Trump tough on terrorism but temper issue keeps tripping him up

By Matthew Rusling Source:Global Times Published: 2016/8/18 22:13:40

While US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's strong point is his tough stance on fighting terrorism, he is having trouble staying focused on the issue as his temper continues to be distractive, experts said.

It seems Trump's temper causes him to get into all sorts of minor scrapes and verbal punch-ups against his critics. If he continues to allow himself to be distracted, it could seriously damage his efforts to win the White House in November.

Trump gave a major foreign policy speech on Monday, spelling out how he would tackle and destroy the radical Islamist group Islamic State (IS), which has overtaken vast swaths of territory in the Middle East and carried out or influenced deadly terror attacks in the West.

"Trump's strong point is being tough on terrorism. Voters see him as willing to stand up to terrorists and wanting to try unconventional tactics. They think he understands the dangers America faces around the world," Darrell West, vice president and director of governance studies of the Brookings Institution, told Xinhua.

But Trump's problem is how to stay on this message and not get distracted by minor issues. He often steps on his own message and gives independents reasons not to like him, West said.

"He has to correct those tendencies in order to turn around his campaign," he said.

Indeed, it seems that every time Trump is about to turn a corner and start acting more "presidential," he then turns around and makes an offensive comment.

Trump also gets in trouble when responding to the latest criticism against him, as he stoops to name calling and over-the-top sound bites.

On Monday, Trump tried to change his image by delivering a major foreign policy speech on national TV. It was a clear attempt to provide substance, more restraint and less bombast, for which he has been slammed not only by Democrats but also by those in his own party.

Trump kept his cool while he went down a laundry list of threats from the Middle East and argued that they have been the outcome of an administration that is weak on terrorism.

Trump described Barack Obama as a president who has been misguided in his foreign policy, while hammering Clinton on her overall record as top US diplomat, highlighting her many perceived missteps while she was secretary of state under Obama.

Analysts said if Trump can continue to show this more moderate side of himself, he may be more effective in generating enthusiasm from those outside his base.

But it remains unknown whether Trump can muster up the discipline to do this, as the candidate thrives on getting on stage and riling up his supporters with his bombastic remarks.

On policy, some of his stances may also turn off moderate voters, such as his calls to prevent people from nations rife with radical Islam from entering the US.

In Monday's speech, Trump continued those calls, but softened the message a bit, saying he would halt immigration from places where the screening of immigrants is not possible. That's a less harsh message than his initial one, which was a call for a blanket ban on Muslims from entering the US.

Dan Mahaffee, an analyst with the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, told Xinhua that Trump's proposals to bar people from entering the US play well with his base.

However, moderate independents and some conservatives see this as betrayal of US principles related to religious freedom and humanitarian values, he said.

The author is a writer with the Xinhua News Agency. The article first appeared on Xinhua. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn



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