A terrorist shot and killed 49 innocent Americans in Orlando Sunday morning. After the carnage, the political food fight started.
On the right, people fault Islamic extremism. When President Obama refuses to use the term "radical Islamic terrorism" that gives conservatives a chance to pounce. I know — I've been one of them. We argue that if politicians aren't willing to use the term Islamic extremism, then they can't defeat it. It's true: You have to know who your enemy is, before you can vanquish your enemy. But using the right words is not a game-changer.
Donald Trump drew water from that well in a statement Sunday. "President Obama disgracefully refused to even say the words 'Radical Islam.' For that reason alone, he should step down," he said. "If Hillary Clinton, after this attack, still cannot say the two words 'Radical Islam' she should get out of this race for the Presidency."
For a guy who wrote "The Art of the Deal," Trump should know better than to set such a low bar. On Monday, Hillary Clinton uttered the words "radical Islamism." Of course. As secretary of state, Clinton was loath to use such language because she needed to build bridges with Muslim nations. As a presidential candidate, she has to speak plainly. So she did what she had to do.
Also on Monday, Trump again called for a temporary ban on immigration from Muslim nations that have exported terrorism. Problem: The Orlando shooter, like Trump, was born in New York. (His parents were immigrants, but then so was Trump's mother.) Simply by suggesting such a ban, Trump feeds the sense of unfair treatment that can spark radicalism in American Muslims.
Trump also called for better screening of refugees and immigrants, which would not be a bad thing, but again, better screening would not have prevented slaughter by an American. And it's hard to separate Trump's call for better screening from his call for a ban on Muslim immigration.
Democrats go after gun owners the way Trump targets Muslims. Clinton pronounced Monday as "not a day for politics." Then she called for a ban on "assault weapons." The Orlando shooter did use an AR-15 rifle, but, as gun owners have convinced me, a ban on one weapon only steers gun aficionados to weapons with similar firepower. Calls for such bans do not hinder criminals and do radicalize resourceful gun enthusiasts. Congratulations go to Clinton. She just sold thousands of AR-15s.
Clinton made another suggestion: "If the FBI is watching you for suspected terrorist links, you shouldn't be able to just go buy a gun with no questions asked." Problem: Such a law would not have prevented the Orlando shooter from purchasing guns. In 2013 and 2014 the FBI dropped investigations of Omar Mateen, who bought the weapons he used days before the shooting. Besides, if Congress were to pass such a law, civil rights organizations would get it tossed for violating due-process protections — not to mention racial profiling.
Both sides proclaim: Why can't everyone be more like us? The world would be so much safer. Problem: That approach doesn't make the world safer.