put the nation's security in peril, as more than 900 State Department officials have warned, or sent a signal to the world that the United States is now a different country from the one that welcomed immigrants and stood for freedom throughout its history. We're all here because our ancestors made that journey, too.

A 35-year veteran of the State Department, Tom Countryman, was in Rome recently when he got the news he was one of several career diplomats being pushed out of their jobs by the new administration. His colleagues threw a retirement party for him at which he pleaded with his well-wishers not to give in to White House spokesman Sean Spicer's threat that if they don't like Trump's policy they should go. Hang in there and uphold America's long-standing policies of openness and liberty, he said.

Then he talked about the Statue of Liberty and all that it has meant not only to him, but people around the world.

"It's not only a magnet for immigrants, it's a projector," he said. "It shines the promise of democracy around the world.

"If we wall ourselves off from the world, we will extinguish that projection of liberty just as surely as the Gospel says 'if you put your lamp under a bushel basket,'" he added.

We're going through a period in American history where all too many, including the president, no longer want to let it shine.

 

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com and @DaveZweifel