In the wake of the Orlando attack, we have seen the revival of an old debate in which Obama and the left refuse to name this enemy. Either they can’t even say the word “terrorist,” or they can’t use any modifier that implies that Islam has anything to do with it.
After a large and deadly attack such as the one in Orlando, where it was clear almost immediately that the perpetrator was an Islamic (or Islamicist, or radical Islamic) terrorist, it is glaringly apparent that Obama is refusing to call the attack what it is. And this is a weakness that Donald Trump is determined to exploit, and rightly so.
Does it matter what we call perpetrators such as Omar Mateen? Obviously, both Obama and Trump—coming from opposite sides of the question—agree on the fact that it does matter, or this rhetorical battle wouldn’t be going on. By using the words he uses, Trump wants to signal his resolve to oppose Islamic terrorism, as well as opposition to PC leftist language. What does Obama want to signal? Deference to the Muslim community, emphasis on his underlying policy goal of increased gun control, and minimization of the hugely increased threat from ISIS that occurred on his watch while he poo-pooed it.
The always-intelligent Richard Fernandez has this to say about it:
The administration has a security model that is not really working. FBI are looking for ordinary criminals and “hate mongers” and, armed with these descriptions, keep letting the usual suspects go because they don’t fit the bill. Yet time and again they come back as a surprise. Maybe the greatest trick Islamic terrorism ever pulled was convincing Obama it didn’t exist.
That last sentence is a variation on a quote from Baudelaire (see this). The photo that goes with the article has the caption “Can’t solve a problem you can’t define.” That is probably true, but I don’t think that Islamic terrorism actually “convinced Obama it didn’t exist.” Perhaps Fernandez is being sarcastic there, but at any rate it is likely that Obama—and certainly the FBI—know full well that it exists and that it is here. Obama doesn’t want to admit it for the reasons I’ve stated above. And the FBI and other agencies are somewhat hamstrung by the guidelines laid done from the top, plus a very real dilemma involving how proactive they can be and still preserve our liberties.
I doubt that most of the people who work for the FBI are unaware of the danger of radicalized Muslim jihadis in our midst. But what are they to do if a person has engaged in “mere” associations and “mere words,” and knowing they have to be careful to protect that person’s rights (especially for US citizens such as the Orlando perpetrator)? Marco Rubio (remember him?) hit the nail on the head about this when speaking of the Orlando massacre:
There are two parts to the problem of jihadis in the US. The first is the nomenclature; what we call people is not just semantics, it signifies the way we are looking at the issue and the way we plan to approach it. The second is what we will actually do about it. If you remember the Patriot Act that was passed in the wake of 9/11, it brought up the dilemmas inherent in that second part—the action part—dilemmas we’ve been fighting over ever since.
Barack Obama has been deficient in both regards, speech and action. Donald Trump seems to be strong on the first part, but is somewhat vague and generic on the second. Hillary Clinton, Trump’s most likely opponent in the presidential race, seemed to be following the basic Obama playbook but has suddenly switched to tougher talk, perhaps in an attempt to match Trump.
One other fact about the Orlando massacre is that, unlike other terrorist attacks on our soil, it targeted a very specific group: gay people. This is a group that has been allied much more with the Democrats and the left than it has with the right, but the left doesn’t seem all that energized to protect them, and that has not gone unnoticed:
Oh sure, all year I’ve been playing the “Bernie or Hillary?” game with all the other default-Democrats in my social and professional circles. But this is no longer some kind of game. Our lives are on the line. Although I voted for Hillary in the primary, I now cringe inwardly with shame and embarrassment at having done so, and in November I will vote for Trump.
Why? Yes, I know that Trump is an a**hole, Trump is a clown, Trump is a motormouth buffoon. You don’t have to convince me of that. But he’s also the only person saying anything about putting the brakes on Islamic extremism, and in light of what happened last night in Orlando, suddenly that is the only issue that really matters when it comes to the health, well-being and safety of the queer community.
Ted Cruz—another man who wanted to be president—has astutely called the left out on this very point:
If you’re a Democratic politician and you really want to stand for LGBT, show real courage and stand up against the vicious ideology that has targeted our fellow Americans for murder,” he said.
Most of them—including the president—seem either unwilling or unable to do that, despite paying lip service to caring about the LGBT community.
[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]DONATE
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