Trump uses Orlando to sharpen 2016 presidential divide

The deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history has put the contrasting worldviews of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPelosi on power in DC: 'You have to seize it' Cuba readies for life without Castro Chelsea Clinton: Pics of Trump getting vaccinated would help him 'claim credit' MORE and Donald TrumpDonald TrumpDC goes to the dogs — Major and Champ, that is Biden on refugee cap: 'We couldn't do two things at once' Taylor Greene defends 'America First' effort, pushes back on critics MORE on vivid display.

Clinton, Trump and President Obama, who spoke earlier in the day, all agreed that the United States faces a serious challenge from terrorism, especially in the form of “lone wolf” attacks. But the common ground ended there.


Trump used a lengthy address in New Hampshire to position himself as a teller of hard truths who is defying “political correctness” to keep America safe.

He defended his earlier, controversial call for a temporary ban on noncitizen Muslims entering the United States, but also broadened his argument, suggesting that the American way of life is imperiled by large-scale legal immigration. The presumptive GOP presidential nominee noted that the gunman’s parents immigrated to the U.S. from Afghanistan.

“The bottom line is that the only reason the killer was in America in the first place was because we allowed his family to come here. That is a fact, and it’s a fact we need to talk about,” Trump said.

“We have a dysfunctional immigration system which does not permit us to know who we let into our country, and it does not permit us to protect our citizens.”

Clinton and Obama, by contrast, offered remarks that were more circumspect in tone and specifics. 

Clinton, who revels in her reputation as a deliberative problem-solver, laid out a three-point plan to address the terrorist threat during a speech before supporters in Cleveland.

One prong of that approach, she said, would be to strengthen international alliances rather than erode them. The likely Democratic nominee also insisted that the gravity of the threat required “clear eyes, steady hands” — a jab at the more visceral, impulsive Trump.

Like Obama, she made the argument that tighter gun controls would help ameliorate the threat from homegrown terrorists. 

Democrats believe they have a politically potent case to make on this issue, especially in the wake of atrocities such as this weekend’s mass killing at an Orlando gay nightclub or the attacks last December in San Bernardino, Calif. Those attacks killed 49 and 14, respectively. 

“I believe weapons of war have no place on our streets,” Clinton said. 

The man identified as the shooter in Orlando, Omar Mateen, reportedly used an AR-15 assault-style rifle, while the perpetrators in San Bernardino had collected a fearsome arsenal. 

Referring to the apparent incongruity of people on anti-terrorism “no-fly” lists being able to legally purchase weapons, Clinton added, “Yes, if you’re too dangerous to get on a plane, you are too dangerous to buy a gun in America.”

The FBI said Mateen had been investigated and placed on a watch list in 2013, but was taken off in 2014. Director James Comey declined to specify whether Mateen had been on the no-fly list.

Obama had earlier described the most lax elements of the country’s gun laws as “crazy,” reprising a theme he has sounded repeatedly throughout his presidency, especially in the wake of mass killings.

But if Clinton and Obama were on the same page in that regard, there were also some distinctions between them. Obama once again declined to use the term “radical Islam,” or anything close to it, instead decrying the “perversion” of the religion.

Clinton told NBC’s “Today” show Monday morning that she had no problem with the term “radical Islamism.” 

“To me, radical jihadism, radical Islamism, I think they mean the same thing,” she said. “I’m happy to say either, but that’s not the point. All this talk and demagoguery and rhetoric is not going to solve the problem.”

Yet even as Clinton asserted semantic debates were a distraction, her own actions told a different story. 

In that same “Today” interview, the former secretary of State said she would not use the term “radical Islam” — as distinct from “radical Islamism” — because “I am not going to demonize and demagogue and declare war on an entire religion. That’s just plain dangerous, and it plays into ISIS’s hand.”

Clinton’s argument is that “Islamism” refers to a brand of theocratic political thought, whereas “Islam” refers to the religion itself. 

She did not use either term in her Cleveland address, however.

Trump made no such distinctions. The second sentence of his prepared remarks in New Hampshire was, “This was going to be a speech on Hillary Clinton and how bad a president, especially in these times of Radical Islamic Terrorism, she would be.” 

He also took credit for Clinton’s move toward similar terminology, saying she had “repeatedly refused to even say the words ‘radical Islam’ until I challenged her yesterday to say the words or leave the race.”

Trump used the term “radical Islam,” or variants of it, more than 15 times in his speech.

The GOP standard-bearer also made the case that the U.S. immigration system is too easily taken advantage of by people with malevolent intent.

“All of the September 11th hijackers were issued visas,” he said. “Large numbers of Somali refugees in Minnesota have tried to join ISIS. The Boston bombers came here through political asylum,” he said.

Politically, the atrocity in Orlando has transformed the agenda. Trump had been on the defensive over allegations that his Trump University was little more than a scam. That story has now all but disappeared. Terrorism and homeland security are now certain to be major issues in November’s presidential election.

Trump appears to be banking on the prospect that voters will shift toward him in the wake of the Orlando attack, much as they did following the mass killing in San Bernardino. Whether a general election audience will see his approach as positively as did the GOP primary electorate, however, remains to be seen.

While Trump’s views have a clear appeal to conservatives and anti-immigration hard-liners, opponents say they hear echoes of nativism — reminiscent of far-right movements in Europe — in the way he raises a specter over all forms of immigration.

“We have to control the amount of future immigration into this country to prevent large pockets of radicalization from forming inside America,” Trump said.

He said Muslim immigration should be halted until the U.S. can “properly and perfectly screen” immigrants to ensure that they won’t engage in terrorism and that their children won’t be radicalized.

Notably, a brief statement from the GOP Speaker, Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanOn The Money: Senate confirms Gensler to lead SEC | Senate GOP to face off over earmarks next week | Top Republican on House tax panel to retire Trump faces test of power with early endorsements Lobbying world MORE (Wis.), on the Orlando attacks did not include any reference to Trump’s proposed ban, or to the issue of legal immigration.

Trump seems unlikely to be swayed, however. His long-standing campaign slogan is “Make America great again.” Since the Orlando attacks, he has added to that an additional phrase: “Make America safe again.”