A day after 49 people lost their lives in the worst shooting in U.S. history, Republicans continue to steer the debate towards terminology.
Like he has done with every terrorist attack before, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s response to the shooting in Orlando was to denounce President Obama and Hillary Clinton’s unwillingness to use the words “radical Islamic terrorism” when referring to terror attacks, rather than to offer any plausible solutions to terrorist threats.
After praising himself by tweeting, “Appreciate the congrats for being right on Islamic terrorism,” Trump quickly moved to President Obama’s choice of language, tweeting “Is President Obama going to finally mention the words radical Islamic terrorism? If he doesn’t he should immediately resign in disgrace!”
Effectively, President Obama did not mutter the words “Islamic terrorism” during his White House address on the Orlando shooting. The president has made a point of not using the words, stating that the term would imply Islam is the problem, and not a small group of “killers” and “thugs.” Obama has stuck to this unofficial policy since the early days of his presidency.
“We cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam. That, too, is what groups like ISIL want,” he has said.
Hillary Clinton had followed Obama’s lead, often opting to use the term “radical jihad.” That was until today, when Clinton stated on CNN’s New day that although she believes what we do matters more than what we say, she is willing to use the term “radical Islamism.”
“It mattered we got bin Laden, not what name we called him. I have clearly said we — whether you call it radical jihadism or radical Islamism, I’m happy to say either. I think they mean the same thing.”
As she has done in the past, Clinton called to restore the ban on assault weapons, and cautioned of the danger of demonizing an entire religion, saying that “plays right into ISIS’ hands.”
This was a smart decision from Clinton, as it takes away Trump’s main talking point when discussing terrorist attacks, and it will force him to get specific about solutions.
Trump was ready to focus on Clinton’s unwillingness to use his preferred term when he spoke on CNN’s New Day after Clinton’s appearance.
“The first thing you need is a president that will mention the problem. And he won’t even mention what the problem is,” Trump said, before claiming that Clinton was “afraid to use [the term] because President Obama doesn’t want her to.”
When host Christine Romans informed him that Clinton had just used the term, Trump was unprepared to give a response that made sense. “She would love to use those words because almost everybody agrees that those words should be used” he said.
Trump then went on Fox & Friends and kept taking about terminology. Now not able to use Clinton as an example, he continued his attack on President Obama, even suggesting Obama could be complicit on the Orlando tragedy. “People cannot believe, they cannot believe that President. “Obama is acting the way he acts and he can’t even mention the words radical Islamic terrorism. There’s something going on. It’s inconceivable. There’s something going on,” he said.
The issue of the words used to describe terrorist attacks has been used to avoid real debates about national security for a while. Rather than offer solutions, Republicans have focused on emphasizing the words President Obama and Democrats use. Former Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have also repeatedly pointed out Obama’s unwillingness to use the term.
While Trump obviously would rather not get into the details of how he would solve the terrorism issue, he has repeatedly offered one solution, to ban Muslim immigration. Of course, the Orlando gunman was born in New York, just like Trump, and his proposed ban would have made absolutely no difference in the tragedy’s outcome.
Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Pittsburgh, PA June 11, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk