Trump’s tough talk on terror little help in ever tougher presidential race

By Matthew Rusling Source:Xinhua Published: 2016/6/23 22:38:00

US presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has come out strong against terrorism after the recent terror attack in Florida, but many experts doubted whether it will help him clinch the White House.

In one of the worst terror attacks in the US, a gunman shot dead 49 people and wounded 53 others at a gay night club in Orlando, Florida on June 12.

In response, Trump has come out strong against terror at a time when Americans are looking for a strong, no-nonsense leader to keep the country safe. But at the same time, Trump is calling for a halt in immigration of people from countries linked to terrorism - a controversial statement in a country built on migration.

While Trump has whipped up excitement among the Republican Party rank-and-file that the party has perhaps not seen in decades, his negative rates are sky high. In other words, many people strongly dislike the mogul for what they see as over-the-top statements and a way of speaking they feel is un-presidential.

"In his comments on terrorism, he went too far in re-introducing the idea of banning Muslims. That reinforces his political extremism," said Darrell West, vice president and director of governance studies of the Brookings Institution.

Trump initially came out strong against terrorism in a speech the day after the attack, and showed himself to be what many observers saw as a capable leader in the fight against radical Islamism. But not far into the speech he again elicited controversy by calling for a ban on immigration of people from countries linked to radical Islam.

While his stance was welcomed by his supporters, independent voters will likely be turned off by a policy many feel would unfairly impact those who have nothing to do with terrorism. Such statements will not help lower his 70 percent negative rate - the highest in recent memory for a Republican presidential nominee.

Some experts contend that such a move would isolate the country's Muslim community, which is for the most part moderate, successful and non-political, and would perhaps breed more sympathy for radical ideas.

Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, told Xinhua that Trump might not overcome his high negatives with his tough stance on terror.

"Thus far his response has only undercut his support. Rather than a moment to show why he would be a good leader, he has raised more doubts about how he would act as Commander-in-Chief," Zelizer said.

Moreover, many Americans are seeing the issue not as one of Islamic extremism but of gun control. While the shooter, Omar Mateen, pledged allegiance to a number of terror groups, including several opposed to each other, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has emphasized what she said was a need for stricter gun laws.

Now, two competing narratives are emerging - one that says lax gun laws are to blame and the other that blames the influence of Islamist extremist ideology spread through the Internet.

While it remains unknown whether Mateen, who was killed by police during the attack, ever had any direct contact with IS, there is evidence that the killer was influenced by online Islamist propaganda, as well as by what may have been internalized self-hatred as a result of his own homosexuality.

Mateen was once on an FBI terrorism watch list, but he was still able to legally purchase fire arms.

The author is a writer with the Xinhua News Agency.

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