Presidential Politics Driving Tough Talk on Syrian Refugees Crisis

By David Cruz

In a year from now, when the nation’s collective attention is focused elsewhere, some of the candidates running for president may cringe at the tone of some comments they’ve made about Syrian refugees coming to America. But today, as the Republicans pivot to a conservative primary voter base, they appear to be trying to one up one another on just how restrictive they’re prepared to be.

In the wake of the Paris attacks and sketchy reports of falsified passports being used by potential terrorists, the question of who is safe to allow into this country has become the litmus tests by which the GOP’s hopefuls, expect to be judged. And their responses have raised some eyebrows.

“In fact one of the Paris attackers was one of those refugees and … it’s time to wake up and smell the falafel,” said Mike Huckabee this week. “Something isn’t going rightin this immigration policy. We’re supporting terrorism.”

Ben Carson had a particularly cringe-worthy analogy. “If there’s a rabid dog running around in your neighborhood, you’re probably not gonna assume something good about that dog. And you’re probably gonna put your children out of the way. It doesn’t mean that you hate all dogs,” he said. “I love dogs and I’m gonna call the humane society and hopefully, they can come take this dog away.”

New Jersey governor Chris Christie continued his march to the right with his answer to a radio show hosts question about where he would draw the line on Syrian refugees.

“The fact is that we need appropriate vetting and I don’t think orphans under five should be admitted into the United States at this point,” said the governor.

Even Jeb Bush, one of the so-called establishment candidate, suggested this week that all refugees were not created equal, that those trying to come to the U-S should meet a religious standard, mainly, no Muslims.

“Well, if you’re a Christian you can prove you’re a Christian,” he told reporters this week. When I think you can prove it. If you can’t prove it, then you err on the side of caution.

And then there’s Donald Trump, who this week seemed to suggest a Muslim refugee database might be a good idea, sounding the alarm via Instagram.

“Syrians are now being caught at the southern border, just like I said. They’re gonna be pouring in,” he said. “We don’t know who they are. Could be ISIS. We need a new president, fast!”

New Jersey has admitted around 75 Syrian refugees this year, mostly women and children, hardly a stampede worthy of such heated rhetoric, you might think. But, this is the political season and Christie has found that his tough talk is resonating with critical voters on the right.

“It’s all about Republican electoral politics,” reasoned Politifax Editor Nick Acocella. “Who votes in Republican primaries. I mean the people who vote in Republican primaries are to the right of the general election electorate, and they’re all trying to appeal to that demographic. What I don’t understand is how the Republican party get back to the center for the general election.

This week, the Republican-led House with, it should be noted at least 50 Democratic votes, pased a bill tightening restrictions on Syrian refugees, which prompted a poromise of a veto from the president. For Syrian activist Hamid Imam, who works with a number of Syrian refugee organizations, all the talk has been difficult to take.

“In my opinion, Chris Christie is trying to win the right wing and he is doing that by competing with Donald Trump and Ben Carson for the most hateful speech against people who are really vulnerable,” he said. “I hope that president Obama stands by his pledge to veto any legislation, and the victory that the Congress did yesterday was a victory over orphans, over women, over people who ave lost everything and now we are throwing them back into the hands of Isis and Assad.”

Democrats like Hillary Clinton have warned against rejecting American ideals in the face of terror threats, but even that has been drowned out by the drumbeat of fear and loathing that seems to have flourished in the wake of recent events. Christie will speak before the council on foreign relations next week where he is expected to double down on his increasingly hardline positions.