Center for Equal Opportunity

The nation’s only conservative think tank devoted to issues of race and ethnicity.


Last update07:03:07 AM

Back You are here: Home Other Issues

Other Issues

While No One Was Looking

With all eyes focused, rightly, on Texas and the victims of Hurricane Harvey, it is easy to overlook the grave threat to constitutional democracy the president issued when he pardoned former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio last week. On its surface, the pardon looks like just another nod to rabid anti-immigration forces. Arpaio is best known for his aggressive -- and unconstitutional -- tactics in Arizona against anyone he or his deputies suspected to be an undocumented immigrant, even if the person had committed no crime. Under Arpaio's orders, deputies could stop and demand proof of legal status of anyone they chose. A federal judge ordered the practice stopped because it violated the Fifth Amendment, which guarantees due process to everyone, but Arpaio defied the order. The judge found that Arpaio's actions showed contempt of court and would have sentenced the 85-year-old next week, but the president's pardon intervened.

The Constitution provides that the president can pardon anyone who has committed a federal crime and do so for pretty much any reason he chooses. Bill Clinton infamously pardoned billionaire financier Marc Rich -- a fugitive who had been found guilty of racketeering, wire fraud and income tax evasion, among other crimes -- after Rich's former wife made large donations to Clinton's re-election campaign. But though the pardon stank of corruption, it proved to be more a stain on Clinton than on the Constitution. The Arpaio pardon is different. Arpaio's crime directly defied a court order intended to enforce constitutional protections and therefore was a direct assault on the Constitution itself. It is not just that Arpaio committed illegal acts against individuals, refused to obey a lawful court order and used his position as a police official to deny others their constitutional right to due process.

No president has ever done what Trump has -- so the question of whether Trump's broad authority to grant pardons extends to violating the Constitution itself is unlike anything we've ever had to face.

I doubt that Trump even considered the possibility that what he was doing was outside the norm; he's repeatedly redefined what is normal for a president to do since the day he took office. But if allowed to stand unchallenged, Trump's pardon could set a very dangerous precedent. Some legal scholars are already questioning the president's actions. As reported by Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post, a group called Project Democracy has sent a letter to the public integrity section of the Justice Department's criminal division, arguing, in her words, that "the president cannot obviate the court's powers to enforce its orders when the constitutional rights of others are at stake."

Although the Framers didn't place parameters around the pardon powers -- saying the president "shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment" -- it is inconceivable that they intended for the president to be able to do away with the separation of powers or invalidate the protections afforded by the Constitution itself. For example, could the president pardon an official who decided to defy the 14th Amendment or the First Amendment?

Many of the president's strongest supporters oppose birthright citizenship to children born to immigrants here illegally. If county officials refused to issue birth certificates to those babies whose parents they suspect are undocumented immigrants, could the president pre-emptively pardon them, putting the children in limbo? If a local sheriff didn't like what the local newspaper printed, could he shut down the presses, confiscate or destroy the newspaper's property and defy court orders to restore it? (Arpaio actually came close to that scenario when he went after the Phoenix New Times with illegal subpoenas, threats of multimillion-dollar fines and nighttime arrests of newspaper executives when the paper printed information Arpaio didn't like.) If the president can simply override any part of the Constitution he doesn't like by pardoning officials who violate it, how does this not give him dictatorial powers?

The Arpaio pardon may be the worst thing the president has done to date -- and unfortunately, it was done while no one was looking. But if it goes unchallenged, it will embolden a president who has already shown his contempt for propriety, law and the Constitution.

Build Relationships, Not Walls

Donald Trump staked his presidential candidacy on building a wall along the Mexican border and won. He promised repeatedly throughout the campaign that Mexico would pay for the wall, a promise he cannot enforce. So now he wants American taxpayers to foot the bill, and this week he threatened to shut down the entire government if Congress doesn't include wall funding in a debt ceiling bill that must be signed into law by Sept. 30, when the government's authorization to spend money runs out. The president issued his warning at a rally in Phoenix this week before a crowd that cheered wildly. I wonder how happy those same people would be if Trump were to follow through on his threat, seeing as large numbers of them, judging from the audience pictures on live TV, wouldn't receive their Social Security checks in the mail.

Building the wall isn't about controlling illegal immigration; there are more effective and cheaper means to do so. And illegal immigration is at historically low rates now anyway. The peak in illegal crossings occurred between 1995 and 2000, when more than 1.6 million people were apprehended trying to enter the country illegally. Since then, the numbers have declined steadily, with a couple of upticks, and declined most dramatically after the Great Recession. In 2016, the number of people caught was about 409,000 (in the same range as the early 1970s). And the figures have dropped even more in the first six months of 2017 -- a fact Trump has repeatedly taken credit for, claiming, misleadingly, a 76 percent decline since he was elected.

Trump uses immigrants as a convenient scapegoat whenever the need arises, as it did this week after widespread condemnation of his divisive and contradictory statements in the wake of the death of a woman in Charlottesville, Virginia, after a neo-Nazi drove his car into a group of people protesting a white supremacist march. It is no accident that Trump headed to Phoenix, ground zero in recent immigration battles, when the heat rose. He can always whip up a crowd by invoking Mexican "rapists" and drug dealers. No wonder some 62 percent of Americans say the president is doing more to divide the country, while 59 percent say Trump's actions and behavior have encouraged white supremacists, according to a new Quinnipiac poll.

Trump's threats and bullying -- especially of members of Congress in his own party -- are getting old. At some point, he must accomplish something concrete for the American people. And by "concrete," I don't mean an ugly, unnecessary barrier between the United States and our third-largest trading partner. The president has promised to repeal and replace Obamacare, reform our tax laws, get rid of counterproductive regulation and rebuild our infrastructure. So far, the only progress he's made is in the regulatory area. He cannot accomplish the rest of his agenda without Congress. That's the way our system works, a lesson he apparently missed when he went to "better schools" and was "a better student" than his critics. ("I live in a bigger, more beautiful apartment, and I live in the White House, too, which is really great," he also reminded the rallygoers.)

Congress returns after the long August recess Sept. 5. The debt ceiling and government funding bills are just the most pressing on the legislative agenda. The president has spent much of the week insulting the very people he needs to move forward, blaming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan by name for failing to get anything done. But Trump has been the most feckless president in recent memory. Barack Obama assumed office with a thin resume and few accomplishments to his credit, but he managed to get important legislation passed to keep the country from slipping further into economic disaster amid a difficult and lengthy recession. Bill Clinton flailed in his first couple of years, which resulted in his party's losing the House of Representatives in the midterm election for the first time in 42 years. And Jimmy Carter surrounded himself with loyal but inexperienced White House staff members, who alienated many of their needed allies on the Hill, and was largely regarded as a failed president. But Donald Trump is even more hapless.

Trump needs to stop talking about building walls and focus on building the relationships he needs within his own party. The country doesn't need a government shutdown. It needs a president interested in more than his own ego.

Immigrants a Convenient Scapegoat

The administration rolled out its new immigration policy at the White House Wednesday during a week when nothing has gone well for the president. President Donald Trump has failed at health care reform. His poll numbers have slipped to 33 percent approval in a new Quinnipiac poll and 36 percent in Gallup's latest. And Congress forced the president to do something he's been avoiding for months: punish Russia for its meddling in last year's presidential election by sending him a veto-proof Russia sanctions bill. No wonder the president tried to change the subject by trotting out his favorite scapegoat.

Immigrants make easy scapegoats, a truth the president exploited all the way from Trump Tower to the Oval Office. First, it was illegal immigrants, whom the president blamed for a nonexistent spike in violent crime in the United States. Now it is the legal immigration system in general, which the administration is blaming for lowering wages for American workers and burdening the welfare system. But immigrants, especially those here legally, aren't the problem, and cutting their numbers in half will do great harm to the economy.

The bill the president has thrown his weight behind -- sponsored by Republican senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia -- would dramatically alter U.S. immigration policy, shifting the emphasis from family-reunification to one that is skills-based. There is nothing wrong with moving to a more skills-based approach; I've advocated doing so for years. The problem is in the way that this bill defines skills and the hubris of thinking government bureaucrats know better than employers which kinds of workers America needs and how many.

Even though our current system gives priority to immigrants who already have family living in the United States, those admitted clearly bring certain skills with them. As it happens, the immigrant flow is bifurcated into two streams: low-skilled workers, largely from Latin America, and high-skilled workers, mostly from Asia. However, there are plenty of exceptions. Some 6 percent of Mexican immigrants in 2014 had a college degree or higher, and 15 percent of Asian immigrants had less than a high school degree.

But both these major immigrant streams fill gaps in the U.S. labor force.

We have too few Americans graduating with degrees in science, technology, engineering and math to fill our needs in the STEM fields, and too many Americans with at least a high school degree who don't want careers at a meat-packing plant or picking produce. Yes, we also have American-born high school dropouts who have left the labor force and who could take those jobs. But how can we force them to do so? And should we blame employers for wanting to hire a foreign-born worker who sees a low-skilled job as his or her American Dream and will show up on time and put in a full day's work over an American dropout who has no track record of doing either?

The immediate effect of this proposed policy change will be to reduce the number of immigrants from Latin America and to cut immigration overall, but its more lasting impact will be on making both the U.S. economy and population smaller. The impact on GDP will be large. A reduction in immigration of this magnitude would negatively affect labor growth as well. The Congressional Budget Office already predicts a decline in the growth of the labor force over the next 10 years, which will mean that GDP will grow at only about 1.8 percent -- and those numbers were calculated before the Trump proposal. Replacing productive foreign workers with Americans who've dropped out of the labor force, even if it were possible to do so, wouldn't raise productivity, which means any hike in wages will be inflationary. Employers faced with less-productive workers demanding higher wages will move jobs out of the country or mechanize them out of existence.

The better solution is to move to a market-based legal immigration system that lets employers decide what kind of workers they need. Blaming immigrants for stealing jobs and depressing wages is just one more way President Trump draws attention away from his own lack of leadership.

More on Charlottesville, and a Bad Speech by Tillerson

Following my email from last week, here are some additional thoughts on Charlottesville:

First, liberals should condemn lawless and violent behavior by those on the Left, and conservatives should condemn lawless and violent behavior by those on the Right. There is a temptation when this is done on both sides to temper that criticism by adding a “But . . . ” — that is, to say, “Of course, it is wrong to kill the police, but we must recognize that black lives do matter,” etc., or “Of course, it is wrong to ram a car into a protestor, but many protestors on the Left are violent types, too,” etc.

The trouble is that, if you do this in reaction to something that is indefensible — like a murder or a riot — then the other side will understandably feel that you are not only tempering your criticism but excusing it or at least signaling that it’s understandable and therefore forgivable. And so the other side will get really upset. Again, this is true on both sides: Conservatives didn’t like it when liberals added a “but” sentence in their response to riots and police murders, and that’s why liberals (and others) are upset with President Trump’s equivocations here.

It’s okay, of course, to make these broader and more nuanced points in some other context, but not when the action being discussed and in our face is one where nuance is unacceptable and clarity is essential.

Second, and for what it’s worth, here’s a piece that I wrote for NRO sixteen years ago on a hot issue at that time, namely whether the Confederate battle flag should be removed from the Mississippi state flag. That’s a different issue from what to do with statues and the like, but some of the points I made then have some relevance now.

Finally, bear in mind that the media love drama and have a vested interested in convincing the public that the end of the world is at hand and so it really needs to keep watching the television, buying the newspaper, visiting this website, etc.  Extra, extra, read all about it!  That’s not to say that what happened in Charlottesville was not newsworthy, and I do feel a little bit like Frank Drebin in this clip when I urge people not to obsess about marching and murderous neo-Nazis; what’s more, a president’s pronouncements can on their own raise issues bigger than what he is pronouncing on. Nonetheless, a few extremist kooks and one bad weekend with one murder in one town do not a Weimar Republic make.

*          *          *

Meanwhile, and relatedly, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has just given an appalling speech. From beginning to end it embraces bean-counting for State Department employees on the basis of race, ethnicity, and sex in order to reach the right percentages of this, that, and the other; the great irony is that he thinks this approach demonstrates his commitment to the principle of nondiscrimination. So the response of this part of the Trump administration to neo-Nazis’ call for politically incorrect race-based action in Charlottesville is politically correct race-based action at Foggy Bottom.

Secretary Tillerson specifically promises a State Department “Rooney Rule”: “Every time we have an opening for an ambassador position, at least one of the candidates must be a minority candidate.” Not only is such race-based hiring divisive, unfair, and an endorsement of just the sort of identity politics that we ought to have learned by now is poisonous, but it is illegal, as explained here and here.

The purported justification for this discrimination is this:

I think one of the things that it’s important to appreciate is the value of diversity. It’s not just to achieve a mix of population that looks like the rest of our country. I know from my long career in the private sector, my experience has been the value of diversity in the workplace is it enriches our work, it enriches our work product to have individuals who come with a different cultural perspective or they come with different life experiences. That’s the value. They will see things in the world that I cannot see. I did not have that life experience.

So, first, note that if something is done “not just” to achieve X, then it’s conceded that indeed X is one of the aims; but trying to have more of this group (and thus less of that group) because of national demographics is nothing but the “discrimination for its own sake” that Justice Lewis Powell rejected in Regents of the Univ. of Cal. v.  Bakke.

As for the rest of the justification, why should skin color and national origin be used as proxies for “cultural perspective” or “life experiences”?  Do all blacks and whites think alike, do all Asian Americans and Latinos live in the same neighborhood? Why does Secretary Tillerson assume that, by knowing someone’s race and ethnicity, he knows how “[t]hey will see things in the world”? This is just the crudest of stereotyping.  And, here again, it is not only wrong but illegal:  No federal court has recognized a “diversity” exception to Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bans employment sorting and discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, and religion.

Last week’s lesson for the Trump administration: It needs to embrace E pluribus unum, and make clear its categorical rejection of identity politics and race-based policy and action, whether politically correct or politically incorrect.

“Why Obama’s Presidency Didn’t Lead To Black Progress”

Last week I wrote briefly about a new book by Jason Riley, False Black Power?  (Mr. Riley, by the way, recently joined the Center for Equal Opportunity’s board of directors.)  This week, as  a summertime treat, I’m sharing the excerpt from this book that was recently published by the New York Post.  Enjoy!

*          *          *
Why Obama’s Presidency Didn’t Lead To Black Progress

Since the 1960s, black leaders have placed a heavy emphasis on gaining political power, and Barack Obama’s presidency represented the apex of those efforts. The assumption — rarely challenged — is that black political clout must come before black social and economic advancement. But as Jason L. Riley argues in this excerpt from his new book, False Black Power? (Templeton Press), political success has not been a major factor in the rise of racial and ethnic groups from poverty to prosperity.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was followed by large increases in black elected officials. In the Deep South, black officeholders grew from 100 in 1964 to 4,300 in 1978. By the early 1980s, major US cities with large black populations, such as Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Washington and Philadelphia, had elected black mayors. Between 1970 and 2010, the number of black elected officials nationwide increased from fewer than 1,500 to more than 10,000.

Yet the socioeconomic progress that was supposed to follow in the wake of these political gains never materialized. During an era of growing black political influence, blacks as a group progressed at a slower rate than whites, and the black poor actually lost ground.

In a 1991 book, social scientist Gary Orfield and his co-author, journalist Carole Ashkinaze, assessed the progress of blacks in the 1970s and ’80s following the sharp increase in black officeholders. The thinking, then and now, was that the problems of the cities “were basically the result of the racism of white officials and that many could be solved by black mayors, school superintendents, policemen and teachers who were displacing white ones.” The expectation, they added, “was that black political and education leaders would be able to make large moves toward racial equity simply by devising policies and practices reflecting their understanding of the background and needs of black people.”

But the integration of these institutions proved to be insufficient. “Many blacks have reached positions of local power, such as mayor, county commission chairman or superintendent of schools, positions undreamed of 30 years ago,” they wrote. Their findings, however, showed that “these achievements do not necessarily produce success for blacks as a whole.” The empirical evidence, they said, “indicates that there may be little relationship between the success of local black leaders and the opportunities of typical black families.”

When Michael Brown was shot dead after assaulting a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014, a large fuss was made over the racial composition of the police department and city leaders, which supposedly explained the subsequent civil unrest.

A Justice Department report responding to the incident noted that although the city’s population was 67 percent black, just four of its 54 police officers fit that description.

“While a diverse police department does not guarantee a constitutional one, it is nonetheless critically important for law enforcement agencies, and the Ferguson Police Department in particular, to strive for broad diversity among officers and civilian staff,” said Justice.

But if racial diversity among law enforcement and city officials is so “critically important,” what explains the rioting in Baltimore the following year after a black suspect there died in police custody?

At the time, 63 percent of Baltimore’s residents and 40 percent of its police officers were black. The Baltimore police commissioner also was black, along with the mayor and a majority of the city council.

Contentious relations between the police and ghetto communities are driven mainly by high crime rates in those areas, something that the political left doesn’t like to acknowledge. The sharp rise in violent crime in our inner cities coincides with the increase of black leaders in many of those very same cities, which makes it hard to argue that racist or indifferent authorities are to blame.

What can be said of Baltimore is also true of Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia, Atlanta, New Orleans and Washington, where black mayors and police chiefs and city councilmen and school superintendents have held sway for decades.

In her 1995 book, Facing Up to the American Dream, political scientist Jennifer Hochschild examined data from the late 1950s to the early 1990s — an era that covers not only growing black political clout but also the implementation of the War on Poverty and two full decades of affirmative action policies in hiring and college admissions.

Hochschild reported that between 1959 and 1992, poverty fell from 55 percent to 33 percent for blacks and from 18 percent to 12 percent for whites, which means that the “ratio of black to white poverty has remained at 3 — hardly a victory in the war on racially disproportionate poverty.”

The absolute numbers, she added, “tell the same story: there are now about 4 million fewer poor whites than 30 years ago, but 686,000 more poor blacks.”

Moreover, low-income blacks lost ground to low-income whites over the same period. Between 1967 and 1992, incomes for the poorest fifth of blacks declined at more than double the rate of comparable whites.

This history should have served to temper expectations for the first black president. Without taking away anything from Barack Obama’s historic accomplishment, or the country’s widespread sense of pride in the racial progress that his election symbolized, the reality is that there was little reason to believe that a black president was the answer to racial inequities or the problems of the black poor.

The proliferation of black politicians in recent decades — which now includes a twice-elected black president — has done little to narrow racial gaps in employment, income, homeownership, academic achievement and other areas.

Most groups in America and elsewhere who have risen economically have done so with little or no political influence, and groups that have enjoyed early political success have tended to rise more slowly.

“Group cohesion, expressed in political pressure and bloc voting, is often regarded as axiomatically the most effective method of promoting group progress,” explains the economist Thomas Sowell.

But historically, “the relationship between political success and economic success has been more nearly inverse than direct.”

Germans, Jews, Italians and Asians are among those who saw economic gains precede political gains in America.

Similarly, the ethnic Chinese in Southeast Asia, the English in Argentina and Jews in Britain, among many other examples, all prospered economically while mostly shunning politics.

A counterexample is the Irish, whose rise from poverty was especially slow even though Irish-run political organizations in places like Boston and Philadelphia dominated local government. The Irish had more political success than any other ethnic group historically, according to Sowell. “Yet the Irish were the slowest rising of all European immigrants to America. The wealth and power of a relatively few Irish political bosses had little impact on the progress of masses of Irish Americans.”

Even if a group has the ability to wield political influence, they don’t always choose to do so.

German immigrants to the US in colonial times were not lacking in numbers. In Pennsylvania they were one-third of the population, a situation that was not lost on non-Germans. “Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a colony of aliens, who will shortly become so numerous as to Germanize us instead of us Anglifying them?” wrote Benjamin Franklin in 1751.

Nevertheless, Germans, many of whom arrived as indentured servants and focused initially on paying off the cost of their voyage, had other priorities and were well known for avoiding politics. Germans began entering politics only after they had already risen economically.

Viewed against this history, many blacks were expecting Obama’s presidency to deliver more prosperity than political clout tends to deliver for a group — in the US or anywhere else.

The black experience in America is of course different from the Irish experience, which in turn is different from the Chinese or German or Jewish experience. Indeed, we can’t even generalize about all blacks in the US, since the experience of black natives is different from the experience of black immigrants from the Caribbean and Africa. But that doesn’t mean group cultural traits that show patterns of success or failure should be ignored.

Even if we can’t make perfect apples-to-apples comparisons, it doesn’t mean we can’t make any comparisons or draw any conclusions. Many different racial and ethnic minority groups have experienced various degrees of hardship in the US and in other countries all over the world. How those groups have dealt with those circumstances is something to study closely and draw lessons from going forward — even if the only lesson is to manage expectations.

One of the clear lessons from this history is that human capital has proven to be far more important than political capital in getting ahead. And that reality helps to explain why blacks fared the way they did not only in the Obama era but also in the preceding decades.

Obama’s election was the end product of a civil-rights strategy that prioritized political power to advance blacks, and eight years later we once again learned the limitations of that strategy.

Reprinted with permission from False Black Power? by Jason L. Riley (Templeton Press), 2017.

E Pluribus Unum

If recent headlines over the last few weeks can tell us anything, it is that America needs to get serious, and quickly, about E pluribus unum.

America has always been a multiracial and multiethnic country, and it is becoming dramatically more so. For a society like ours to work, our laws and institutions cannot treat Americans differently according to skin color and what country people’s ancestors came from. We cannot view ourselves and each other as something other than Americans first and foremost.

Of course, America has had a sad history of ignoring this principle, and whenever it has, it has been disastrous. Slavery and Jim Crow were great evils, we all now recognize.

And, more recently, identity politics and political correctness are disasters, too. The Left’s racial nostrums are divisive and unfair, and embrace false stereotypes and discrimination, just as the politically incorrect racism did.

The arguments then and now for such discrimination are no good, and even if there were something to them, the costs of the discrimination and its sheer unworkability in a country like ours — where not only the demographics but individual Americans are more and more multiethnic and multiracial — overwhelm any possible justifications for treating one another differently on the basis of color and national origin.

So let’s turn to those recent headlines.

The Justice Department says it is going to investigate admissions discrimination against Asian Americans at Harvard, and the Left becomes hysterical. That is, the Left is upset because the Justice Department is investigating racial discrimination against a racial minority group.

The Trump administration hurried to set the record straight that this is only one investigation; well, nothing wrong with correcting fake news, but here’s hoping that this doesn’t mean that the administration would have second thoughts about investigating other cases involving politically correct discrimination, even if — horrors! –the victims were indeed white. Will those Rust Belt voters be happy if those returning jobs, and their children’s college opportunities, are divvyed up by skin color?

We are all Americans, are we not? The text and intent and ideal of the civil-rights laws are to protect all Americans from racial discrimination.

Next, a Google employee is fired for suggesting that his company’s efforts to meet gender quotas are bad law and bad policy. Well, if Google were to discriminate against women, that would be a bad thing (and illegal), but likewise if there are anti-male quotas that is also a bad thing (and illegal).

And what about the argument whether women and men might, in the aggregate, have different interests and talents when it comes to certain jobs? That’s an interesting topic for discussion, but of an intricacy disproportionate to its interest if a company follows the law and treats people as individuals. Such nondiscriminatory, merit-based decision-making might result in more men than women being hired, but the failure to achieve proportionate representation is not the same thing as discrimination — unless, of course, you have embraced identity politics and put equal results over equal opportunity. (President Trump, by the way, included a bad nod to such numbers-driven political correctness in a speech on Friday.)

And now there is Charlottesville. Lots of chickens coming home to roost here. It was big mistake for the Trump campaign and its hangers-on to play footsie with the alt-right. It was a big mistake for the Left to think it could advance minority-identity-politics without there eventually being a reaction advancing white-identity-politics. Race and racial appeals should have no place in our politics.

An immediate problem is that the extremes of Left and Right are only too happy to have one, two, many Charlottesvilles. It does not serve their interests to have a unified society. They want racial violence, and it is of only mild interest to the extremists whether the dead bodies are on their side or the others’. It is tempting to leave them to a cage fight, but that would advance their agendas, not the country’s.

*          *          *

I should add, finally, that defending the principle of E pluribus unum is the mission of the Center for Equal Opportunity.

I happen to like and admire Robert E. Lee, by the way, but it is not crazy to think that official commemoration of him is divisive, and I’m happy to remove his statue in return for, say, race-neutral admissions at the University of Virginia.

Which brings me back to where I started. I have no doubt that the overwhelming majority of Americans want E pluribus unum. They want nondiscrimination, and they want more emphasis on what unites us and less celebration of our differences. They want patriotic assimilation, for immigrants and also for non-immigrants.

But our elites and our non-elite pols need to get serious about this, and quick.

Twitter No Way to Issue Orders for Commander in Chief

Serving in the U.S. military is a privilege, not a right. Not everyone who wishes to serve can be allowed to do so, for a variety of reasons -- age, physical and mental fitness, education, and legal status, to name a few. The purpose of the military is not to advance a social or political agenda but to defend the nation. These simple truths seem to be lost in the debate stirred by President Donald Trump's clumsy and ill-timed announcement via Twitter that transgender individuals are no longer allowed to serve in the U.S. armed forces.

The decision to allow transgender people to serve in the military in the first place was barely 2 years old -- unthinkable even a decade ago. In 2015, President Barack Obama's secretary of defense, Ashton Carter, announced that the Pentagon would move to allow transgender individuals to serve openly in the military. But perhaps the most controversial aspect of the Obama administration's stance was the announcement in June 2016 that the military would provide medical treatment for those service members seeking hormone treatment and plastic surgery to change their sex.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, gender dysphoria "is not in itself a mental disorder. The critical element of gender dysphoria is the presence of clinically significant distress associated with the condition." It seems fair to say, however, that those who choose to undergo the painful surgeries and lifelong hormonal treatments necessary to transition their sex don't do so lightly but are indeed experiencing significant distress. The question isn't whether transgender individuals have the right to live as they choose -- they do -- but that does not mean they have a right to serve in the military.

All sorts of physical and mental conditions preclude military service. The reasons vary, but the underlying assumption is that any condition that might make deployment and combat readiness more difficult justifies excluding certain individuals. Everything from asthma to plantar fasciitis may be disqualifying, depending on when the individual experienced the condition and its severity, and some medical conditions, such as diabetes, are automatically so. But so are common mental conditions. People who suffer from depression or other mood disorders -- even adults with attention deficit disorder -- can be excluded.

The military rejects these individuals not out of prejudice but because their conditions complicate the mission of the military. Individuals who require medication on a daily basis are more difficult to deploy in a wartime situation. Someone who has diabetes quickly becomes a liability on the battlefield when there isn't access to proper food or insulin or other medication. Transgender individuals require hormone treatments for the rest of their lives after transitioning. What happens when a transgender soldier runs out of male or female hormone replacement treatments while deployed? How long would a transsexual be unable to deploy while recovering from surgery?

Those who are expressing outrage that the Trump administration is reverting to the policy barring transgender individuals from service that existed prior to two years ago seem more than a little disingenuous. Some 29 million Americans have diabetes; another 25 million have asthma. But I don't remember anyone suggesting that these individuals are being discriminated against because they cannot serve in the military.

President Obama lifted restrictions against transgender people in the military, and President Trump has decided to impose those restrictions again. These are policy decisions -- and both presidents were within their authority to make them. President Trump bungled the decision to change course. He did it as he does everything, impulsively, without proper consideration for its implementation or how it affects individuals who are already in the military. Twitter is no way to issue orders as commander in chief.

It is certainly fair to ask why he did it now. Was it a way to distract from other issues? With this president, who knows? He says he talked to the generals, but few of them are coming forward to confirm any discussions, and the Pentagon was left flat-footed.
Once again, the president is setting up the dynamics for failure. Perhaps this is a bone thrown to those in his base in anticipation of disappointing them on another front. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, stay tuned.

The President Is Provoking His Own Crisis

Donald Trump assured us during his campaign, "I know words. I have the best words." But are "fire and fury" and "locked and loaded" really the best words for a president to use in an increasingly volatile international crisis involving nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles? No question, North Korea precipitated this crisis with its aggressive pursuit and testing of a nuclear delivery system capable of reaching not only America's allies but also our very shores. Kim Jong Un's bellicose threats (that he would "blow the U.S. from this planet," and other such claims) upped the ante, but should the president be responding in kind?

U.S. policy toward the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has been a failure for decades, under both Republican and Democrat presidents. Neither diplomacy nor economic sanctions have deterred North Korea from building and testing nuclear weapons -- and, most recently, miniaturizing a nuclear warhead -- or the missiles to deliver them. Even former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice admits that U.S. efforts to denuclearize North Korea have failed -- though her advice is to learn to tolerate a nuclear-armed North Korea.

Clearly, past approaches haven't worked and President Trump is right to consider alternatives. What is not right is to take to Twitter and make off-the-cuff remarks to outline a new policy, especially one that threatens military action. On one issue there is unanimity of opinion: There are no good military options to take out North Korea's arsenal pre-emptively. Any attempt to do so would result in retaliation that would, at a minimum, put South Korea's population at grave risk and cost tens of thousands of lives. Trump's warlike rhetoric may suggest he thinks we could strike first and destroy North Korea's capability, but surely the generals have told him differently by now. And China has responded to the president's threats by putting both the DPRK and the U.S. on notice: If North Korea strikes first it cannot count on China's help to defend it, but if the U.S. tries a pre-emptive attack, all bets are off. The U.S. miscalculated China's response once before on the Korean peninsula, and the resulting Korean War took more than 33,000 American lives.

One of the biggest dangers in President Trump's warlike rhetoric is that it damages American credibility. The president is saber rattling in the worst way. He's gotten into an ego match with a dangerous and delusional dictator. He should be making it clear that the U.S. has no interest in initiating war -- but that we will defend U.S. territories and allies with all the might at our disposal. Instead, his loose language makes him sound like a bully on a playground. For a man who dodged military service himself -- receiving five deferments during the Vietnam War, including a medical deferment for bone spurs in his feet -- Trump sure likes to sound like a tough guy.

If Trump doesn't start acting more presidential, he's likely to provoke his own crisis here at home. The Constitution provides a mechanism to remove a president who for mental as well as physical reasons cannot perform his duties. In a press conference Friday afternoon, the president raised the specter of using military force not just against North Korea but also Venezuela: "We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option, if necessary," Trump said. "We have troops all over the world in places that are very, very far away. Venezuela is not very far away, and the people are suffering, and they're dying," he said.

The statement sounded unhinged. If he keeps this up, he's inviting those within his own administration and party to consider whether it's time to invoke the 25th Amendment's provision for his removal: "Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President." It would take a two-thirds vote by both houses of Congress to remove the president permanently, but President Trump is skating on thin ice right now.

The 'Recognizing America's Children' Act

President Donald Trump may not yet have built his "big, beautiful wall" along the southern border or figured out a way to make Mexico pay for it, but immigration is one area where the president seems committed to keeping his campaign promises. Illegal immigration, which was already at a 40-plus-year low when the president was sworn in, has fallen even further in his first six months in office. The administration has stepped up immigration arrests, averaging over 13,000 a month since February, abandoning the policy in effect under several previous presidents that concentrated on rounding up criminals and recent arrivals. And the administration is intent on punishing cities and states that are insufficiently cooperative on immigration enforcement, though its efforts to withhold federal funds from such jurisdictions is being challenged in the courts.

You'd think this would be enough to satisfy immigration hard-liners, but some are still grousing that President Trump has yet to pull the plug on the Barack Obama-backed program that gave temporary protection from deportation to illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children or young teens. The so-called "dreamers" seem to be the only foreign-born residents for whom President Trump has a soft spot (save his wives and seasonal visa holders on the payroll at Mar-a-Lago). The president has, so far, refused to rescind the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, but now several states are threatening to sue if he doesn't suspend the program, which currently gives some 800,000 dreamers the right to live and work in the U.S. provided they are enrolled in college or serve in the military, pass a background check and have no criminal record. What President Trump should do instead is get behind legislation introduced by Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla.: the Rec!
ognizing America's Children Act, which currently has 17 Republican co-sponsors in the House.

RAC, like previous legislative attempts to grant legal status to those who arrived as minors, would give provisional status to applicants who were in school, worked continuously or enlisted in the military. All applicants would have to pass rigorous background checks, have no criminal record, could not receive public welfare and would have to submit biometric data. Only those who fulfilled these obligations, paid taxes (including any back taxes owed plus interest) and stayed employed or in school or in the military would be eligible to become legal permanent residents.

Most Americans, including 7 in 10 Trump voters in a recent Morning Consult/Politico poll, favor allowing childhood arrivals to remain in the U.S. and be granted legal status. And it's no wonder; these are the most productive and sympathetic group of illegal immigrants. Most were too young to have knowingly violated U.S. law. They came here as youngsters, went to American schools, learned English and know no other country but this one as home. A recent Cato Institute study of these young people reveals that the average DACA participant is 22 years old, employed and earns $17 an hour. Most are also enrolled in higher education, and 17 percent are pursuing advanced degrees. These are exactly the kind of immigrants America should want. What possible benefit would be gained by removing these young people -- especially after we've already invested in educating them?

Republicans have increasingly earned a reputation as anti-immigrant -- and no one more so than President Trump. But immigration is part of what makes America America. We aren't a nation that defines itself by blood. We attract the best and brightest and hardest-working people from all over the world, and we always have. For most of our history, our doors were wide open, admitting anyone who had the will to get here. And our generous immigration policies have helped make us the most productive and successful nation in the history of the world. We are constantly renewing ourselves and gaining in the process.

President Trump has few legislative victories to claim. Getting behind the Recognizing America's Children Act could give him a needed win -- and fulfill his most important promise, to make America great again.