Thursday, June 16, 2016

TERROR IN AMERICA - President Obama on Trump

"OBAMA CONDEMNS TRUMP" by Julie Hirshfeld Davis & Matt Flegenheimer, San Diego Union-Tribune 6/15/2016

NOTE:  This is from the online version of the newspaper, therefore no article link.

President Barack Obama denounced Donald Trump on Tuesday for his remarks in the aftermath of the massacre in Orlando, Fla., warning that Trump was peddling a “dangerous” mindset that recalled the darkest and most shameful periods in U.S. history.

“We hear language that singles out immigrants and suggests entire religious communities are complicit in violence,” Obama said at the Treasury Department, without mentioning the Republican presidential candidate by name.

His statement, an extraordinary condemnation by a sitting President of a man who is to be the opposing party’s nominee for the White House, came after Obama met with his national security team on the status of the effort against the Islamic State.  Obama said the meeting was dominated by discussion of the Orlando rampage.

“Where does this stop?” Obama said of Trump’s approach, noting that Trump had proposed a ban on admitting Muslims into the U.S., and that the Orlando assailant, like perpetrators of previous domestic terrorist attacks in San Bernardino and Fort Hood, Texas, was a U.S. citizen.  “Are we going to start treating all Muslim-Americans differently?  Are we going to start subjecting them to special surveillance?  Are we going to start discriminating against them because of their faith?” Obama asked, his voice rising with frustration.  “Do Republican officials actually agree with this?  Because that’s not the America we want— it doesn’t reflect our democratic ideals.  It won’t make us more safe.  It will make us less safe.”

Appearing in Pittsburgh as Obama spoke, Hillary Clinton gave a denunciation of her own.  She assailed Trump’s temperament, ridiculing his proposals and arguing that he had failed to meet the gravity of the moment.

“History will remember what we do in this moment,” she told hundreds of supporters inside a union hall, asking “responsible Republican leaders” to join her in condemning Trump.  “What Donald Trump is saying is shameful.”

Trump, unbowed by the criticism, said Obama was coddling terrorists.

“President Obama claims to know our enemy, and yet he continues to prioritize our enemy over our allies and, for that matter, the American people,” he said in a statement Tuesday.  “When I am President, it will always be America first.”

Members of Trump’s party were themselves critical of the candidate’s language and proposals.  House Speaker Paul Ryan said at a news conference Tuesday that Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim immigrants was not in the country’s interest, nor did it reflect the principles of his party.

“There’s a really important distinction that every American needs to keep in mind: This is a war with radical Islam.  It’s not a war with Islam,” Ryan said.  “The vast, vast majority of Muslims in this country and around the world are moderate, they’re peaceful, they’re tolerant, and so they’re among our best allies, among our best resources in this fight against radical Islamic terrorism.”

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., has been among the most outspoken in his party about withholding his endorsement of Trump.  Flake said in a Twitter post that he was “appreciative” that Ryan had spoken out.

Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, declined to talk about Trump, an indication of the precarious position in which Trump has placed Republican elected officials.

Obama rejected criticism from Trump and other Republicans about his refusal to use the term “radical Islam” to describe the Islamic State.  Obama said he would not use the wording because he was unwilling to give the Islamic State the victory of acceptance of its vision that it is the leader of a holy war between Islam and the West.

“If we fall into the trap of painting all Muslims with a broad brush and imply that we are at war with an entire religion, then we are doing the terrorists’ work for them,” Obama said.

During a rally in Greensboro, N.C., hours after Obama’s remarks, Trump offered a brief response.

“I watched President Obama today, and he was more angry at me than he was at the shooter,” Trump said.  “The level of anger, that’s the kind of anger he should have for the shooter and these killers that shouldn’t be here.”

Obama is scheduled to travel to Orlando on Thursday to visit with the surviving victims and the families of those killed.  Obama spoke ominously of the stakes for the nation’s security, and its very identity, if the ideas espoused by Trump and many in the Republican Party are widely accepted.  “We’ve gone through moments in our history before where we acted out of fear, and we came to regret it,” Obama said.  We’ve seen our government mistreat our fellow citizens, and it as been a shameful part of our history.”

Clinton, in a striking departure from her speech Monday, when she refrained from saying Trump’s name and said it was “not a day for politics,” took direct aim Tuesday at his penchant for conspiracy theory.  She reminded the crowd that he was “a leader of the birther movement” questioning Obama’s birthplace.

After the Orlando attack, she noted, Trump suggested on television that Obama sympathized with Islamic terrorists.

“Just think about that for a second,” Clinton said.  “Even in a time of divided politics, this is way beyond anything that should be said by someone running for President of the United States.”

Obama staunchly defended his administration’s approach to countering terrorism, listing gains that the United States has made against the Islamic State in Iraq, Syria and Libya; killing the group’s top leaders, capturing more of its territory and whittling away at its financial resources.

He called on Congress to enact gun restrictions that it has so far resisted, including the resurrection of a ban on assault weapons and a measure that would bar people on “no-fly” lists because of suspected terrorist ties from buying a gun.

Davis and Flegenheimer write for The New York Times.

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