Stoddard: Obama doesn’t get it — but Trump doesn’t either

Stoddard: Obama doesn’t get it — but Trump doesn’t either
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Donald TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 panel plans to subpoena Trump lawyer who advised on how to overturn election Texans chairman apologizes for 'China virus' remark Biden invokes Trump in bid to boost McAuliffe ahead of Election Day MORE is right. President Obama has directed more anger toward him than toward Omar Mateen, the savage killer who took 49 lives and ruined far more Sunday in Orlando in the largest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001. And Obama’s display of rage, in and of itself, is a failure of leadership.

Glaring in anger, the president on Tuesday dismissed the idea that he should declare such attackers radical Islamist terrorists and said Trump’s proposal to temporarily bar Muslims from entering the United States was “doing the terrorists’ work for them.”


Yet Trump failed the leadership test as well. 

Not only did the presumptive GOP presidential nominee call on Obama to resign if he won’t use the term “radical Islamic terrorism,” he then implied — repeatedly — that Obama was perhaps complicit in the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria-inspired attack. Trump said the president “is not tough, not smart, or he’s got something else in mind” and doubled down later, saying the president “doesn’t get it, or he gets it better than anybody understands.” After Obama’s angry comments, Trump released a statement saying the president “continues to prioritize our enemies over our allies and, for that matter, the American people.”

Republican leaders in Congress stopped taking questions Tuesday about Trump, but Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanJuan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Cheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' Cheney allies flock to her defense against Trump challenge MORE (R-Wis.) did say a ban on Muslim immigration was not “in our country’s interest. I do not think it is reflective of our principles, not just as a party but as a country.” Though Trump had said Mateen was born in “Afghan,” he was actually born in Queens, N.Y., as was Trump. Therefore, he would not have been stopped by a ban.

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe real reason Biden is going to the COP26 climate summit Super PACs release ad campaign hitting Vance over past comments on Trump I voted for Trump in 2020 — he proved to be the ultimate RINO in 2021 MORE’s response was largely a rejection of Trump’s ban as well, and her calls for “an intelligence surge” and a “dedicated team” to stop lone wolves are not new policies.

A recent CBS poll shows a majority of Republicans support Trump’s proposed ban but 62 percent of respondents overall oppose it, and respondents disapproved of Trump’s response to the Orlando attack 51 percent to 25 percent. The president’s response fared better than Trump’s or Clinton’s, with 44 percent approving and 34 percent disapproving. Clinton’s response left people indifferent, with a slight approval of 36 percent to 34 percent. Eight in 10 Americans are now concerned about more attacks from residents here, and 51 percent are very concerned.

Americans are rightfully frightened, and Obama’s reflexively vague response to the massacre is likely to scare them even more. Patterns have emerged: Obama was far more animated talking about fighting bigotry against LGBT Americans and advocating for new gun laws than he was about the killer he said was radicalized by “extremist information,” and he labeled ISIS “contained” hours before the attacks in Paris in November, then berated Republicans for their responses.

After the San Bernardino, Calif., and Orlando attacks, radicalization next door and the prospects of an attack any time and anywhere is our new reality in this country. The FBI interviewed Mateen three times in 2013 and 2014; there are currently more than 900 ISIS-related investigations underway in all 50 states and the threat of ISIS has metastasized on Obama’s watch — he is accountable. 

After the Paris attacks, Obama was asked why he refused to adjust his strategy against ISIS, and he said, “What I’m not interested in doing is posing or pursuing some notion of American leadership or America winning, or whatever slogans they come up with that has no relation to what is actually going to work to protect the American people. ... I’m too busy for that.”

Many Americans, even Democrats who want more gun control, think Obama’s strategy against ISIS isn’t working at home. Sadly the two candidates to replace him aren’t inspiring much confidence either.

Stoddard is an associate editor of The Hill.