In a storyline that will likely continue to play out over the coming days, the horrific massacre of some 50 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando early Sunday morning by an American man professing allegiance to ISIS continued generating vastly different responses from the two major political parties’ presumptive presidential candidates.
Democrat Hillary Clinton continued to call for “statesmanship” and restraint. In an interview with CBS news Monday morning, she said, “It's a moment for everybody to come together and remember those who have been murdered, stand with every person who is suffering and grieving and then try to figure out what we can do.”
Her Republican rival, by contrast threw restraint to the wind. In the course of an hour or so Monday morning, Donald Trump called in to morning television talk shows with vague insinuations that President Obama was somehow complicit in the Orlando attack, and that American Muslims are aware of other people in the country plotting terror attacks but are unwilling to alert law enforcement.
But perhaps his most remarkable statement was the claim -- offered without a shred of proof -- that there are already “thousands” of terrorists like Orlando killer Omar Mateen in the United States seeking to wreak mayhem on unsuspecting Americans.
“You have thousands of shooters like this out there with the same mentality in this country,” he said in a lengthy interview with Fox News. (It’s at the 2-minute mark in the interview.)
Later in the interview -- and again without offering any basis for his claim -- Trump said that people in the Muslim community knew that Mateen would launch a terror attack but failed to report it, and went on to suggest that the American Muslim community in general is harboring other terrorists.
“There are many, many people out there with worse intentions than this guy had -- worse,” he claimed. “And people in his community in their community, they know who the people are. In some cases, they’re married to them. They know who these people are. Almost in every case they know who they are. They brag about it; they talk about it. People knew that this guy was going to create a bad act.”
“If they don’t turn ‘em in, we are never going to be able to get along,” he said ominously, leaving it to the imagination what the US not “getting along” with its millions of Muslim citizens might look like.
Trump’s comments about President Obama, whom he called “weak,” “a fool,” “incompetent” and more, immediately blew up on social media. In an interview on Fox News, he suggested that Obama was either unable to understand the threat of terrorism or that he understands the danger of terrorist attacks on Americans and is willfully allowing them to take place in order to further some unspecified goal.
“He doesn’t get it or he gets it better than anybody understands—it’s one or the other and either one is unacceptable,” Trump said, to absolutely no pushback from the three Fox hosts who were involved in the conversation.
“Look, we’re led by a man that either is not tough, not smart, or he’s got something else in mind,” the former reality television star added suggestively. “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.”
Trump renewed his claim that Obama’s refusal to use the term “radical Islamic terrorism” is somehow grounds for declaring him unfit for office, and continued blasting Clinton for the same thing.
However, also on Monday morning, Clinton spoke to CBS and said, “To me, ‘radical jihadism,’ ‘radical Islamism,’ I think they mean the same thing. I'm happy to say either,” Clinton said, adding that in her view the important thing is what US leaders do, not what they say.
“All this talk and demagogy and rhetoric is not going to solve the problem,” she said. “I'm not going to demonize and demagogue and declare war on an entire religion. That's just plain dangerous and it plays into ISIS's hands.”