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Examining Where Things Stand With The Administration's Travel Ban

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

So the back and forth about the travel ban has brought more than just confusion for those affected. It's produced wide-ranging political implications. With us here in the studio now to discuss it is Matt Lewis. He's a senior columnist for The Daily Beast and the author of the book "Too Dumb To Fail," which is about the Republican Party in this moment and the future.

Hey, Matt. Thanks for coming in.

MATT LEWIS: Thank you.

MARTIN: So as we heard, there is some legal limbo. A Washington state judge has blocked the president's travel ban. And Trump has gone after this particular judge personally. Tamara read that tweet, Trump saying that if something happens, i.e. a terrorist attack, then blame this particular judge. So that puts Mike Pence in a tough spot, having to do some cleanup on the Sunday shows. I want to play a clip from NBC's "Meet The Press" yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MEET THE PRESS")

VICE PRES MIKE PENCE: Well, look, the president of the United States has every right to criticize the other two branches of government. And we have a long tradition of that in this country.

MARTIN: Do you see it that way, Matt, as just a healthy back and forth that regularly takes place between the branches of government in our democracy?

LEWIS: Well, I think that there is that healthy back and forth. I don't think this was entirely healthy. Calling him a so-called judge questions the legitimacy of, you know, the judiciary branch, which I think brings problems about separation of - balance of power, separation of government.

The founding fathers and their wisdom created a system that pit ambition against ambition. And when you have a sweeping executive order that sort of comes out of nowhere - I know he did campaign on a lot of this. But he could have rolled it out, I think, in a much better way. This wasn't legislation that passed. It's certainly within the purview of the court to do what they're doing.

You can challenge that. You can say it's a bad idea. But to say a so-called judge I think is a bridge too far.

MARTIN: There's been somewhat - mixed reaction from Republicans about this, talking about - really the rollout has been the target of much of the criticism.

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was on CNN's "State Of The Union." And he said he wasn't even going to consider any legislation that might respond to the travel ban. Let's take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "STATE OF THE UNION")

MITCH MCCONNELL: The courts are going to decide whether the executive order the president issued is valid or not. And I think proper vetting is important to the American people. But there's a fine line here between proper vetting and interfering with the kind of travel or suggesting some kind of religious test.

MARTIN: It sounds like Mitch McConnell's walking a fine line. I mean, what do you hear in that?

LEWIS: Yeah.

MARTIN: Do you hear an implicit criticism?

LEWIS: Yeah. Oh, yeah, I mean, I think Donald Trump has put mainstream conservatives and establishment Republicans in a very difficult spot. On one hand, he is your party's president. You want to support him, early on especially - still in the honeymoon phase, believe it or not. And Donald Trump has done some great - if you're a movement conservative - from picking, you know, Gorsuch - Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court - a great pick if you're a conservative - things like taking on the regulatory state, you really like. And then, he goes out and does some other things that are needlessly provocative - his rhetoric. And, you know, what do you say if you're Mitch McConnell or Mike Pence? I'd be willing to bet that under any other circumstance, Mike Pence would be sitting here saying exactly what I'm saying. But he works for the president.

MARTIN: So what do you think of Donald Trump's honeymoon period, as you have phrased it? I mean, no doubt, he's trying to give the impression of, he's getting things done, signing a lot of executive orders. Some of it has been appealing to more mainstream conservatives. Other actions have not.

LEWIS: Well, I've been searching and trying to read books that Steve Bannon has read or other books that I've read that remind me of what the Donald Trump playbook is right now. They're clearly flooding the zone. They clearly have a bias toward action. I think there is some chaos theory at play.

There's a book called "Confrontational Politics" by a guy named HL Richardson, who started Gun Owners of America, that I think lays out this strategy very well. The theory is always be on offense. Fighting is good. Fighting is not something - most Americans, we don't like to fight. We like peace, tranquility. I think there's a theory that says, you're always in combat, and don't back down. Enjoy it. Like it. That's how you get change.

MARTIN: Matt Lewis writes a column for The Daily Beast. He's also an analyst for CNN. Matt, thanks so much for coming in.

LEWIS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.