Tom McCarthy in New York, Ben Jacobs in Washington, Ryan Felton in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Kate Lamb in Jakarta, Indonesia
Tuesday 8 December 2015 15.19 EST
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was disowned by his own party’s top leadership on Tuesday and faced calls to drop his White House bid as the world reacted with outrage to his plan for a ban on Muslims entering the United States.
The billionaire frontrunner’s plan tipped the Republican presidential race into chaos, with party leaders from the chairman of the Republican National Committee to former US vice-president Dick Cheney condemning the idea as “un-American”.
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Trump toured the US television studios in unrepentant form, unmoved by the gale of criticism that followed his speech aboard an aircraft carrier on Monday evening. Speaking aboard the USS Yorktown, he acknowledged that his proposal was “probably not politically correct”, before whipping up a cheering crowd and adding: “But. I. Don’t. Care.”
“We need a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States while we figure out what the hell is going on,” Trump said. “We are out of control.”
But for perhaps the first time of the election cycle, Trump seemed at risk of being drowned out by voices raised on all sides in protest against him.
Horrified Muslims in the United States heard in Trump’s rhetoric an echo of Nazism, and they joined the Republican condemnation of Trump as un-American.
“He’s trampling on our constitution and packaging it as a snake oil cure for our security concerns,” said Kassem Allie, executive administrator of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan, one of the largest mosques in the US. “He’s using fear-mongering reminiscent of Nazi Germany and Stalin.”
A significant silence that had followed past outrageous statements by Trump – in which Republican elders have declined direct confrontation, and the targets of his remarks have seemed humiliated or intimidated – seemed finally shattered at the billionaire’s latest offense.
Republican establishment figures from Cheney to rivals like Jeb Bush and RNC chairman Reince Priebus ramped up their condemnations.
“Well, I think this whole notion that somehow we need to say no more Muslims and just ban a whole religion goes against everything we stand for and believe in,” Cheney told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. “I mean, religious freedom’s been a very important part of our, our history.”
House speaker Paul Ryan said Trump’s remarks violated the constitution and were “not who we are as a party”.
“This is not conservatism,” the Wisconsin representative said, adding: “Some of our best and biggest allies in this struggle and fight against radical Islam terror are Muslims.”
Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee for president, backed Ryan, his former running mate, adding on Twitter: “On Muslims, @realDonaldTrump fired before aiming…@SpeakerRyan is on target.”
Party chairman Preibus said of Trump’s remarks: “I don’t agree. We need to aggressively take on radical Islamic terrorism but not at the expense of our American values.”
There were signs that Trump was not deaf to the Republican insurrection. He appeared to make a veiled threat on Twitter on Tuesday to run as an independent. “A new poll indicates that 68% of my supporters would vote for me if I departed the GOP & ran as an independent,” he wrote.
While such a bid would face logistical barriers that differ from state to state, experts have said an independent run would be possible for a candidate with money to spend on lawyers and signature-collection campaigns. Such a move would have a potentially disastrous effect on Republican hopes of winning back the White House.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest called Trump’s remarks “incendiary” and “morally reprehensible”, adding: “What Donald Trump said yesterday disqualifies him from serving as president.”
In Congress, a Florida Republican spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives to make a passionate demand for Trump to quit the presidential race.
“It should be heartbreaking to every American that we have a frontrunner in the presidential race that suggests there will be a religious test for anybody who wishes to come to our shores,” said Representative David Jolly. “It is an affront to the principles upon which our nation was founded.”
Bush, a would-be presidential rival of Trump who has been trailing him badly in the polls, said the real estate mogul was “unhinged”. An outside political group supporting Bush, meanwhile, announced a $3.7m ad campaign featuring a video calling Trump “impulsive and reckless”.
The outrage was not limited to the United States. British prime minister David Cameron issued a statement that said he “completely disagrees” with Trump’s comments and regards them as “divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong”.
Ukip leader Nigel Farage released a statement saying Trump had “gone too far”.
Muslim groups around the world expressing outrage at Trump’s proposal included Dar al-Ifta, the state religious body in Egypt.
“Such hostile attitudes towards Islam and Muslims will increase tensions within the American society of which Muslims represent around 8 million peaceful and loyal American citizens,” the group said in a statement.
The call was echoed by Muslims in the United States.
“This statement is pretty much un-American, and goes against every value and principle that we hold dear as American citizens,” said Adam Soltani, executive of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Oklahoma. “And it’s not a stance we should be taking as a country, and it’s definitely not a stance that an individual running for the highest office in our country should adopt.”
Trump followed up the speech with a media blitz Tuesday morning, in which he claimed the mantle of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, citing the internment of Japanese Americans during the second world war as precedent for his policy.
“This is a president highly respected by all, he did the same thing,” Trump said on ABC News. “If you look at what he was doing, it was far worse.”
However, Rick Wilson, a Republican strategist who has been a vocal critic of Trump, told the Guardian: “There was a whiff of fascism around this guy. Now there’s a reek of fascism”.
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Wilson noted with horror that Trump has been evasive on whether his ban applies to American citizens, something which would be grotesquely unconstitutional. “I wanted to hear that explicitly stated,” Wilson said. “American citizens are exempted from this, and in order to satisfy his supporters, he can’t and won’t say that.”
Wilson thought that Trump posed a profound challenge for the future of the Republican party. “We are going to end up having a point where there’s going to be a ‘come to Jesus’ moment about whether this party can survive Donald Trump.” Wilson also noted: “A lot of Trump’s fans and supporters don’t want the party to survive. They want to form a populist, nationalist party that isn’t about limited government and the constitution.”
When the point comes, Wilson said, “we have to decide if this going to be the troll party or the Republican party”.
Reactions elsewhere in the national politics ranged from amused to exasperated. The Philadelphia Daily News put a picture of Trump delivering a stiff wave on its cover, with the caption “The New Furor”.
The Democratic mayor of St Petersburg, Florida, Rick Kriseman, tweeted that Trump was not welcome in the city. “I am hereby barring Donald Trump from entering St. Petersburg until we fully understand the dangerous threat posed by all Trumps,” he wrote.
In a meeting with local church groups in Baltimore, Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders expressed general frustration with the conversation around Trump.
Sanders was questioned in a press conference about why his staff had instructed journalists not to ask him about him about Islamic State.
“What about Isis, guys?” Sanders asked as he laughed and he turned to the black church leaders standing next to him. “How often are these people talking about the issues that we talked about today?”
Source: Donald Trump’s Muslim ban proposal throws Republican party into chaos | US news | The Guardian