- Democratic candidate addresses Orlando attack in speech
- Trump delivers separate speech on security, terrorism
Hillary Clinton said the country must respond to the deadly shooting rampage in Florida by a suspected Islamic State sympathizer by restricting availability of military-style weapons and choking off the ability of extremists to spread their “twisted ideology.”
In a speech Monday in Cleveland, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee directly challenged the approach being advocated by her Republican counterpart, Donald Trump, saying scapegoating Muslims or weakening U.S. alliances will only make it easier for radical jihadists recruit followers and spread terror.
Taking the stage a little more than an hour before the Republican began speaking on the same topic in New Hampshire, Clinton sought to draw both stylistic and substantive contrasts with Trump. She spoke in calm and deliberate tones about a broad approach that involved bolstering domestic security and working with allies to stem the spread of extremism. She said the terrorist threat is "metastasizing" and that if elected she would make identifying and stopping lone wolves claiming allegiance to radical groups a "top priority."
She also had harsh words for U.S. allies in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, saying they must stop their citizens from funding terrorist organizations and end support for schools and mosques that teach radical Islamist ideology.
“An attack on any American is an attack on all Americans,” Clinton said in the address, her first battleground-state appearance since clinching the Democratic presidential nomination last Tuesday. She said the U.S. must recall the civic spirit and solidarity that emerged immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks, a time when “we had each others’ backs.”
She spoke a day after 49 people were killed by the gunman armed with a military-style semi-automatic who opened fire inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando at about 2 a.m. on Sunday. The attack has reframed the debate in the presidential race around the threat from extremists at home and the regulation of firearms in the U.S., two issues on which Trump and Clinton have sharp differences.
Trump delivered his own address on terrorism and national security at St. Anselm College’s Institute of Politics in New Hampshire in which he called Clinton clueless about the threat from Islamic terrorism and vowed to restrict immigration to prevent infiltration of extremists. He rejected her call for more restrictive gun laws, saying it would strip Americans of their self-defenses.
He also attacked President Barack Obama, saying “he’s failed us and failed us badly.” Earlier Monday he also raised questions -- in ominous and barely veiled terms -- about the president’s motives in a round of television interviews Monday morning. “We’re led by a man that either is not tough, not smart, or he’s got something else in mind,” Trump said Monday on Fox News. He twice said there was “something going on.”
Both candidates scrapped their original plans for campaign events on Monday to focus on their responses to the terrorist attack in Orlando.
Clinton said she would make a priority of stopping “lone wolf” terrorists by creating a group of federal and local officials and private industry to develop ways to track potentially radicalized individuals and counter extremist propaganda. While the gunman who opened fire in the Orlando club is dead, “the virus that poisoned his mind remains very much alive.”
She said it is crucial to engage and not alienate Muslims in the U.S. "We should avoid eroding trust in that community," she said. Inflammatory anti-Muslim rhetoric and threatening to bans Muslim immigration or engage in special surveillance of Muslims "hurts the vast majority of Muslims who love freedom and hate terror."
"It plays right into the terrorists’ hands," Clinton said.
The gunman called 911 moments before the shooting at the gay club and pledged loyalty to Islamic State, according to the FBI. Obama said at the White House Monday that there was no direct evidence that the gunman was directed by an extremist group or was part of a larger plot. Family members described 29-year-old Omar Mateen, the U.S.-born son of an Afghan immigrant, as mentally unstable and driven by anti-gay sentiments.