You’ll find video of the full speech embedded below. I didn’t have time to watch so I’m relying on his prepared remarks, which is risky with a guy like Trump who likes to ad lib as he reads, so bear that in mind in case something in the excerpts doesn’t match what you see in the clip.
His goal today was to underline his theme that a more capable America requires a less “politically correct” America, starting with the left’s ability to say the words “radical Islam” without stuttering like Fonzie trying to say “I was wrong.” That was predictable. Less predictable, and more interesting, was Trump framing his immigration policy as a defense of gays. Ted Cruz did something like that too in his statement yesterday, but when a social conservative like Cruz tries to stand with gay Americans on anything, the media and the left invariably pounce to remind them how many times they’ve been on the other side of gay issues. Trump doesn’t have that problem: No one believes he’s a social conservative even on subjects where he claims to be socially conservative (ahem), and he doesn’t make any such claims about LGBT stuff. Remember, he shrugged off the idea of transgender men using the bathrooms of their choice in the thick of the GOP primary. He’s a well-positioned messenger on the right to make this case:
A radical Islamic terrorist targeted the nightclub not only because he wanted to kill Americans, but in order to execute gay and lesbian citizens because of their sexual orientation.
It is a strike at the heart and soul of who we are as a nation.
It is an assault on the ability of free people to live their lives, love who they want and express their identity…
Radical Islam is anti-woman, anti-gay and anti-American…
The burden is on Hillary Clinton to tell us why we should admit anyone into our country who supports violence of any kind against gay and lesbian Americans…
Ask yourself, who is really the friend of women and the LGBT community, Donald Trump with his actions, or Hillary Clinton with her words? Clinton wants to allow Radical Islamic terrorists to pour into our country—they enslave women, and murder gays.
I don’t think he’s going to peel off many gay votes from Hillary, partly because the GOP is so closely identified with social conservatism and partly because gays presumably know that nationalist authoritarian regimes historically tend not to be so hot for gay rights in practice, Trump’s social liberalism notwithstanding. (Hillary has an easy counter available by reminding voters about Trump’s developing bromance with Putin and what Putinism has been like for gays in Russia.) Even so, it’s a nice, if opportunistic, statement after the Orlando attack. He’s affirming that gays count as American citizens as much as anyone else does.
The other interesting takeaway from the speech is how he’s tweaked his Muslim ban. He talked a lot about radical Islam today but when he got to the nuts and bolts of his big policy proposal, he shifted from a religious framework to a geographic one:
I called for a ban after San Bernardino, and was met with great scorn and anger but now, many are saying I was right to do so — and although the pause is temporary, we must find out what is going on. The ban will be lifted when we as a nation are in a position to properly and perfectly screen those people coming into our country.
The immigration laws of the United States give the President the power to suspend entry into the country of any class of persons that the President deems detrimental to the interests or security of the United States, as he deems appropriate.
I will use this power to protect the American people. When I am elected, I will suspend immigration from areas of the world when there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies, until we understand how to end these threats.
Ask an immigration lawyer to be sure but I think he’s right when he says he’d have the power as president to unilaterally suspend immigration for national security reasons. My pal Karl, anticipating the left’s objections, counters with a smart point: If you think Obama has the power to unilaterally amnestize millions of illegals via executive order, why wouldn’t he also have the power to unilaterally bar a certain class of would-be immigrants to defend against a threat? If, however, Trump is going to (temporarily) bar all immigration from Iraq, for example, doesn’t that mean barring Iraqi Christians, Kurds, and Yazidis too? They’re the ones who desperately need to get out to avoid the Omar Mateens in their own region yet here’s Trump suggesting that they’re stuck. I wonder why Trump shifted from a ban on Muslims to a regional/national ban. Did he think the Muslim ban was too harsh for a general election? Did someone tell him that a religious test for admission to the country probably won’t fly constitutionally, once lawyers get cracking on equal-protection challenges? Or did he figure out that stopping someone who’s getting off a plane from Saudi Arabia and asking “Are you Muslim? No? Well, come on in!” maybe isn’t the best way to snare ISIS masterminds?
Watch closely at 3:45 as Trump flubs something important from his prepared remarks. He was supposed to say “The killer, whose name I will not use, or ever say, was born to Afghan parents who immigrated to the United States.” He ends up saying that Mateen was “born in Afghan.” In reality Mateen was born in New York; Trump’s Muslim ban wouldn’t have kept him out. Trump anticipates that criticism later in the speech by saying that he knows there are radicals who are already here who won’t be affected by the ban but that the ban’s useful anyway in limiting a new influx so that DHS can focus on the ones already in place. Even so, the info he gives about Mateen is wrong and a substantive mistake.