After seven and a half years and the nation’s most deadly mass shooting in a gay club in Orlando, President Obama has had enough.
In a fiery address at the Treasury Department on Tuesday, Obama aggressively pushed back on his critics who have taken him to task for not saying the phrase: “radical Islamic terror.”
“For a while now, the main contribution of some of my friends on the other side of the aisle have made in the fight against ISIL is to criticize this administration and me for not using the phrase “radical islam,” that’s the key, they tell us,” Obama said. “We can’t beat ISIL unless we call them radical islamists. When 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?”
“The answer is none of the above,” Obama resolutely answered his own questions. “Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away. This is a political distraction.”
Above and beyond his defiance at the semantics of the phrase, Obama directly addressed Trump’s proposals from a foreign policy speech on Monday, saying that the ideas would generate more hate of the United States.
“We now have proposals from the presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States to bar all muslims from immigrating into America,” Obama said. “Language that singles out immigrants and suggests entire religious communities are complicit in violence. Where does this stop? The Orlando killer, one of the San Bernardino killers, the Fort Hood killer, they were all U.S. citizens.”
Trump suggested in a speech on Monday that under his administration, immigration from areas of the world that have harbored terror in the past, would be suspended.
It is unclear if that would include countries like France and Belgium which have seen extremist violence in the past year.
“Are we going to start treating all Muslim Americans differently?” Obama questioned. “Are we going to start subjecting them to special surveillance? Are we going to start discriminating them because of their faith? we’ve heard these suggestions during the course of this campaign.”
He proceeded to call out the Republicans on the Hill who have (sometimes begrudgingly) endorsed Donald Trump, making them think long and hard about whether this is a man they think they can support.
“Do Republican officials actually agree with this?” he continued. “Because that’s not the America we want. It doesn’t reflect our democratic ideals. It will make us less safe. Fueling ISIL’s notion that the West hates Muslims.”
Obama’s remarks echoed those of presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton,who also attempted to neutralize the complaints about “radical Islamic terror,” on Monday, calling them irrelevant to the issue at stake.
(Trump, of course, took credit for getting “Crooked Hillary” to use this phrase.)
This was perhaps Obama’s strongest condemnation of Trump, who launched his political career by suggesting that the President was a secret Muslim and demanding the release of his birth certificate.
The President said it “would come as a surprise” to those who have been fighting ISIS if the implication in Trump’s remarks was that they weren’t “taking the fight seriously.” Obama claimed that Trump knew better and that the real estate mogul was just using this argument over word usage as a distraction from actually having to come up with solutions to the problem of extremism.
“So do the intelligence and law enforcement officers who spent countless hours disrupting plots. And protecting all Americans. Including politicians who tweet. And appear on cable news shows. They know who the nature of the enemy is. So there’s no magic to the phrase “radical Islam.” It’s a political talking point. It’s not a strategy.”
When he finished speaking, Obama turned away from the podium and walked out.
The GOP nomineee later issued a statement to the AP in which he said Obama "claims to know our enemy, and yet he continues to prioritize our enemy over our allies, and for that matter, the American people."