President Barack Obama forcefully took on Donald Trump on Tuesday, blasting the likely GOP presidential nominee for “loose talk” about the Islamic State that could make the United States less safe.
Trump used several television and radio interviews on Monday to again question why Obama will not use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism.” He suggested the president’s reluctance to use it publicly shows “there is something going on,” an apparent attempt to link the sitting U.S. president directly to such groups.
Obama fired back Tuesday, saying the phrase would accomplish nothing in the ongoing struggle with such groups, nor make them “less committed … to killing Americans.” Obama said there is no “magic” in the phrase that will allow the U.S. to finally defeat violent extremist groups.
“Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away,” Obama said following a counterterrorism briefing at the Treasury Department. “This is a political distraction.”
The president said using the phrase would undermine U.S. interests, help ISIS and other groups recruit, and make America less safe.
“Not once has an adviser of mine said, ‘Man, if we just use that phrase, we’re going to turn this whole thing around,’” Obama said.
“If anyone thinks we’re confused about who we’re fighting, that would come as a surprise to the thousands of terrorists we’ve taken off the battlefield,” he said, adding U.S. military, intelligence and law enforcement personnel around the world “know who the nature of the enemy is.”
The president criticized “politicians who tweet,” a clear shot at Trump, whose name the White House rarely uses in an attempt to avoid, as Obama has said, giving him free advertising. Using the phrase would lead the United States to “fall into the trap” of letting ISIS and other groups recruit on a message that the U.S. and the West are at war with all Muslims.
Asked about Obama’s comments, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the remarks were aimed not only at Trump, but many GOP lawmakers and former presidential candidates.
For the third consecutive day, Obama made a plea for tighter gun laws — though congressional Republicans, who are avid pro-gun advocates, are unlikely to pass such legislation.
“We cannot prevent every tragedy,” he said, adding officials “know” gun-control measures can be enacted “consistent with the Second Amendment.”
Many gun advocates, like the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA), strongly disagree.
He called on Congress to give federal law enforcement agencies more resources to fight terrorism.
“Enough talking about being tough on terrorism,” Obama said. “Actually be tough on terrorism. … Make it harder for terrorists to use these weapons to kill us.”