President Barack Obama ripped into Donald Trump today over the Republican’s insistence that he use the phrase ‘radical Islam’ to describe terrorists like the one in Orlando.
Obama said Trump’s ‘yapping’ was nothing more than a ‘political distraction’ and defining an entire religion by the behavior of terrorists who are perverting it would only fuel hate and make America less safe.
‘There’s no magic to the phrase radical Islam. It’s a political talking point. It’s not a strategy,’ Obama said. ‘And the reason I am careful about how I describe this threat has nothing to do with political correctness and everything to do with actually defeating extremism.’
The president delivered the scathing rebuke a day after Hillary Clinton, who was busy going after Trump in her own remarks when the president spoke, said she’d be happy to say ‘radical Islamism’ but it wouldn’t ‘solve the problem.’
Tearing down Trump and other Republicans who have made his refusal to use the phrase a main component of their argument against his strategy to defeat ISIS, Obama today asked, ‘What exactly would using this label accomplish?
‘What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to trying to kill Americans, would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this?
He said, ‘The answer is none of the above.’
‘Calling a threat by a a different name does not make it go away, this is a political distraction,’ Obama said.
His tone turning from one of bewilderment to mockery, Obama said, ‘Not once has an advisor of mine said, “Man, if you really use that phrase we’re gonna turn this around.”
‘So someone seriously thinks that we don’t know who we’re fighting? If there’s anyone out there who thinks we’re confused about who are enemies are, that would come as a surprise to the thousands of terrorists who we’ve taken off the battlefield.
Continuing, he said, ‘If the implication is that those of us up there, and the thousands of people around the country and around the world who are working to defeat ISIL, aren’t taking the fight seriously’ that would also come as a surprise.
That would come as a surprise, he said, to members of the military who have spent the last seven and a half years dismantling terrorist groups and the law enforcement and intelligence officers who have spent countless hours disrupting plots.
‘They know full well who the enemy is.’
The president said that until now, he and Republicans had been arguing about labels and rhetoric.
‘And that kind of yapping has not prevented folks across government from doing their jobs,’ he said.
Obama has addressed the topic before.
In light of Trump’s recent comments–on Sunday he should Obama should use the term or resign–and remarks the president revisited his reasoning today.
Groups like ISIS and al Qaeda want to expand the fight into a war between Islam and the West, he said. ‘They want to claim they are true leaders of over a billion Muslims who reject crazy notions.’
‘And if we fall into the trap of painting all Muslims with a broad brush and imply that we are at war with an entire religion, then we are doing the terrorists’ work for them,’ he said.
While his remarks were seemingly pointed at Trump, who he referred to directly as the presumptive Republican nominee once and indirectly as he derided ‘politicians who tweet and appear on cable news shows,’ the White House said afterward that Obama was talking to all Republicans who are angry he’s not using the phrase.
‘This is not, unfortunately about just one politician, in the Republican Party who is reacting out of fear,’ White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters. ‘He’s not the only one, and that is the problem.’
The president opened up his remarks today by saying that authorities still have not uncovered information indicating that Orlando attack was directed by a major terrorist group.
It is increasingly clear, Obama said, that the killer took in terrorist propaganda online and instigated the attack himself.
The shooter was an ‘angry, disturbed, unstable young man who became radicalized,’ Obama said in a statement to the press.
Obama had just finished meeting with FBI Chief James Comey, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and other members of his national security team.
The meeting was scheduled before the attack but Obama said in his statement that the terrible event shaped the talk.