WASHINGTON — President Obama and Hillary Clinton punched Donald Trump over his Orlando massacre responses on Tuesday, marking their first direct methodical tandem attack aimed at Trump’s bigotry and falsehoods.
It’s a tag team.
In similar speeches delivered at almost the same time, Obama and Clinton also stepped up pressure on Republicans to distance themselves from Trump — a tactic you will be seeing increasingly used to make the GOP even more nervous about down-ballot defeats in November.
In the wake of the mass shooting in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Obama and Clinton canceled their first joint political swing to Green Bay, Wis., on Wednesday.
But they might have gotten just as much work done on Tuesday.
Obama and Clinton bluntly said there were no “magic” words to make terrorism go away — the most cogent response to date to Trump and the other Republican presidential candidates who castigated Obama because he would not say the word “Islamic” when discussing radical terrorists.
After the Orlando shootings, Trump said on Twitter, “Is President Obama going to finally mention the words radical Islamic terrorism? If he doesn’t he should immediately resign in disgrace!”
Obama and Clinton — working together now that she clinched the Democratic nomination and he endorsed her — may have formulated a strategy to strip Trump of this talking point.
Speaking to his National Security team at the Treasury Department, Obama said Republicans have been telling us “we can’t beat ISIL unless we call them ‘radical Islamists.’ What exactly would using this label accomplish? What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to trying 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.”
“. . . So there’s no magic to the phrase ‘radical Islam.’ It’s a political talking point; it’s not a strategy,” Obama said.
On Monday, Clinton showed she was willing to talk about “radical” Islam. She let Trump claim a small victory, at a relatively small cost.
Speaking in Pittsburgh, in battleground Pennsylvania, Clinton said Trump “is fixated on the words ‘radical Islam.’ ”
“I must say, I find this strange. Is Donald Trump suggesting that there are magic words that, once uttered, will stop terrorists from coming after us? Trump, as usual, is obsessed with name-calling,” she said. “From my perspective, it matters what we do, not just what we say.
“. . . I have clearly said that we face terrorist enemies who use a perverted version of Islam to justify slaughtering innocent people. We have to stop them, and we will. So if Donald suggests I won’t call this threat what it is, he hasn’t been listening,” she said.
CALLING OUT REPUBLICANS
Trump, speaking in New Hampshire on Monday, went further than his earlier call for a temporary ban on Muslim immigrants when he said he would halt all immigration from nations associated with terrorism.
Trump made the call for the broader ban even though the Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, was, like Trump, born in New York City. Both are sons of an immigrant mother. Trump’s mother is from Scotland. Trump heads to his golf resort in Scotland later this month.
On Tuesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who has endorsed Trump, once again clearly spoke out against Trump’s major campaign plank. “I do not think a Muslim ban is in our country’s interest,” Ryan said.
Obama and Clinton want to tighten the vise on Republicans from Ryan on down and pressure them to take a stand on Trump.
“Are we going to start treating all Muslim Americans differently?” Obama said. “Are we going to start subjecting them to special surveillance. . . . Do Republican officials actually agree with this?”
Said Clinton, sort of summing up the strategy: “And I have to ask — will responsible Republican leaders stand up to their presumptive nominee?”