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September 21st, 2017

Insight

The Orlando Massacre and the Presidential Election

Bernard Goldberg

By Bernard Goldberg

Published June 15, 2016

Nothing is immune from politics these days, not even a horrific massacre in Orlando. And so the worst mass shooting in U.S. history just might be putting liberals in a tough spot this election year– a kind of moral and political predicament.

The Muslim gunman who swore allegiance to ISIS didn’t simply put Americans in his crosshairs. It was gay Americans that he was targeting. So slogans, like those from Donald Trump, that he would “quickly and decisively bomb the hell out of ISIS,” may no longer sound like crazy, right-wing warmongering to some liberals.

And surveillance of American Muslims along with sting operations that target them, which have been long opposed by liberals, may not sound like such a bad idea after all.

And they may even start to wonder, after all we’ve been through, why their liberal hero, President Barack Obama, still can’t bring himself to utter the words, “radical Islamic terrorism.”

In his statement Sunday afternoon, the president, who couldn’t get those words out, managed yet again to convey his unhappiness with our current gun laws. “To actively do nothing is a decision as well,” he said.

This prompted an op-ed that stuck it to Mr. Obama’s seeming inability to find fault — in himself. “Yes, to have actively done nothing in Syria over more than five years of war — so allowing part of the country to become an ISIS stronghold, contributing to a massive refugee crisis in Europe, acquiescing to slaughter and displacement on a devastating scale, undermining America’s word in the world, and granting open season for President Vladimir Putin to strut his stuff — amounts to the greatest foreign policy failure of the Obama administration. It has made the world far more dangerous.”

If a conservative at the Wall Street Journal had written this, we’d be saying, “What else is new?” But it came not from the Right, but from the reliably liberal Roger Cohen, the New York Times columnist.

No one can say with any degree of certainty how the Orlando murders will influence voters in the presidential election. But the shooting is highlighting a divide between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

While Hillary Clinton has essentially been running for Barack Obama’s third term, Donald Trump, from the time he entered the race, has taken a hard line on terrorism. After Orlando, he put out several tweets essentially saying I told you so. “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism. I don’t want congrats. I want toughness & vigilance.“ And in a statement he said, “I am trying to save lives and prevent the next terrorist attack. We can’t afford to be politically correct anymore.”

Hillary Clinton, like President Obama, has refused to utter the words “radical Islamic terrorism,” saying that it’s unfair to paint with “too broad a brush.” After the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, she refused the describe the shooting as an act of “radical Islam.”

“The problem is, that sounds like we are declaring war against a religion,” she said at the time.

But that was before Orlando. So on Monday, after Donald Trump said she should either say the words “Radical Islam” or drop out of the race, Mrs. Clinton, apparently sensing she might be out of sync with the mood of the electorate, decided it was time to ratchet up the rhetoric — and in a series of interviews on Monday she took the leap, saying, “We have to defeat radical jihadist terrorism or radical Islamism, whatever you call it.” It may not sound like much but it was such a departure from what she’s been saying that her words prompted numerous on-line headlines like this one: Hillary Clinton Says the Words ‘Radical Islamism.’

And her spokeswoman added that while Mrs. Clinton “has a comprehensive plan to combat ISIS at home and abroad, Donald Trump put out political attacks, weak platitudes and self-congratulations. Trump has offered to real plans to keep our nation safe and no outreach to the Americans targeted, just insults and attacks.”

But even if Donald Trump is playing on the fears of Americans, those fears are real, Trump or no Trump. If they can hit a dance club in Orlando, why can’t they hit a supermarket in Des Moines? You think conservatives are the only ones thinking about that?

An opinion piece in the Financial Times, while taking a shot at Trump, took note of the power of fear and anger in election year politics. “The presidential election is still five months away, so it is too soon to judge whether the Orlando killings will permanently change the momentum of the campaign. But Mr. Trump is the candidate of fear and anger. And both emotions are now soaring in the wake of the massacre at the Pulse nightclub.”

The column ran under the headline: “Orlando massacre will boost support for Donald Trump.”

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