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The center right’s simple message for Trump: it didn’t have to be this way

GOP Senators Hold News Conference On Guantanamo Detention Facility Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Democrats have been shouting down President Donald Trump’s executive actions since day one. Republicans, expectedly, have been more divided.

In the face of an executive order effectively banning all Syrian refugees from entering the United States, as well as a visa restriction to seven majority-Muslim nations for 90 days, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have kept mum. But a growing list of stalwart Republicans, including Sen. John McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham, have broken ranks, decrying a discriminatory and potentially harmful migration policy.

Now their voices are being echoed in the media among center-right columnists. They were never fans of Trump, but on Tuesday, two of them amped up their critiques to scalding levels, declaring that Trump is a threat not only to the Republican Party but to democracy.

Trump is not a Republican, New York Times conservative columnist David Brooks wrote Tuesday:

In the first place, the Trump administration is not a Republican administration; it is an ethnic nationalist administration. Trump insulted both parties equally in his Inaugural Address. The Bannonites are utterly crushing the Republican regulars when it comes to actual policy making.

But beyond party affiliation, Trump’s leadership is incompetent — and dangerous, Michael Gerson of the Washington Post wrote:

American leaders, Democratic and Republican, have believed that a world where the realm of freedom is growing is more prosperous and secure; a world where freedom is retreating is more dangerous. The reason is not mystical. Dictators tend to be belligerent. Governments accountable to their people are generally more peaceful.

Trump’s visa and refugee ban, touted as a safety measure, has proven to be a disruptive force in many lives. Gerson calls it easy fodder for radical recruiters. “When some radical cleric in, say, Central Asia, says, ‘The new American president hates Islam,’ he does not require a conspiracy theory to support his claim,” Gerson writes.

The images are clear. Airports have filled with protesters as people sit detained for hours, turned away at the border or stuck abroad, unable to return their lives and jobs. Others are grounded in the United States, unsure if they will be able to come back to the country if they leave.

“I have lived here for 10 years. I pay taxes. I volunteer. I belong to this community,” one Iraqi national stuck in Seattle told Vox.

If Trump’s policy continues, these are the stories Americans will soon become accustomed to, Brooks writes in his scathing review of Trump’s policy:

It is hard to think of any administration in recent memory, on any level, whose identity is so tainted by cruelty. The Trump administration is often harsh and never kind. It is quick to inflict suffering on the 8-year-old Syrian girl who’s been bombed and strafed and lost her dad. Its deportation vows mean that in the years ahead, the TV screens will be filled with weeping families being pulled apart.

The message from the center right is simple: It didn’t have to be this way. Security has proven to be a top issue for many Americans. With homegrown attacks both in the United States and abroad, it’s not surprising that 80 percent of American voters said terrorism was among their top voting issues going into the 2016 election.

But Gerson, Brooks, and the Republicans beginning to speak out in protest are saying Trump’s new policy only elevates that fear — it doesn’t alleviate it.

“When Ronald Reagan spoke on foreign policy, tyrants sat uneasy on their thrones and dissidents and refugees took heart,” Gerson writes. “When Donald Trump speaks on foreign policy, tyrants rest easier and dissidents and refugees lose hope.”

Watch: Donald Trump's executive order, explained

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