The “politically correct version”: What Donald Trump’s Recent Tweet and Previous Use of the Term “Politically Correct” Tell Us About His Revised Executive Order

Donald Trump weighed in earlier today via Twitter regarding the litigation about his travel-ban executive orders, tweeting among other things that “The Justice Dept. should have stayed with the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to S.C.”  It is, as others have pointed out, a bit odd that Mr. Trump, to whom the Justice Department ultimately reports given his current status as President of the United States, is expressing his disagreement with them via Twitter.  These tweets also, as the media has noted, undermine the Administration’s court defenses of the ban.

One point that does not yet seem to have been made is that Mr. Trump’s reference to the current version of the travel ban being “politically correct” has special significance in light of his past usage of that term. ACLU attorney Omar Jadwat, quoted by the LA Times, did observe that the reference to political correctness undercuts the government’s arguments:

Lawyers for the government “have made a diligent effort to demonstrate that this was not about religious animus,” he said, no[r] was it an effort to fulfill Trump’s campaign pledge to enact a “Muslim ban.” But Trump’s tweets show the president’s belief that scaling back the travel order reflected “political correctness,” and not his true intent.

The New York Times, as well, has observed that “in calling the revised order ‘politically correct,’ Mr. Trump suggested that his goal was still to make distinctions based on religion.” This usage of the term “politically correct” would indeed be indicative of religious animus even if Trump had not used the term previously, but it is especially telling in context.

In the usage of those at Donald Trump’s end of the American political spectrum, to say that something is “politically correct” is generally to say that it is unnecessarily or inappropriately tailored to avoid speaking of a minority group in a way that liberals would consider offensive. Donald Trump himself has indicated this understanding of the term “politically correct” in at least one of his own past tweets, and has done so specifically in the context of Islam. As he tweeted on July 4, 2016, :

With Hillary and Obama, the terrorist attacks will only get worse. Politically correct fools, won’t even call it what it is – RADICAL ISLAM!

That is, to Donald Trump, it is “politically correct” to avoid using the term “RADICAL ISLAM” in reference to terrorist attacks. It would appear to follow that the revised travel ban Donald Trump criticizes for being “politically correct” has, in his view, refrained from using those terms to avoid being offensive.  His Justice Department and revised executive order will not, to use his words, “call it what it is”—and what it is, in reality, is his attempt to act against Islam.

This is, to say the least, problematic for the government’s position in the travel ban litigation. The Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld an injunction against the ban in IRAP v. Trump on the basis that even the revised ban “in context drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination.” The President’s position, as evidenced by his latest tweets read in the context of his earlier tweets, appears to be that the revised ban has not made its religious animus clear enough.

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