Counterterrorism

What’s the Matter with Visiting Kansas? Part II

By Nora Ellingsen, Benjamin Wittes
Tuesday, November 15, 2016, 4:36 PM

Several weeks ago, we suggested President Obama take a trip to Kansas to visit a small town reeling from an attempted violent attack on a Muslim immigrant community there. At that time, three men had recently been arrested after compiling explosive to incite a “bloodbath” in the small Midwestern city.

We’d like to amend our suggestion: President Obama should still visit Garden City, Kansas, but even more important, President-elect Trump should go with him.

In the days since the election, hate crimes, including hate crimes specifically against Muslims have surged. While at least one of the social media reports has turned out to be a hoax, data released by the FBI last week indicates that anti-Muslim hate crimes increased by 67 percent from 2014 to 2015. The government’s numbers hold with data reported in September by the New York Times—America is experiencing the highest level of anti-Muslim hate crime since the year following 9/11.

Donald Trump says he wants it to stop. On 60 Minutes the other night, when asked about the harassment being faced by Latinos and Muslims following his election, Trump urged supporters to, “Stop it.” That’s a start. But it’s only a start for a man who ran a campaign flush with hateful rhetoric.

This is something that both the current and the incoming president should do, together if possible.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Obama plans to spend more time preparing his successor for the White House than is normally called for during the course of a transition. Pleading with the American public for a peaceful transition of power, he has emphasized that he is rooting for Mr. Trump: “My number one priority in the next two months is to try to facilitate a transition that ensures our president-elect is successful.” For President Obama, a trip to Garden City is an opportunity to help Trump begin transitioning from a highly divisive figure into a man who, as president, will protect Muslim citizens and residents of country.

Meanwhile, for Trump, a man that ISIL previously featured in the group’s recruitment videos, a trip to the Midwest could be an opportunity to begin to establishing both the national security bona fides he will need as the next Commander in Chief. More importantly, if Mr. Trump does, as he claims, want to send a message to his supporters to stop the harassment, this trip would be a vehicle for that message and a way support a community that has born the brunt of his rhetoric.

And at a time when both men emphasize that they want unity, a joint trip to Garden City would be an opportunity to show some.