A visibly angry President Barack Obama launched a direct attack on Donald Trump on Tuesday, saying the presumptive GOP nominee’s anti-Muslim rhetoric “betrays the very values that America stands for.”
For months Trump has called for a ban on allowing Muslims into the United States, and he implied during a speech on Monday that Muslim communities are sheltering terrorists, including the perpetrators of the Orlando and San Bernardino shootings, from police. Obama said such comments are not only anti-American but help ISIS and other terrorist groups by alienating Muslims in the United States and around the world.
“Where does this stop?” Obama asked. “Do Republican officials actually agree with this? Because that’s not the America we want. It’s doesn’t reflect our democratic ideals. It won’t make us more safe. It will make us less safe, fueling ISIL’s notion that the West hates Muslims.” ISIS has already produced recruiting videos featuring Trump’s comments on Muslims and immigration this year.
Obama also attacked Trump’s demand that he and Hillary Clinton use the phrase “radical Islam” more. Trump and other Republicans have claimed that the administration is intentionally downplaying the role of Islam in terrorist attacks, but Obama angrily denounced this criticism as a frivolous talking point. “What exactly would using this label accomplish?” Obama asked “What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to trying to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this? The answer is none of the above…This is a political distraction.”
The president argued that using “radical Islam” in describing terrorist groups actually boosts their own propaganda efforts. “Groups like ISIL and Al Qaeda want to make this a war between Islam and America, or Islam and the West,” he said. “They want to claim that they are the true leaders of more than a billion Muslims around the world who reject their crazy notions. They want us to validate them.”