Political Notebook

Dan Walters: Trump’s not only offender

Someday, we may know what truly motivated real estate tycoon Donald Trump to seek the presidency.

Did he really see himself in the White House? Was it just another exercise in flamboyant self-promotion? Was it a cosmic joke, pulling everyone’s chain for laughs? Or, as some have suggested, was it a ploy to help Hillary Clinton become president by poisoning the Republican image?

Whatever his motives, we must now take him at face value, which means he richly deserves the scorn being heaped on him for his outrageously racist comments about banning Muslims in the wake of the mass shooting spree in San Bernardino that claimed the lives of 14.

As much as we may fear ISIS and other Muslim extremists, Trump’s critics tell us, we must uphold American values of religious tolerance, civil liberties and the rule of law.

Yes we must, but we should also recognize that many politicians, pundits and editorialists who are rightfully denouncing Trump’s disregard of those values are also willing to ignore them when they believe their causes are virtuous.

Some self-proclaimed liberals, for example, are clamoring to deny the ability to own firearms to those whose names appear on the “no-fly list” of potential terrorists.

That list itself violates a bedrock American principle by essentially – and secretly – convicting persons of being terrorist threats without any due process.

The list’s 700,000 names are riddled with errors, as many on it – including the late Ted Kennedy – learned to their dismay.

Do we really want to use such a blacklist to deprive people of another constitutional right?

Meanwhile, Sen. Dianne Feinstein is introducing a bill that would require social media companies to report “knowledge of any terrorist activity.”

“We’re in a new age where terrorist groups like ISIL are using social media to reinvent how they recruit and plot attacks,” Feinstein said, using an alternative acronym for the Islamic State.

Silicon Valley executives have worried aloud, with good reason, that adopting such an intrusive tool would compromise the privacy rights of Internet users.

The same hypocritical attitude arises on other issues, implying that it’s all right to violate rights and punish groups that aren’t politically fashionable at the moment.

Such intolerance is rampant on today’s college campuses, while adult politicians pass laws to penalize smokers, law-abiding gun owners and those who oppose abortion – such as the new California law that requires clinics for pregnant women operated by the latter to tell their clients about abortions.

“Never underestimate the coercive power of the central state in the service of good,” Gov. Jerry Brown – who signed that coercive, anti-free speech abortion law – said the other day while attending a high-profile conference on climate change in Paris.

The “good” to which Brown referred obviously is reducing carbon emissions. He has portrayed them as an existential threat to humankind that, he implies, justifies using coercive power.

However, curbing the coercive power of the central state and elevating individual rights is what the American experiment is all about. And Trump’s blanket condemnation of everyone practicing a particular religion is by no means an isolated example of un-American intolerance.