May 29, 2017


Trump Finally Understands Something (William Saletan, 5/29/17, Slate)

As a presidential candidate, Trump claimed that when President Obama and Hillary Clinton avoided language about Islamic violence, they weren't just being cowardly or dishonest. He suggested that they didn't use the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism" because they didn't understand the connection between terrorism and its religious context. Clinton "has no clue what radical Islam is," Trump asserted after last year's terror attack in Orlando. "She is in total denial ... When it comes to radical Islamic terrorism, ignorance is not bliss--it's deadly." Several of Trump's Republican presidential rivals--Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Rick Santorum--agreed that Obama and Clinton didn't get it.

Other Republicans disagreed. Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and Lindsey Graham shared Trump's distaste for Obama's and Clinton's policies. But these Republicans said it was wise to distinguish Islam from terror. "Presidents can't just say anything they want. It has consequences, here and around the world," Rubio explained during a primary debate. "We're going to have to work with the Jordanian kingdom. We're going to have to work with the Saudis. We're going to have to work with the Gulf kingdoms. We're going to have to work with the Egyptians ... We are going to have to work with people of the Muslim faith, even as Islam itself faces a serious crisis within it of radicalization."

That's exactly how Obama and Clinton explained their thinking. They saw how much murder was being committed in Islam's name. They refused to echo that language, precisely because they understood that the goal of Muslim terrorists was to persuade other Muslims that Islam sanctioned terrorism. But this line of thinking by Obama and Clinton was lost on--or ignored by--conservative pundits and politicians. During the campaign, friends of mine seriously asked whether Obama understood the relationship between Islam and terrorism.

Thanks to Trump's Middle Eastern trip, I no longer have to defend Obama's judgment. I can point instead to Trump. He has come around, in effect, to Obama's position.

Posted by at May 29, 2017 7:35 AM