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Trump’s, Clinton’s reactions to the Orlando massacre reveal voters’ stark choices

June 13, 2016

Donald Trump tried to claim the mantle of unity and inclusiveness — while simultaneously calling for an expansion of his ban against Muslim immigrants — in a scathing speech Monday in the aftermath of the Orlando massacre.

Trump offered few policy specifics, mostly attacking Hillary Clinton and President Obama for mismanagement, political correctness and what he portrayed as liberal immigration policy.

His most notable policy shift involved a further extension of his indefinite ban on Muslims entering the country to include even more people.

“When I am elected, I will suspend immigration from areas of the world when there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe, or our allies, until we fully understand how to end these threats,” he said.

Trump also continued to lambaste Clinton over immigration and Obama over what he portrayed as incompetence and lack of will. He said he would replace nation-building with a focus on terrorism and use the savings on domestic programs. He strongly opposed Clinton’s call for tighter gun policies.

“She wants to take away Americans’ guns and then admit the very people who want to slaughter us,” Trump said.

He also gave himself credit for forcing Clinton to use the words “radical Islam,” an issue he asserts is key to confronting terrorism.

“She supports so much of what is wrong,” Trump said. “She has no clue, in my opinion, what radical Islam is and she won’t speak honestly about it if she does in fact know.”

Trump read the speech from a teleprompter in front of eight American flags before the press and about 150 invited dignitaries, including former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, at St. Anselm College’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics in Manchester. The walls of the intimate venue are covered with large pictures of the many presidential candidates who have long treated the college as a near-mandatory stop during the primary season.

New Hampshire is also a swing state in the general election. The St. Anselm speech had been planned as a broadside against Clinton’s history in public life but was changed after the shooting in Orlando, Fla., and Trump also canceled a rally in Portsmouth, N.H., that had been scheduled for the afternoon.

Trump’s tonal shift in the speech was especially notable. Trump has railed against political correctness and drawn accusations of intolerance. But he insisted that it was he, not Clinton, who is truly a friend of women and gays.

“Ask yourself, who is really the friend of women and the LGBT community, Donald Trump with actions, or Hillary Clinton with her words?” Trump said. “Clinton wants to allow radical Islamic terrorists to pour into our country — they enslave women, and they murder gays.”

Despite those words, Trump’s speech was far different from Clinton’s own earlier in the day. She talked about the nation coming together as it did after Sept. 11, citing President George W. Bush’s outreach to Muslim Americans and allies. The attempt at unifying language was also a slight departure from Trump’s tweets and comments since the attacks, when he even suggested Obama is complicit in terrorism, a striking accusation for a presumptive nominee to make about a sitting president.

“There are a lot of people who think he maybe doesn’t want to get it, who think he maybe doesn’t want to know about it — I happen to think he just doesn’t know what he’s doing — but there are many people who think he doesn’t want to get it, he doesn’t want to see what’s happening,” Trump said on the “Today” show .

Trump also veered from his prepared remarks in his speech, saying the New York-born gunman in Sunday’s attack in Orlando was born in “an Afghan,” a nod to the man’s heritage. The statement goes to the heart of Trump’s argument, however, that a broad immigration ban will stop terrorism.

Trump defended his immigration plans as a fight for American values, including tolerance. At the same time, he cast a wide net over an entire group of cultures.

“We cannot continue to allow thousands upon thousands of people to pour into our country, many of whom have the same thought process as this savage killer,” he said. “Many of the principles of radical Islam are incompatible with Western values and institutions.”

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