A new Amer­i­can iso­la­tion­ism?

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE -

As we read the re­ports of the lat­est hor­rific shoot­ing in Amer­ica — this time at an Or­lando gay night­club, the worst shoot­ing in the na­tion’s his­tory — we couldn’t help but imag­ine its im­pact on Amer­ica’s po­lit­i­cal land­scape in an al­ready elec­tric pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

Pre­sump­tive nom­i­nees Hil­lary Clin­ton and Don­ald Trump wasted no time in weigh­ing in on the tragedy, al­beit in very dif­fer­ent ways.

In a speech at a Cleveland cam­paign stop, Clin­ton called for unity with Amer­ica’s Mus­lim com­mu­nity to help root out those who may be plan­ning home­grown ter­ror­ism.

“We should be in­ten­si­fy­ing con­tacts in those com­mu­ni­ties, not scape­goat­ing or iso­lat­ing them,” she said. “In­flam­ma­tory, anti-Mus­lim rhetoric and threat­en­ing to ban the fam­i­lies and friends of Mus­lim Amer­i­cans … from entering our coun­try hurts the vast ma­jor­ity of Mus­lims, who love free­dom and hate terror.”

On the other hand, Trump wasted no time in hit­ting hard on his pro­posal to pro­hibit Mus­lims from vis­it­ing Amer­ica un­til his ad­min­is­tra­tion could bet­ter en­sure do­mes­tic safety, tweet­ing “Ap­pre­ci­ate the con­grats for be­ing right on rad­i­cal Is­lamic ter­ror­ism, I don’t want con­grats, I want tough­ness & vig­i­lance. We must be smart!”

When the me­dia be­gan to ques­tion how that pol­icy would have pre­vented this most re­cent in­ci­dent — the shooter was an Amer­i­can born in New York to Afghani im­mi­grants — Trump re­sponded with a speech Mon­day from a cam­paign stop in New Hamp­shire.

“The only rea­son the killer was in Amer­ica in the first place was be­cause we al­lowed his fam­ily to come here,” Trump said, an­nounc­ing that he would ex­tend his pro­hi­bi­tion to im­mi­gra­tion from all na­tions with a his­tory of ter­ror­ism. “The cur­rent po­lit­i­cally cor­rect re­sponse crip­ples our abil­ity to talk and to think and act clearly … If we don’t get tough, and if we don’t get smart, and fast, we’re not go­ing to have our coun­try any­more. There will be noth­ing, ab­so­lutely noth­ing, left.”

It is that kind of talk that may lead to a Trump White House, es­pe­cially if more at­tacks strike Amer­i­can soil be­fore the Novem­ber elec­tion. It seems that the West­ern World’s safety is be­ing ques­tioned more so now than at any time since 9/11, and for good rea­son.

Just seven months ago, two do­mes­tic terrorists opened fire at a San Bernardino, Calif., of­fice func­tion, killing 14 and in­jur­ing an­other 22 in the in­ci­dent that lead to a fa­tal shootout with po­lice. Mean­while, we’ve seen our al­lies in France and Bel­gium be hit even harder by terrorists pledg­ing their al­le­giance to the ISIS.

A grow­ing num­ber of Amer­i­cans now also iden­tify Is­lamic ter­ror­ism as a se­ri­ous threat to Amer­ica — 92 per­cent of re­spon­dents in a Novem­ber Ra­mussen poll taken be­fore the San Bernardino shoot­ing — while fewer are de­fend­ing Mus­lims as a whole in the blood­shed — 46 per­cent be­lieve ISIS does not rep­re­sent Is­lamic be­lieves, down from 58 per­cent in Fe­bru­ary 2015.

Trump’s brag­gado­cio has put off many po­ten­tial vot­ers, but their fear of do­mes­tic ter­ror­ism, es­pe­cially in light of in­creas­ing and big­ger at­tacks here, may drive more of them into the arms of one who draws a harder line. For all of Clin­ton’s ac­cu­rate thoughts about travel pro­hi­bi­tions likely play­ing into ISIS’ re­cruit­ment of fu­ture terrorists, there is some­thing com­fort­ing about a wall. Trump is un­doubt­edly a shrewd tac­ti­cian, and will look to ex­ploit fear-mon­ger­ing as a way to drum up votes across the board — per­haps even in typ­i­cally de­pen­dent Demo­cratic bas­tions like New York and Cal­i­for­nia, which have been the vic­tims of ter­ror­ist at­tacks.

Repub­li­can poll­ster Frank Luntz re­cently noted to USA To­day that Trump ap­peared to ben­e­fit po­lit­i­cally from hard­line re­sponses to the at­tacks in Paris and San Bernardino, and could ben­e­fit once again from the Or­lando fall­out.

“Amer­i­cans are tired of the same use­less, po­lit­i­cally cor­rect re­sponses to terror,” he said. “They want some­one who is as mad as they are and will­ing to do some­thing about it.”

Iron­i­cally enough, a do­mes­tic at­tack ended Amer­ica’s last run of iso­la­tion­ism on Dec. 7, 1941, but one on June 12, 2016, may start a new ver­sion.

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