It’s hard to know what’s funny these days. It’s possible that nothing is and nothing will be funny until we are safely through the election season — maybe not even then.
Hillary Clinton, who puts herself forth as prospective commander in chief, blames her Republican opponent for the slasher attack on mall shoppers in Minnesota; for the planting of a bomb that wounded more than two dozen in Manhattan; and the explosion of a bomb that prevented the start of a charity race.
She blamed her opponent. Yes: On account of Donald Trump’s record of apparently outrageous remarks about terrorists and the culture from which they come. “The kind of language and rhetoric Trump has used is giving comfort to our adversaries,” Clinton said at a press conference. It would appear, by the candidate’s logic, that these adversaries so dislike his criticisms that they pay him back by — say, inspiring a Somali-American to go out and start knifing innocent people.
Oh, is that the way to hit Trump — prove him right? Go on a mall rampage; blow up some people; get Americans worked up about the duty and necessity of putting a stop to terrorist outrages.
Terrorism, which continues to kill people all over the world (most of the victims, somewhat ironically, Muslims), is no laughing matter. What would be, so to speak, fun is to find out why, if the Democrats’ anti-terror strategy has been such a roaring success, a mere billionaire TV celebrity is able to dis-calibrate it with mere words. “We know,” said Clinton, “Donald Trump’s comments have been used online in recruitment for terrorists.” She evidently means to include in that genre of remarks Trump’s calls to sort out non-violent Muslims from the violent kind before allowing additional Muslims to enter the United States.
So, beating up on “the bad guys,” as she called the terrorists in her remarks, turns non-bad guys bad. Or makes the bad worse — or something. When it comes to assigning motives, Clinton hasn’t the advantage of a spotless record. Her false claim that an amateur anti-Muslim movie by a Coptic Christian inspired the attack on our consulate in Benghazi doesn’t inspire belief in her present claims of Trump’s culpability in the mayhem of this weekend.
The larger point, nonetheless — because blame-gaming is always small potatoes — is whether Americans could rely on a second President Clinton to deter terrorism by robust and determined action. What does her press-conference pledge, “We’re going after the bad guys,” actually mean? It’s well to see whether Trump can be acquitted of vagueness in response to such a question. He wants more profiling of terrorist suspects, regardless of race; he wants immigration from the Middle East all but shut down to facilitate the weeding out of bad guys. Is that enough? Likely not.
The Obama administration’s floundering in the Middle East — trying to look busy without actually being busy — seems to deserve a little more credit for the weekend’s assaults than Clinton would readily admit. In profile, at least, Barack Obama’s America seems a partly spent force: toothless when it comes to taking on and breaking enemies. Clinton appears less worked up over that bleak state of affairs than over the supposed verbal outrages of the man she wants, badly, to beat for president. We’re to trust her intentions meanwhile.
And what if more attacks ensue on the U.S. homeland? What if one of them — just one — takes on the character and horror of July’s attack by a homicidal truck driver on a throng of holiday visitors in Nice, France?
If the solution to terrorism, an ancient vexation, were as simple as A, B, C, we could argue about who is likelier to undertake, for starters, A and B with the greatest likelihood of success. Blaming a political opponent for a series of attacks no one forecast should not be accounted decisive strategy for keeping Americans safe. Is that all Clinton has to offer for our protection? Handgun sellers should hire extra help.
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