President Obama on Tuesday offered one of his longest public explanations yet for why he doesn’t use the phrase “radical Islam” to describe the motivations of acts or perpetrators of terrorism—and a lengthy rebuke of the Republicans who argue he should.
“When exactly would using this label accomplish? What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to trying to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this?” Obama said in a speech from the Treasury Department, after a meeting with his national-security advisers. “The answer is none of the above.”
He added: “Not once has an adviser of mine said, ‘Man, if we really use that phrase, we’re going to turn this whole thing around.’”
The lecture was aimed at one Republican in particular, who Obama has also avoided referring to by name: Donald Trump.
Obama said he understands well the threat of extremists, regardless of what he calls them, and “so do the intelligence and law enforcement officers who spent countless hours disrupting plots and protecting all Americans, including politicians who tweet and appear on cable-news shows.”
Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has spent the last few days bashing Obama’s response to the rampage in Orlando that left 49 people dead, the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Trump criticized Obama for saying the suspected killer, Omar Mateen, was driven by “extremist ideology” and “perversions of Islam,” and not, as Trump and other Republicans call it, by radical Islam. If the United States can’t name its enemy, the conservative argument goes, it can’t defeat it. “We can’t afford to be politically correct anymore,” Trump said Sunday.