On Monday, President Donald Trump signed his revised executive order travel ban away from the usual TV cameras, instead allowing three of his cabinet members to announce changes from the original order. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the president was "exercising his rightful authority to keep our people safe." The White House, not surprisingly, refused to take questions about the revisions from media, and via Sean Spicer, continued to defend the original order.
Comedian Dean Obeidallah, who is Muslim-American, a former attorney, and a vocal critic of the president, stopped by Salon Monday afternoon to discuss the updated ban. Obeidallah hosts the only daily national radio show hosted by a Muslim American, on SiriusXM. He railed against the president, made jokes, and also cited historically relevant issues. "Politicians do inspire good, bad and really ugly things, as we've seen through our history, the Civil Rights Movement especially," he said. Of the executive orders banning certain immigrants from entering the United States, Obeidallah joked, "The first one was like, we're banning Muslims, here you go, I signed it!" and he held it up like a kid who took a poop." Of the revised ban, he noted, "Now, this one's a lot longer, and they go into the six countries and why they are banning people from these countries."
So what's different, really? Not much, Obeidallah told Salon. "The only thing these six countries have in common is that they are Muslim-majority countries, and when the ninth circuit of appeals court struck it down the first time, they said there is no evidence anyone involved in terrorism came from those countries," he explained. "Picking these six is like saying "I'm going to ban Italy, because I had bad Italian food once," deadpanned Obeidallah. "It's not based in reality."
The revised ban now effects people from six majority Muslim countries instead of seven, removing Iraq. It remains 90 days in length, exempts green card holders, and no longer expresses a preference for "religious minorities". The ban also bars all refugees from entering the U.S. for 120 days, but no longer prohibits refugees from Syria in totality. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said during the announcement Monday, "three of these nations are state sponsors of terrorism," and added, "the other three have served as safe havens for terrorist countries." The ban goes into effect March 16. .
"When you saw George Wallace, governor of Alabama, say "segregation today, tomorrow and forever," in 1963, a few months later 16th Street Baptist Church was blown up, and four African-American girls were killed," Obeidallah points out. "When politicians speak, it's not in a vacuum. It inspires people to do things, and not always good things," he intoned. "So when Donald Trump is saying, "Islam hates us!", it makes sense that one of his supporters who might not be the brightest, will say, "I know a Muslim guy! I'm going to go punch that Muslim guy, or burn down a mosque."
Ultimately, believes Obeidallah, the president's actions are meant only to mobilize his supporters, and keep them engaged, with little regard for true American safety. "Trump does not care. He doesn't care about keeping us safe, he cares about keeping his 45% approval rating, because that's all he's got - that little base - and if that erodes, he's dead," said Obeidallah. That's why he is coming hard against undocumented immigrants, and even dreamer kids have been deported. He needs that base. Without that base, he's dead," Obeidallah concluded.