There is plenty of room for honest debate and disagreement always, most particularly in a presidential race. The good folks at the Wall Street Journal, whom I read daily and respect enormously, are not fans of Donald Trump. C’est la vie.
But imagine my surprise when I settled in to read their latest editorial on Trump — “The Obama-Trump Dialectic” — and read this, bold print for emphasis mine:
The political and media classes have joined in denouncing Mr. Trump for his latest leap beyond normal political boundaries with his call to stop all Muslim immigration to America. He proposed this in a statement Monday that reflected calculation, not one of his stream-of-consciousness asides in a speech. He defended it Tuesday, comparing his proposal to FDR ’s decision to intern Japanese-Americans in World War II. To borrow a line, he is no FDR.
Respectfully to the WSJ: Donald Trump said no such thing.
I know this for a fact because I am the one who wrote up FDR’s actions during World War Two and it was published here in these cyber pages yesterday, the headline reading:“FDR Was Trump on Steroids.”
I was on CNN yesterday morning in the first hour of the network’s New Day show and discussed my findings on FDR. Donald Trump was watching — and in the next hour in his interview with host Chris Cuomo mentioned me by name and cited my remarks. My remarks that were based on the column above.
To be quite specific here I was NOT discussing, nor was Donald Trump, FDR’s horrific Executive Order 9066 interning Japanese-Americans during the war. This was a blatantly racist and unconstitutional action that was shamefully upheld by FDR’s Supreme Court appointees in an opinion (Korematsu v. United States) written by FDR appointee Justice Hugo Black — Black the proud owner of a lifetime membership in the Ku Klux Klan.
What I WAS discussing was FDR’s presidential proclamations 2525, 2526, and 2527, titled, successively: “Aliens: Japanese,” “Aliens: Germans,” “Aliens: Italians,” in which President Roosevelt did the following, as summarized over here at the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History:
The day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt suspended naturalization proceedings for Italian, German, and Japanese immigrants, required them to register, restricted their mobility, and prohibited them from owning items that might be used for sabotage, such as cameras and shortwave radios. The curfews on Italian immigrants were lifted in October 1942, on Columbus Day.
FDR’s authority, by the way, came from the 1798 Alien Enemies Act signed into law by Founding Father and President John Adams. The law is still on the books.
Toquote directly from the language of the three proclamations that caught Trump’s attention:
… all natives, citizens, denizens, or subjects of the hostile nation or government, being of the age of fourteen years and upward, who shall be within the United States and not actually naturalized, shall be liable to be apprehended, restrained, secured, and removed as alien enemies. The President is authorized in any such event, by his proclamation thereof, or other public act, to direct the conduct to be observed, on the part of the United States, toward the aliens who become so liable; the manner and degree of the restraint to which they shall be subject and in what cases, and upon what security their residence shall be permitted, and to provide for the removal of those who, not being permitted to reside within the United States, refuse or neglect to depart therefrom; and to establish any other regulations which are found necessary in the premises and for the public safety.
This was what caused Trump to discuss FDR’s actions. And well note, he did not endorse them, he simply observed that there was considerable precedent for halting the immigration rights of a particular group of immigrants.
But the point here is that Trump was decidedly NOT talking about FDR’s internment of Japanese-Americans, much less was he endorsing it. Neither, to put it mildly, was I.
Over here at YouTube is the specific section of the Trump-Cuomo interview that references my own discussion of the issue. As is plain to hear, Trump wasn’t even endorsing FDR’s proclamations — he was merely observing how strict they were. Far more strict and punitive than anything Trump himself has proposed.
In sum? Contrary — directly contrary — to the WSJ’s assertion that Trump was “comparing his proposal to FDR’s decision to intern Japanese-Americans in World War II,” he was doing no such thing.
The WSJ owes Donald Trump an apology — and a correction. But they are right about one thing: Donald Trump is no FDR. Not for a second is he on record as supporting FDR’s blatantly racist internment of Japanese-Americans. Not even close.