Ben Sasse in San Bernardino: We need to tell the truth about who our enemy is

A nice statement getting lots of buzz among righties online, which is interesting because the contrast here with Obama is more in tone than substance. Last night Obama said:

We cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam. That, too, is what groups like ISIL want. ISIL does not speak for Islam. They are thugs and killers, part of a cult of death, and they account for a tiny fraction of more than a billion Muslims around the world — including millions of patriotic Muslim Americans who reject their hateful ideology.

Whereas Sasse says:

We are most certainly though at war with militant Islam. We are at war with the violent Islam. We are at war with jihadi Islam. We are not at war with all Muslims. We’re not at war with Muslim families in Dearborn, MI who want the American dream for their kids. But we are at war with those who believe that they will kill in the name of religion…

We are at war with militant or jihadi in Islam but we are not at war with people who believe in the American creed which includes the right of everybody of every religion too freely worship and to freely speak and to freely assemble and argue.

Similar point, although Sasse smartly frames his version as a sort of truth bomb about the threat from radical Islam. Obama won’t use that term whereas Sasse insists upon it, which gives him cover to arrive at the same conclusion as Obama that the distinction between jihadis and other Muslims must be carefully observed. Sasse is also shrewder about resisting the urge to scold. Obama’s speech ended by explicitly calling on Americans to avoid discrimination; Sasse makes the case against discrimination without demanding anything. It’s the difference between “here’s what you should think” and “here’s what I think.” Despite his reputation for oratory, O still hasn’t figured that out yet.

One question, though. Isn’t this more or less the opposite of what Ben Carson said in September about refusing to vote for a Muslim for president? He clarified after a few days of media uproar to say he’d be okay with a Muslim who placed American constitutional values above sharia law, but his initial comment spoke to a suspicion many non-Muslims have that even “moderate” Muslims prefer sharia law, with all of its illiberal elements, to America’s liberal political culture. Several pollsters tested that premise after Carson said what he said. Rasmussen found 51 percent wouldn’t vote for a Muslim for president, including 73 percent of Republicans. YouGov, meanwhile, asked people if they agreed with Carson’s statement that a Muslim should not be put in charge of this nation. Fifty-seven percent said yes; among Republicans, 83 percent said so, and 81 percent said their opinion of Islam as a religion was either somewhat or very unfavorable. Sasse’s sentiment that we’re all one people under the Constitution united against militant Islam is stirring (and very Bushian), but I don’t know how widely shared it is. Which is a noteworthy wrinkle in a statement designed to be a hard dose of truth for Obama and Democrats.

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Jazz Shaw 1:01 PM on December 09, 2022