Since the announcement of his presidential candidacy back in June, Donald Trump has made a habit of saying whatever comes his lunatic mind, whenever it happens to occur to him. His run for the highest office in the land has been as unhinged as it's been unscripted, which seems to be part of the appeal. It's also been consistently unapologetic—from the early days, when he couldn't utter a sentence without deeply offending Mexicans, to just a week ago, when he used a 95-minute rant at an Iowa community college to compare Dr. Ben Carson to a child molester.
In that regard, the things that come out of Trump's mouth shouldn't surprise us anymore. And yet somehow, he manages to find a way. In separate interviews with Sean Hannity of Fox News, on Morning Joe, and with Yahoo, Trump has been dropping his latest unshocking shockers, declaring that in the wake of last Friday's horrific attack on Paris, the war on terror may require even further surveillance of people in the US. Some people, anyway. Namely, Muslims.Specifically, Trump wouldn't rule out closing some mosques, requiring Muslims to carry special ID inside the U.S. border, or creating a database to track members of the one billion member religion. Also on the table: warrantless searches. "We have no choice," he told Hannity.He hammered similar themes in a chat with Yahoo Politics' Hunter Walker. "We're going to have to do things that we never did before," Trump said of his plan to deal with Muslims in the US, acknowledging "Some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule.""Certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy. We're going to have to do things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago," he added.If some of this sounds familiar, that's because it is. In 2011, it was revealed that the New York Police Department's demographics unit was spying on Muslim neighborhoods in the city, tracking where they shopped, lived, and worked in a database with assistance from the CIA. Members of the unit went undercover to infiltrate Muslim student groups, and monitor sermons in mosques. After a torrent of lawsuits and community complaints, the program was shuttered in 2014, much to Trump's apparent chagrin.
The tough talk on the topic of Muslims is hardly limited to Trump. Since Friday's attacks, many, if not most, of the Republican presidential candidates have been thumping their chests in a pissing match that's turned the party's primary race into a game of Who's Toughest on Terror. Florida's absentee Senator Marco Rubio believes we're enmeshed in a "clash of civilizations" with radical Muslim terrorists who "hate us because of our values." Ohio Governor John Kasich wants to create a new government agency that promotes Judeo-Christian values. Mike Huckabee continues to be Mike Huckabee.The rhetoric burning off the GOP's overheated engine mirrors a growing Islamophobia that has spread quickly across the country in the wake of the bloodshed in Paris. In Texas, vandals ripped up a copy of the Koran and flung poop at a mosque. At a movie theater in New York City, a medical student was shouted down for texting by a paranoid moviegoer who thought he was up to something more sinister. (The texter, it turns out, was a Texas-born Catholic who just happened to not be white.)At last count 30 US governors wanted to ban the resettlement of Syrian refugees in their respective states, although it's not clear that's actually legal. Perhaps most notably, David Bowers, the Democratic mayor of Roanoke, Virginia, asked that the relocation of Syrian refugees to his city be suspended, citing internment camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II as a justification. A surprising number of Americans might actually agree: An NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll released this week found that 56 percent of US voters disapprove of the government's plans to accept more Syrian refugees; meanwhile, 81 percent support extensive surveillance aimed at preventing terrorist attacks.With his latest fomenting, Trump may be just taking the pulse of the American people who, polls also show, are eager to hear him out. He is The Zelig of the American Id. Sometimes, in the face of terror, that even trumps American values.Follow Brian McManus on Twitter.