White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is under fire for his use of the phrase “travel ban” and his claims that this is what the White House team has been calling Trump’s two executive orders on travel back in February. Calling it this is bad rhetorical move by the president’s messaging shop.
During an exchange at the daily press briefing at the White House, Spicer claimed that the administration has been “pretty consistent” in referring to the measure, which is demonstrably false.
White House press secretary today: “It’s not a travel ban… not a ban”
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) January 31, 2017
.@seanspicer still referring to the EO limiting foreign travelers and refugees as a “travel ban” after saying it wasn’t a travel ban.
— Victoria Macchi (@VMMacchi) May 8, 2017
.@kwelkernbc Spicer today: “We’ve been consistent” in calling it a “travel ban”
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) May 8, 2017
In addition to the bad news cycle that comes with misrepresenting one’s own previous remarks, trying to turn around and sell the policy now as a “travel ban” is just bad branding.
First off, it’s not a “Muslim Ban” (for the umpteenth time).
In reality, the executive order is a prudential halt on immigration from a list of countries that was put together by the Obama administration; includes no explicit religious test whatsoever; grandfathers in people with green cards (even though it doesn’t really have to); does not include any religious test whatsoever (which the 9th Circuit got around by cobbling together the president’s campaign rhetoric into an opinion); and does not apply to countries like Indonesia and India, which hold a quarter of the world’s Muslim population.
Secondly, it’s not a “ban” in the permanent sense of that word and those (until now) wielding it to imply.
At best, the executive orders heralded a temporary moratorium, or a cool-off, if that’s too much of a mouthful. Rather, the branding of a “travel ban” just sounds like a sterilized acceptance of its opponents’ premises that it’s a really a Muslim ban.
Furthermore, this seeming acceptance – in message, at least – gives fuel to the opponents’ arguments that the E.O. is really just a Muslim ban in disguise. And it does all this for a pre-determined amount of time with the aim of replacing the suspension with an updated vetting system for the sake of national security.
Yes, the attack on Trump’s order as a “Muslim ban” is intellectually dishonest, but trying to baptize that language into calling it a travel ban and pushing that phrase as the preferred terminology is just bad branding.