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August 17, 2016

Trump vs. the Islamic State

His stated vision differs sharply from the Obama-Clinton model.

Donald Trump’s foreign policy speech Monday laid out a vision for combatting radical Islam that differs sharply from Hillary Clinton’s. The most notable difference is that Trump actually has a plan for defeating the Islamic State, while Clinton’s follows Barack Obama’s disastrous strategy of accommodation and apology.

Trump opened his speech reciting a long list of attacks perpetrated by ISIL that have taken place in America and among our allies. He then made the case that we have the Obama-Clinton foreign policy team to thank for the Islamic State in the first place. Premature exit from Iraq, the bungling of Libya and Syria, and the 2009 “apology” speech Obama gave in Cairo are just some of the reasons that Trump points out for America finding itself in this current predicament.

It cannot be overstated that Obama and Clinton’s moral equivalency that puts America on par with the radical jihadis who seek to destroy us has had a blistering impact on our status overseas. And it is now harming us here at home.

In short, as Trump puts it, “Hillary Clinton lacks the judgment, the temperament and the moral character to lead this nation.”

Trump is right on these points, but that doesn’t make him a dream candidate for the White House. His rise to GOP standard bearer, impressive though it was, has been marred by outrageous behavior and public comments that are slam dunks for a Clinton-friendly media out to paint her opponent as crazy, xenophobic, homophobic, what have you.

This speech, however, gives Trump an edge in the foreign policy debate, and in a tone that is presidential and strong on ideas.

The big takeaway from Trump’s speech seems to be the expanded vetting of immigrants.

Operating from the belief that “we should only admit into this country those who share our values and respect our people,” Trump proposes to create a system that would effectively screen immigrants from the Middle East and countries with a history of hostility to America. He is somewhat light on the details of the vetting process, how it would be carried out, and how much it might cost. Still, screening people who are coming into the country should not be considered so outlandish a thing.

“In addition to screening out all members or sympathizers of terrorist groups,” Trump said, “We must also screen out any who have hostile attitudes towards our country or its principles — or who believe that Sharia law should supplant American law. Those who do not believe in our Constitution, or who support bigotry and hatred, will not be admitted for immigration into the country. Only those who we expect to flourish in our country — and to embrace a tolerant American society — should be issued immigrant visas.”

Is Clinton really willing to stand on a stage and say that she wants to welcome people who are hostile to America and its many lifestyles — including “progressive” values?

“While my opponent accepted millions of dollars in Foundation donations from countries where being gay is an offense punishable by prison or death,” Trump said, “my administration will speak out against the oppression of women, gays and people of different faith.”

Trump also spoke of military options in his speech, noting that we need to be working with our traditional allies in stopping ISIL overseas. Clinton, on the other hand, said this week of American ground troops in the Middle East, “Well, that is off the table as far as I am concerned.”

Telegraphing appears to be a skill that Clinton has picked up from Obama, one that will not improve America’s station in the Middle East. Trump’s alternative, which it should be noted contradicts some of his earlier foreign policy positions, offers a much better chance of reversing the trend of terrorist violence.

Trump’s speech was not perfect. Thanks to his penchant for speaking off the cuff with little forethought, Trump often contradicts himself, and he did so here as well. He spoke of working closely with NATO to halt the spread of radical Islam, even though he is on record stating that NATO is “obsolete.” Trump also continues to overestimate the level of cooperation that can be found from Russia in this fight. For example, Vladimir Putin is interested in propping up Bashar al-Assad in Syria, which means he is often attacking the rebels the U.S. is backing, rather than the Islamic State.

Still, Trump needs to speak on the security issue and speak on it often. His points will find a large and receptive audience among the voting public, and Clinton knows that. This is why her campaign to this point has consisted mostly of personal attacks on Trump. She doesn’t dare flaunt her foreign policy credentials because they are just plain awful.

Clinton’s biggest weakness should be an easy layup for a solid Republican candidate. Unfortunately, Trump is anything but solid. He needs to change that dynamic and hammer home the foreign policy issue. If he keeps talking about it, then it will become part of the narrative and Clinton and her media cronies won’t be able to sidestep it any longer.

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