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Wednesday, September 21, 2016
“When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse”, Osama bin Laden
Trump vs. Clinton: Fighting terrorism with plain talk or policy points
Over the last few weeks, we've allowed ourselves to indulge in the quips and quibbles of the presidential race, obsessing over things like whether Hillary Clinton lied about her health or whether Donald Trump told the truth about his role in the birther movement.
It's a shame that it took a series of terrorist attacks to bring us back to serious business.
The weekend bombings in New York and New Jersey, as well as a separate stabbing incident in Minnesota, reminded us of what's really at stake in this year's presidential election.
We all know by now that the greatest threat to our national security isn't someone trained by a foreign terrorist network flying a plane into a skyscraper in a major U.S. city. Orlando, Fla., and San Bernardino, Calif., have shown us that the newest wave of terrorists are home-grown and often radicalized over the internet. There are people living among us who want to bring our country down, and one of the most important qualities we need in a commander in chief is someone who's smart enough to figure out how to keep that from happening.
Over the last two days, Clinton and Trump have provided us with two different road maps for fighting terrorism. Neither candidate said anything we haven't heard before, but it's been interesting to watch them talk about their strategies under pressure. It's clear that both of them need to rethink their approach.
Trump's response has been nearly juvenile, revealing once again his chilling dearth of experience in foreign and domestic affairs. Clinton, on the other hand, has come off sounding like a lifelong bureaucrat who is more concerned about spouting policy than convincing Americans that they will be safer under her watch. Each technique is designed to appeal to a certain constituency. And neither is sufficient to pull anyone over from the opposing side.
At least Trump gives it to us straight, though his message is unfiltered and often premature and factually incorrect. His anti-terrorism platform is centered on capturing our emotions. He plays to our patriotism, prodding us to release our fear in angry bursts, targeting our neighbors who likely are no more terrorists than we are.
Clinton, on the other hand, presents a cooler, more controlled image. She cautions us to wait before jumping to conclusions and trust that she has the experience to address any situation that may arise with dignity and resolve.
Even with her broad experience, a recent CNN poll shows Clinton lagging behind Trump on the issue of fighting terrorism. Fifty-one percent of registered voters said they trust Trump to better handle terrorism if elected, compared with 45 percent who said they trust Clinton.
It is easy to understand why Trump came out ahead. He lays out the problems in a simplistic way and offers solutions that a 5-year-old could understand. Void of political jargon, and often without real substance, he promises to fight terrorism by giving control to the people, rather than relying on others to come to our rescue.
Many Americans find his ideas repulsive. But to the folks who want to protect our country by any means necessary, even treading on the civil rights of other Americans, Trump's plain talk is just what they want to hear.
Trump would have us believe that our immigration system is largely responsible for the terrorism. The more limits we place on who can enter our country, he says, the more likely we are to keep terrorists from setting off bombs on U.S. soil.
Certainly, we can't expect anyone to actually tell us that he wants to enter the country in order to kill Americans, so we would have to rely on his "extreme vetting" to weed those people out. To do that essentially would mean probing the minds of everyone who tries to come to America from what he calls "terrorist nations."
Trump has mentioned requiring some sort of "ideological test." I wonder if that's anything like the old literacy tests African-Americans used to have to take in the South as a means of denying them the right to vote?
Trump also apparently thinks that our police officers are wimps. He says the police in New York know who the terrorists are but are afraid to do anything because they don't want to be accused of racial profiling.
"You know in Israel, they profile," Trump said in an interview Monday on Fox News. "They've done an unbelievable job — as good as you can do. … They see somebody that's suspicious. They will profile. They will take that person in."
Never mind that racial and ethnic profiling is against the law in New York and most other states.
Whether Trump's ideas are practical, or even effective, is beside the point. Those who listen to him are looking for something concrete, something in plain English that they can point to and say, "Look, we're stamping out terrorism in America."
Clinton's ideas for fighting terrorism are more esoteric. And quite frankly, they frequently sound like political garble. Unlike Trump, who preys on our fear and anger, she tries to appeal to our strength by reminding us that we aren't a nation of cowards.
That's not a bad thing. But she never really explains how we're going to stop lone-wolf terrorists from shooting up a nightclub or walking up to shoppers in a suburban Minnesota mall.
On her website, she lays out three areas that she would focus on as president.
First, she would take out the Islamic State's stronghold in Iraq and Syria, in part, by resolving civil and sectarian wars taking place in those countries. So far, our track record hasn't been too good in that area. Next, she would work with our allies to dismantle global terrorism. Even while she was secretary of state, that didn't happen.
Third, she would harden our defenses at home. She's on to something here by promising to support our first responders, law enforcement and intelligence officers with the right tools, resources, intelligence and training to prevent attacks before they happen. But some folks would like to hear more about what those tools would look like.
Trump's supporters are very clear about where he stands, though he likely won't be able to do any of things he has promised if elected.
Those of us who like Clinton might not understand exactly what she's saying, but we trust that she knows what she's talking about.