Clinton pivots on ‘radical Islamism’

Clinton pivots on ‘radical Islamism’
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Revealing her more hawkish side, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMark Cuban says he's decided not to run for president Trump official criticizes ex-Clinton spokesman over defunding police tweet Poll: Biden leads Trump, Cunningham neck and neck with Tillis in North Carolina MORE on Monday made a significant pivot by using the term “radical Islamism” to describe the terror threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Clinton, after coming under criticism from Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal plan to contain Washington protests employs 7,600 personnel: report GOP Rep calls on primary opponent to condemn campaign surrogate's racist video Tennessee court rules all registered voters can obtain mail-in ballots due to COVID-19 MORE, said she was “happy to say either” radical jihadism — a term she has used before — or radical Islamism to describe terrorist groups.


“I think they mean the same thing,” Clinton said, adding that from her perspective, “It matters what we do more than what we say.”

The fight over the term took on a new dimension after a gunman killed 49 people at an Orlando, Fla., nightclub early Sunday morning. The man pledged allegiance to ISIS during the attack, underlining the threat to the homeland from homegrown terrorism inspired by the foreign group.

Democratic strategists said Clinton’s choice of words represented a significant alteration to her message, and Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, immediately took credit for it.

“I have been hitting Obama and Crooked Hillary hard on not using the term Radical Islamic Terror,” he tweeted. “Hillary just broke — said she would now use!”

Later, he blasted Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, in a speech in New Hampshire while again taking credit for the shift.

“Hillary Clinton — for months and despite so many attacks ­— repeatedly refused to even say the words ‘radical Islam,’ until I challenged her yesterday to say the words or leave the race,” Trump said. “However, Hillary Clinton — who has been forced to say the words today after policies she supports have caused us so much damage — still has no clue what radical Islam is and won’t speak honestly about what it is.”

Clinton’s use of the phrase on Monday also created a contrast with President Obama, who has refused to use the term.

Asked Monday about why Obama chooses not to use the terminology, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said it “only gives the terrorists what they want, which is legitimacy, undermining relations with Muslims fighting terrorism at home and abroad.

“Many of those organizations pervert the religion of Islam to justify their murderous, nihilistic agenda,” Earnest said. “The president has said that on multiple occasions. He has been very blunt about what those organizations are trying to do.”

But he said groups like ISIS, which the Orlando shooter pledged allegiance to before the attack, are “trying to claim the mantle of Islam" by calling themselves holy warriors fighting the U.S.

“They’re wrong about that,” Earnest said. “That is a false agenda; that is a myth. That is not true.”

There was nuance in Clinton’s own words on Monday.

The term “radical Islamism” is different from the “radical Islam” phrase used by Trump and many Republicans.

“Islamism” is the term many academics use to describe “political Islam,” or Islam as an ideology, rather than Islam as a religion.

Clinton also didn’t use the term during a speech on Monday afternoon that was focused on the Orlando shooting.

That said, Democrats said her decision to use the phrase “radical Islamism” in the earlier interviews was significant.

“This is communications 101: Don’t alienate your audience,” said Democratic strategist Christy Setzer. “Clinton knows there’s a certain percentage of voters who won’t hear anything out of her mouth unless she specifically uses that phrase, so why should she limit her potential vote share? This isn’t an issue pivot — she’s not changing her stance on how to prevent another Orlando — but a message pivot, to say, ‘I don’t care what you call it, but here’s how to combat it.’ ”

“I’m glad HRC used the term radical Islam,” added one Clinton surrogate. “It would be tone deaf not to. … I think Americans want to hear it, [and] also, why give [Trump] that to pick on? Just make it a nonissue.”

After the terror attack in San Bernardino, Calif., late last year, Clinton told ABC’s “This Week” that she refused to use the term “radical Islam” because it unfairly treated the “vast number of Muslims in our country and around the world who are peaceful people.”

She said using the term is akin to “declaring war against a religion.”

She also argued that it “helps to create this clash of civilizations that is actually a recruiting tool for ISIS and other radical jihadists who use this as a way of saying, ‘We are in a war against the West — you must join us.’ ”

On Monday, Clinton purposely aimed to call Trump out, an aide said in an email.

“She insisted today that she won't declare war against an entire religion the way that Trump has, but she isn't going to let us be distracted with semantic games,” the aide said. “The real question is, what's your plan? And he clearly does not have one.”