The massacre in Orlando has created dueling narratives of gays, guns, and God. Democrats tell a story of gays and guns: A hate crime was committed against the LGBT community, demonstrating a powerful need for greater gun control. For Republicans, the terrorist atrocity is no reason to trammel on Second Amendment rights. And many on the right don’t want to mention the fact that gays were the target: Homophobia is the hate that dare not speak its name. Instead, the GOP response has focused intensely on the Islamic nature of the attacker—placing Hillary Clinton in a difficult dilemma as she turns her focus to the general electorate.
Republicans insist on calling the enemy “radical Islamic terrorism”—the words pounded out like a 10-note drumbeat. Donald Trump even capitalizes the phrase on his website. It’s the right’s terrorism litmus test. The willingness to say “radical Islamic terrorism” marks you out as a guardian of freedom. By contrast, refusing to use the term means you don’t understand the true nature of the enemy. As James Woolsey, head of the CIA under Bill Clinton, said: “You can’t effectively fight something if you can’t discuss it.”
President Obama, however, refuses to play the Republican game: “The main contribution some of my friends on the other side of the aisle have made in the fight against ISIL, is to criticize the administration, and me, for not using the phrase ‘radical Islam.’ … What exactly would using this label accomplish? What exactly would it change? ... Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away. This is a political distraction.”