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Obama and Trump Are ‘Misunderestimating’ the American People

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As the week began, I planned to write this column about some implications of Barack Obama’s Sunday-night Oval Office address. I noted that he devoted about one-fifth of this 13-minute speech to pleas that Americans not discriminate against Muslims.

“It is the responsibility of all Americans — of every faith — to reject discrimination,” he said. “It’s our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim Americans should somehow be treated differently.”

At one level, this is an anodyne statement. As a general proposition, discrimination by religion is against the best in American tradition and the letter of American law. George W. Bush, you might recall, made similar statements in the days after September 11, 2001.

But as events have shown then and since, both presidents “misunderestimated” — to use a verb apparently coined by Bush — the American people.

Yes, there have been incidents here and there when Americans have acted violently or rudely to people they have perceived to be Muslim. But they are exceedingly rare in a nation of 322 million people. Government statistics show that “hate crimes” are directed much more frequently against Jews, the target of prejudice throughout the ages, than against Muslims.

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