Panic at the Airport

Airports are always a mess.  This has been true since 9/11, unfortunately, an enduring effect of carelessness mixed with hubris and perhaps, a change in administrations (Clinton to G.W. Bush).  Having gone through the Denver airport several times recently, I have come to hate the TSA security lines.  These are humiliating, frustrating and add at least an hour to your prep time; to be safe you should arrive at least three hours early, just to make sure that there’s not some snafu.  There always is, of course.

The Donald Administration’s ham handed immigration dictat adds an extra layer of confusion to the whole travel mess.  All press coverage aside, this comes from good intentions, but we all know where good intentions often take us.  So, now we have travelers with perfectly good visas, arriving to interrogations and back room proceedings, subject to instant deportation.  Why have a visa program at all if you’re just going to re-do the whole thing at customs?  Eliminating the State Department’s visa operations would save substantial taxpayer money; perhaps the Donald Administration should consider that.

What we need is decent vetting by the State Department.  That means that visa officials must be on the ball, good at social media and other, not so obvious, background checks, not to mention literate in various foreign languages.  I get the feeling that visa operations are not one of State’s priorities, not having the flash of treaty/peace negotiations, for example.  Visa operations, however, should warrant the sort of importance that cybersecurity does for the Pentagon.

We have a hodgepodge of immigrants, as always.  We’re getting people from Muslim majority countries these days because these are places where profoundly dysfunctional governments spend a lot of time and energy making sure no one does well except the so called leaders and their cronies.   Then you have places afflicted with intractable civil wars, Libya, Syria and Iraq specifically.  Part of this dismal state of affairs can be chalked up to the Obama Administration’s willingness to completely ignore the Middle East.  Be that as it may, for the average person in these countries it makes sense to leave for the promise of a better life, one that allows unfettered hard work and opportunity.  We should be proud that we hold such a high place in people’s hearts.

Ah, but then you have the snake in the grass, the 9/11 hijacker in disguise, come to kill us for no reason other than that we exist.  Sent by nefarious, hateful people, ISIS, Al Qaeda, any number of tin pot terrorist  organizations, these bad apples integrate themselves into society before going off in a suicide vest explosion at some perfectly innocent place. This, of course, was the San Bernardino situation.

That was the fault of the State Department.  No one bothered to carefully vet the fiancée of an American citizen of seemingly good standing.  The fact that this American citizen had been radicalized was a big secret until he and his wife of convenience went off in a blaze of shotgun glory, taking innocent citizens with them, in addition to ruining the lives of their extended families and their child.  The real question is:  how do we separate the good from the bad?

The State Department acknowledges that the visa process is flawed and needs to be revamped. The airport, however, is not the place for this.  This sort of vetting needs to be done at the Embassy/Consulate level, where the process can be accomplished with the sort of thoroughness required for such sensitive investigation.  Perhaps if that had been the case several years ago, Ms. Malik would have been blocked from entering the United States.  Her erstwhile husband, Mr. Farook, then would have been forced to make a life with her in Pakistan, where they could live a purely Muslim life, unhindered by other religions and traditions.  That, or perhaps they would never have married at all, thus saving us all a lot of heartache.

The Donald Administration is reacting to a real danger; however, it has chosen a clumsy way to do it.  Donald’s executive order is a gift for the now energized left, which didn’t bother to vote but does bother to demonstrate.   Of course, Donald loves all this.  Once again he is the center, the place from which all the wisdom and energy emanates.   Instead of consternation, he relishes the chaos.  It shows that he’s shaking up the government, even as he stacks it full of cronies and people with obvious conflicts of interest.  His base, that silent, post industrial, flyover population, approves.  It’s not so much that it hates Muslims in particular, or that it cares much about what goes on in the Middle East; this base is more interested in digging that metaphorical thumb into the tender eye of the coastal elites.

We’re still in the Donald Administration’s honeymoon period.  The Trumps are basking in approval, believe it or not. Every time the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN or Chuck Todd start getting red in the face, the Donald Administration’s base radiates a glow of unfettered approval.

Dictat makes for stupid policy, as Obama taught us.  Give it time. The Donald Administration will learn its lessons the hard way, as with every new administration.  Then, perhaps, we’ll get real change.



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