Trump Unhinged, But Clinton's Post-Orlando Speech Also Sparks Concern
Presidential candidates respond to mass shooting at gay club with vows to spy more, bomb more
Though with markedly different tones and levels of aggression, similarities punctuated the manner in which the two leading presidential contenders have responded to the mass shooting at an Orlando gay club—namely, calling for more war and more surveillance.
In Cleveland on Monday, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton condemned the "nightmare that’s become mind-numbingly familiar: Another act of terrorism in a place no one expected," referring to the weekend massacre that left 49 dead.
The 20-minute speech focused largely on gun control, with the former secretary of state calling for a new ban on assault weapons, which was a clear break from presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump—who suggested the tragedy would have been avoided "if you had some guns in that club."
And while much has been made about the disparity between Clinton and Trump's remarks, there was also some notable overlap.
In her speech, Clinton declared, "The attack in Orlando makes it even more clear, we cannot contain this threat. We must defeat it." She then explained how her approach to fighting "radical jihadists" at home would mean more bombing and war in the Middle East and beyond.
"I fear we’ve already begun to enlist the 49 dead into the project of American empire, here and abroad, into the endless, borderless war that began on 9/12."
"We should keep the pressure on ramping up the air campaign, accelerating support for our friends fighting to take and hold ground and pushing our partners in the region to do even more," she said.
In addition to "efforts...on the battlefield," Clinton also announced support for "an intelligence surge to bolster our capabilities across the board with appropriate safeguards here at home."
Surprising no one but outraging many, Trump took advantage of the Orlando tragedy to double-down on his call for an immigration ban on Muslims while vowing, if elected, to increase the military response against the Islamic State and erect an unrivaled surveillance network.
"As President, I will give our intelligence community, law enforcement and military the tools they need to prevent terrorist attacks," Trump declared before a crowd in Manchester, New Hampshire on Monday. "We need an intelligence-gathering system second to none. That includes better cooperation between state, local and federal officials—and with our allies."
"I will have an Attorney General, a Director of National Intelligence, and a Secretary of Defense who will know how to fight the war on Radical Islamic Terrorism—and who will have the support they require to get the job done," he said.
As Intercept journalist Zaid Jilani noted on Monday, "Both candidate’s neglected to consider that no operational links between ISIS and the alleged Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, have been discovered."
Contrasting with Trump's tone of division, Clinton concluded her speech calling for national unity. The subtext of her message, however, was seen as problematic by many.
Invoking the 9/11 attacks, Clinton said that the country must "get back to the spirit those days—the spirit of 9/12," when Americans allegedly "did not attack each other" and "worked with each other to protect our country and to rebuild."
That particular statement drew a great deal of criticism from Muslim Americans and opponents of the Iraq war, who said her "hazy nostalgia" for that era was particularly "chilling."
"To whatever meager degree it is true that we did not attack each other after 9/11—the Muslim American victims of hate crimes who were targeted in the immediate aftermath as well as those targeted following more recent attacks might beg to differ—it is also true that the resultant unity, born out of fear, was used to justify the embarkation upon two disastrous wars and the unprecedented expansion of the surveillance state," wrote Gawker columnist Brendan O'Connor.
"I very much fear we’ve begun to heed her call," wrote Sam Adler-Bell, a journalist and policy associate with The Century Foundation. "That is, I fear we’ve already begun to fold the monstrously specific tragedy in Orlando—perpetrated against queer people of color, who otherwise rarely figure in the stories America tells about itself—into a narrative about American greatness, American resilience, America’s capacity to triumph over evil and punish its enemies. I fear we’ve already begun to enlist the 49 dead into the project of American empire, here and abroad, into the endless, borderless war that began on 9/12."
Others voiced similar concerns on social media.
The “spirit of 9/12” I remember was fear and foreboding among Chicago’s Arab and Muslim communities. https://t.co/sCYLjRhX8p
— Ali Abunimah (@AliAbunimah) June 14, 2016
Really America? Back to 9/12? Fear, authority, mass precrime profiling& martial mentality? Wake up 1 day to Amerika? https://t.co/lsHTNgSMg4
— Thomas Drake (@Thomas_Drake1) June 14, 2016
— Ruba Ali Al-Hassani (@RubaAlHassani) June 14, 2016
Nothing calms my nerves like a future president filled with hazy nostalgia for 9/11 https://t.co/XctNhD0Dey
— Christopher M (@mammothfactory) June 14, 2016
Between her new decision to say "radical Islamism" and the bit about "the spirit of 9/12" I think we've much to fear in a Clinton presidency
— ladies jacket club (@subtlerbutler) June 14, 2016
Clinton's coded words about "getting back to the spirit of 9/12" are as chilling as anything Trump's said
— duncan (@publictransprt) June 14, 2016