President Barack Obama shattered Republicans’ obsession with the term “radical Islam” — and the president’s own apparent reluctance to use the term — with a blistering speech on Tuesday.
Republicans have repeatedly drawn attention to the fact that Obama does not characterize lone wolf terror attacks, such as what happened in San Bernardino, California, in December of 2015 and most recently in Orlando, Florida, as acts of “radical Islam.”
Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, immediately launched a number of attacks against Obama after the shooting in Orlando, Florida, even insinuating several times that Obama may be somehow involved in the shootings.
“Look, we’re led by a man that either is not tough, not smart, or he’s got something else in mind. And the something else in mind — you know, people can’t believe it. People cannot, they cannot believe that President Obama is acting the way he acts and can’t even mention the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ There’s something going on. It’s inconceivable. There’s something going on.”
President Obama addressed the most recent shooting for a second time two days after it occurred, speaking from the Treasury Department in the aftermath of an act so violent it left 49 victims in its wake. Without ever mentioning Donald Trump by name, Obama drew a marked contrast between his response and what America could get with a potential Donald Trump presidency, warning about potential “sloppiness” when addressing crises.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) June 12, 2016
Obama also addressed the repeated Republican outcry over his unwillingness to use the words “radical Islamic terrorism,” wondering what Republicans believe doing so will accomplish.
“What exactly would using this label accomplish? What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to try to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this?
“The answer is none of the above. Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away.”
In addition to blasting Obama while insinuating that the current sitting President of the United States may have some secret connections to a terrorist organization, Trump also attempted to capitalize on Sunday’s tragic shooting in Orlando by taking credit for his previous call for a temporary ban on all Muslims entering the United States. Trump has reiterated the proposal, which even fellow Republicans find repugnant, although Oman Mateen, the Orlando shooter, was actually born in Trump’s home state of New York.
Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 12, 2016
Obama stood firm in his decision to not use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” although he has never shied away from classifying acts of terror as acts of terror.
“Not once has an adviser of mine said, ‘Man, if we really use that phrase, we’re gonna turn this whole thing around.’ Not once.”
Instead, Obama insisted that Republicans’ outcry of rage over semantics was a “political distraction” to take watchful eyes off of their own unwillingness to vote on any gun control measures, even those that would limit access to military-grade weapons or disallow people on the terror watch list from purchasing weapons.
And then, still without mentioning Donald Trump by name, Obama tore into Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims, warning people of “sloppiness of who, exactly, we are fighting.”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 13, 2016
Obama clearly noted the fact that both Mateen and Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the San Bernardino shooters, were U.S.-born citizens. With that being a well-established fact, Obama questioned whether Republican leadership would then want to resort to treating Muslim Americans differently, subjecting them to extra surveillance or discriminating against them based on their religion.
“Where does this stop?” Obama asked.
Furthermore, Obama wondered if other Republican leaders would eventually stand up against their presumptive nominee’s proposals, asking, “Do Republican officials actually agree with this?”
The president closed with a warning against inflammatory rhetoric and proposed policies designed to discriminate against a group based on their religion.
“We have gone through moments in our history before when we acted out of fear, and we came to regret it,” Obama said.
[Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images News]