Hawaii judges insistence that Trumps talk of banning Muslims must be taken literally is a reminder of the enduring power of language
For months, critics of the president have been told that they should take Trumps words seriously, but not literally.
On Wednesday night federal district judge Derrick K Watson refused to take the bait. He insisted that Trumps words on banning Muslims should be taken seriously and literally.
Judge Watson made headlines when he granted a temporary restraining order halting Trumps latest effort to ban entry of people from six predominantly Muslim nations into the United States.
The judge found that the executive order violates the constitutions establishment clause and discriminates against a religious group.
His decision galvanized attention because it set up a new clash between Trump and the judiciary, a clash that the president eagerly took up when he told a large and supportive audience in Nashville, Tennessee, that the judges order striking down what he called a watered down version of the first order was an unprecedented judicial overreach.
Yet as important as substance of the judges decision, and the clash that it foretells, is, what may be even more important is the lesson that it offers about the enduring power of language.
The judge set out to determine if the revised executive order, which now makes no reference to religion, was simply a pretext for an unconstitutional act of religious discrimination. To do so he recalled the many things that the president said about the purpose of the executive order he issued, both before and after his took office.