President Obama dubbed the debate over the phrase "radical Islam" a "political distraction"

By Tierney McAfee
June 14, 2016 01:45 PM
Time/AP

In an impassioned speech on Sunday’s mass shooting in Orlando, President Obama condemned Donald Trump and other Republicans who have criticized the president’s refusal to speak the words “radical Islam” as the cause of that attack and others.

Obama dubbed the debate over the controversial phrase a “political distraction,” and in an apparent reference to Trump, dismissed the “yapping” from “politicians who tweet.”

“What exactly would using this language accomplish? What exactly would it change?” Obama said Tuesday during remarks at the Treasury Department. “Would it make ISIL less committed to try and 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. Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away.”

“The men and women who put their lives at risk and the Special Forces I ordered to get bin Laden and are now on the ground in Iraq and in Syria – they know full well who the enemy is,” the president continued. “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 what the nature of the enemy is. So there’s no magic to the phrase ‘radical Islam.’ It’s a political talking point.”

Though he didn’t mention Trump by name, Obama referred to the presumptive Republican nominee’s call to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S., saying that “we are now seeing how dangerous this kind of mindset and thinking can be.”

“We are starting to see this kind of rhetoric and loose talk and sloppiness about who we are fighting, where this can lead us,” Obama said.

“If we fall into the trap of painting all Muslims with a broad brush, and implying that we are going to war with an entire religion, then we are doing the terrorists’ work for them,” he continued. “We don’t have religious tests here. If we even abandon those values we will not only make it easier to radicalize people around the world, we will betray … the very things that make us great. We can not let that happen. I will not let that happen.”

“Where does it stop? The Orlando killer, or the San Bernardino killers, the Fort Hood killer – they were all U.S. citizens. Are we going to start treating all Muslim Americans differently? Place them under special surveillance? Discriminate against them because of their faith? Do Republican officials actually agree with this? Because that’s not the America we want. It doesn’t reflect our ideals. It makes Muslim Americans feel like their government has betrayed them.”

Obama noted that there is no “information to indicate that a foreign terrorist group directed the attack in Orlando” and added that it is “increasingly clear” that the shooter, who killed 49 people at a popular gay nightclub on Sunday, was an “extremist” who “took in propaganda over the Internet.” “He appears to have been an angry, disturbed, unstable young man who became radicalized.”

The president also repeated his call for “common-sense” gun measures and urged Congress to renew the assault weapons ban.

“We have to make it harder for people who want to kill Americans to get their hands on weapons of war that let them kill dozens of innocents,” Obama said. “Enough talking about being tough on terrorism. Actually be tough on terrorism.”

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