A war of words is shaping up between Republican front runner Donald Trump and former Vice President Dick Cheney after Trump’s latest proposal to block all Muslims from entering the United States.
And it looks like Cheney may be the latest member of the GOP mainstream establishment interested in taking Trump down.
Trump defended his plan for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” by comparing it with President Franklin Roosevelt’s decision to inter Japanese Americans during World War II.
“This is a president who was highly respected by all,” Trump said today. “If you look at what he was doing, it was far worse.”
The idea announced by Trump Monday evening drew swift rebukes, including from Cheney who said it was un-American and an attack on religious liberty. Cheney is a conservative hawk who is believed to have been the driving force behind the decision to invade Iraq in 2003.
“I think this whole notion that we can just say no more Muslims, and just ban a whole religion goes against everything we stand for and believe in,” Cheney said. “Religious freedom has been a very important part of our history and where we came from. … It’s a mistaken notion.”
Legal experts in the United States said that the idea would be unconstitutional.
But Trump didn’t back down, saying that banning all Muslims “until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on” is warranted after attacks by Muslim extremists in Paris and last week’s shooting in San Bernardino, California, that killed 14.
“We are now at war,” Trump said, adding: “We have a president who doesn’t want to say that.”
Trump’s proposed ban would apply to immigrants and visitors alike, a sweeping prohibition affecting all adherents of a religion practiced by more than a billion people worldwide.
Trump announced his plan to cheers and applause at a Monday evening rally in South Carolina.
“Until we are able to determine and understand this problem an.d the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life,” Trump said in a written statement.
At the rally he warned that without drastic action, “it’s going to get worse and worse, you’re going to have more World Trade Centers.”
Rod Weader, a 68-year-old real estate agent from North Charleston who attended the rally and said he agreed with Trump’s plan “150 percent.”
“As he says, we have to find out who they are and why they are here,” he said.
Since the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and wounded hundreds more, a number of Republican presidential contenders have proposed restrictions on Syrian refugees — with several suggesting preference for Christians seeking asylum — and tighter surveillance in the U.S.
But Trump’s proposed ban goes much further, and beyond Cheney, other Republican rivals were quick to reject the latest provocation from a candidate who has delivered no shortage of them.
“Donald Trump is unhinged,” Jeb Bush said via Twitter. “His ‘policy’ proposals are not serious.”
John Kasich slammed Trump’s “outrageous divisiveness,” while a more measured Ted Cruz, who has always been cautious about upsetting Trump’s supporters, said, “Well, that is not my policy.”
Trump’s plan also drew criticism from the heads of the Republican Party in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, the first three states to vote in next year’s presidential primaries.
“It is un-Republican. It is unconstitutional. And it is un-American,” said Jennifer Horn, chairwoman of the Republican Party of New Hampshire.
Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said Trump’s proposed ban would apply to “everybody,” including Muslims seeking immigration visas as well as tourists seeking to enter the country.
In an interview on Fox News, Trump said Muslim members of the U.S. armed forces would “come home” and that his plan would “not apply to people living in the country.”
In the late 1800s, Congress passed legislation broadly aimed at halting Chinese immigration. But, said Leti Volpp, a University of California expert on immigration law, “there is no precedent for a religious litmus test for admitting immigrants into the United States.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article