Donald Trump has taken what for him is merely the logical final step in his descent into the fever swamp of demagoguery over Muslims, here and abroad.
On Monday he called for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on," according to a campaign press release.
He means tourism, too, in case you were wondering.
But of course Trump himself already thinks he knows what is "going on": Muslims — including those who live here — hate America and can't be trusted.
"Without looking at the various polling data, it is obvious to anybody the hatred is beyond comprehension," Trump is quoted in the release as saying. "Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine."
It would be tempting to believe that Trump's latest broadside on Muslims is merely a sign of his slippage in some polls. Ominously, however, CNN reported Monday that "Donald Trump's support continues to grow among those who say they are likely to participate in February's Iowa presidential caucuses."
So his brutal rhetoric coupled with the terrorist attack in San Bernardino may actually be helping his cause.
Trump's proposal is, to put it plainly, outrageous.
Halting immigration and travel from a particular nation would be extraordinary enough, but under certain circumstances there might at least be reason for considering it.
But a "total and complete shutdown" of all people who belong to one of the world's major religions? It's a shocking idea that not only would bar the majority of people from many countries but result in crude discrimination among citizens of dozens of other nations who might seek entry, too.
Ironically, just one day before Trump's proposal, President Obama warned in an address from the Oval Office that "we cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam. That, too, is what groups like ISIL want. ISIL does not speak for Islam. They are thugs and killers, part of a cult of death, and they account for a tiny fraction of more than a billion Muslims around the world — including millions of patriotic Muslim Americans who reject their hateful ideology."
"If we're to succeed in defeating terrorism," Obama added, "we must enlist Muslim communities as some of our strongest allies, rather than push them away through suspicion and hate."
The president is right. Trump appears determined to denigrate Muslims in general and to play into the hands of Islamic radicals who portray the West as the implacable foe of true Muslims everywhere. As support for his latest plan, Trump cited an online survey by the Center for Security Policy that claims "significant minorities" of Muslims in the U.S. "embrace supremacist notions that could pose a threat to America's security and its constitutional form of government."
We have no idea if the poll is accurate. But even assuming that some minority fraction of U.S. Muslims does not fully embrace Western freedoms, it would not justify discarding the American value of equality before the law and adopting policies guaranteed to stoke grievances and terrorism itself.
Trump has conducted a shabby, nasty campaign, and his latest plan is an exclamation point on it.
— The Denver Post