Mixing business with terror on campaign trail….Arun Kumar’s Washington Diary
Donald Trump patted himself on the back for being right about “radical Islamic terrorism”. Hillary Clinton said she would be happy to use the forbidden phrase. She and the man in the White House they both want to replace said they got Osama Bin Laden without calling him any names.
And in far off India, a Hindu outfit celebrated the Manhattan mogul’s birthday as the ‘saviour of humanity’ for taking up the fight against terror.
The would-be Republican standard bearer was the first to inject politics into tragedy with a twitter message hours after a son of immigrant parents from Afghanistan massacred 49 people in cold blood in a gay night club in Orlando in the early hours of Sunday, in the worst mass shooting in American history.
“Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism; I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!” Trump tweeted, chiding both President Barack Obama and Clinton for not uttering the “I” word.
Goaded by Trump, “Crooked Hillary”, as he calls his Democratic rival, insisted she’s not afraid to say “radical” Islam. “It mattered we got bin Laden, not what name we called him.”
“I have clearly said we — whether you call it radical jihadism or radical Islamism, I’m happy to say either, — said the former Secretary of State in a clear break from her rival turned boss for four years.
Trump upped the ante a day later in suggesting to Fox News that Obama “doesn’t get it or he gets it better than anybody understands — it’s one or the other, and either one is unacceptable.”
“People cannot, they cannot believe that President Obama is acting the way he acts and can’t even mention the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ There’s something going on,” he insinuated.
The Washington Post was quick to interpret the mogul’s remark with an online article headlined “Donald Trump suggests President Obama was involved with Orlando shooting”.
Trump’s retribution was quicker. He simply revoked the influential daily’s credentials even as the Post tweaked its headline “on its own” to read “Donald Trump seems to connect President Obama to Orlando shooting”.
A Post writer, who had literally made a meal of his column predicting that Trump would never be the nominee, suggested a total blackout of the “Punisher-in-chief”, as the New York Times called the billionaire, choosing news over ratings.
Oh if not total, at least not give him “oodles” of free publicity already worth over $2 billion by some counts, the Post writer added in the next breath, while the editor insisted they would keep covering the billionaire “vigorously”.
An angry Obama himself called Trump’s renewed call to temporarily ban Muslims as “dangerous” as he uttered the phrase four times but asserted: “So, there’s no magic to the phrase ‘radical Islam’. It’s a political talking point; it’s not a strategy.”
While some Republican bigwigs decried their nominee’s remarks about the Muslims and the President, John McCain, who lost to Obama in the 2008 presidential election, suggested Obama was “directly responsible” for the mass shooting in Orlando.
Amid heated criticism from Democrats, McCain later issued a statement saying he “misspoke” and that he was referring to “Obama’s national security decisions, not the president himself” that led to Islamic State’s rise on his watch.
But even as he called Obama a “fool” for his fresh call for tougher gun laws, Trump declared he was open to banning the sale of firearms to people on terrorist watch or no fly lists and said he would speak to the “wonderful” people at the National Rifle Association (NRA), the powerful gun lobby that has endorsed him.
Put in a quandary by Trump, the Republicans who are opposed to any gun control, agreed to vote in the Senate on Monday on four competing gun control measures, but nothing is likely to come out of it with the two parties expected to revert to their old positions.
Meanwhile, defying new polls showing his unfavorability hitting a record 70 percent, Trump bluntly told top Republican leaders criticizing his style: “Don’t talk. Please be quiet” and warning if they don’t fall in line he would go it alone.
“You can’t make this up sometimes,” said a taken aback House Speaker Paul Ryan but demurred about revoking his endorsement of the nominee despite their yawning differences. “That’s not my plan.”
And to those who still hadn’t got the memo, said an unfazed Trump: “We have to have our Republicans either stick together or let me just do it by myself” — “Ekla chalo re” a la Tagore – pundits, press and the party be damned.