Tuesday, our president came to us live from the Treasury Department. Allegedly, the purpose was to update Americans on the horrific Islamist terrorist attack at an LGBT club in Florida, as well as offer an update in the war against ISIS. But Obama reserved the second half of the speech for a vicious partisan diatribe. It would be as if FDR, partway through his “Day of Infamy” speech, began bashing Republicans for not supporting lend-lease.
The first sign that the president’s remarks were headed south came when he lapsed into yet another tired attempt to link effective counterterrorism with the debate on gun control. Hijacking a tragedy to press a political agenda, however, is pure opportunism.
The Orlando attack is as much about a mass shooting as 9/11 was about a plane crash.
Terrorists use all kinds of weapons to kill. If government banned everything that can be used to kill people in great numbers, we would all have to live in empty rubber rooms. Childproofing the world to make us safe from terrorists is not a responsible strategy.
If Obama wanted to debate gun control, and not look like a partisan hack, he would have chosen another time to make his case, and he would have started with the facts.
He could begin by explaining why data from Pew Research Center, the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention find that gun violence is at a 30-year low, even as gun ownership in America has expanded.
Obama saved his greatest invectives for attacking anyone who criticized him for not naming the enemy — and anyone using the term “radical Islam.” In the most superficial way, he is right. Mouthing those words doesn’t shift the calculus of war any more than calling the German war machine Nazis got GIs up the cliffs at Normandy.
But Obama’s verbal assault was pure bait and switch. What has Americans really upset is not whether he mouths particular words, but the belief that the debate over words reflects a deeper concern. Their concern is that Obama is not prosecuting a winning war. He ignores the fact that his counterterrorism strategy has been off course since 2010.
Worse, Obama implied that disagreeing was “un-American” and anti-Muslim. He ignored the fact that many who use the term “radical Islam” add the qualifier “radical” to differentiate the Islamist threat from the global Muslim community.
By labeling his detractors racist and know-nothings, he simply reinforces what many Americans already believe: Obama is divider, not a uniter.
James Jay Carafano is vice president of foreign and defense policy studies The Heritage Foundation. Follow him on Twitter @JJCarafano.