Hillary Clinton was already set to host a rally in Cleveland on Monday. But after this weekend’s massacre in Orlando—which claimed the lives of 50 people, including the gunman—she took the stage without any background music or other festivities typical of this kind of event. In contrast to Donald Trump’s appearances early in the day, Clinton appeared calm and resolute. As she addressed everything from national security to LGBT rights, she seemed like she was stepping into a role. She seemed presidential.
“Today is not a day for politics,” Clinton began. “On Sunday, Americans woke up to a nightmare that’s become mind numbingly familiar—another act of terrorism in a place no one expected.” The attack was the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. While the investigation is still ongoing, Clinton laid out an approach to defeat ISIS, called for tighter gun restrictions, and offered solidarity to the LGBT community.
Shortly before Clinton’s speech, President Obama said the Orlando shooter, who pledged allegiance to ISIS, appeared to be inspired by “extremist information” online. There is no indication the attack was part of a larger plot, he added. In her remarks, Clinton said “identifying and stopping lone wolves a top priority,” along with working in partnership with other countries. “The Orlando terrorist may be dead, but the virus that poisoned his mind remains very much alive,” she said.
Clinton went on to reiterate the need for tighter gun-control measures. “It’s essential that we stop terrorists from getting the tools they need to carry out the attacks, and that is especially true when it comes to assault weapons like those used in Orlando and San Bernardino,” she said.
The presumptive Democratic nominee had called for the reinstatement of the assault-weapon ban earlier in the day. Authorities say the gunman had an assault rifle and a handgun, both of which were legally purchased. In 1994, former President Bill Clinton signed legislation that prohibited manufacturers from making assault weapons for consumer use, among other restrictions, but the law expired in 2004.
Gun-control has come up repeatedly throughout the election cycle. In October, Clinton pledged to stand up against the National Rifle Association in light of the shooting at a community college in Oregon. In November, she reiterated the need to take action against gun violence after a shooting in San Bernardino. On Monday, Clinton linked gun control and terrorism, arguing that if someone is on the FBI’s watch list, they should not be able to buy a gun.
She also paid tribute to the LGBT community, which was targeted in the attack on Pulse, a gay night club. “I want to say this to all the LGBT people grieving today in Florida and across our country, you have millions of allies who will always have your back. I am one of them,” she said.
Much of Clinton’s speech appeared to be in tune with Obama’s comments earlier in the day, but she diverged from the president in pinning the attack on “radical” Islam—a term regularly used by Republicans and, most recently, Donald Trump. Obama has consistently refrained from using the language, which has become a contentious point between Democrats and Republicans. In an earlier interview on Monday, Clinton dismissed Trump’s criticism, saying: “To me, radical jihadism, radical Islamism, I think they mean the same thing. I’m happy to say either, but that’s not the point. All this talk and demagoguery and rhetoric is not going to solve the problem.”
Clinton concluded the speech by recalling 9/11, when she was a New York senator and there was a Republican president, governor, and mayor: “We did not attack each other,” she said. That has not been the case this time: Even with her high-minded rhetoric, Clinton directed attacks at Donald Trump, though she never mentioned him by name. “Inflammatory, anti-Muslim rhetoric—and threatening to ban the families and friends of Muslim Americas as well as millions of Muslim business people and tourists from entering our country—hurts the vast majority of Muslims who love freedom and hate terror,” she said, referring to Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States. On Sunday, Trump had criticized Clinton’s use of language to talk about Islam. As Clinton said, this may not be a time for politics. But for the two presidential candidates, that doesn’t seem to be the reality.
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