Politico offers a rundown of “the DNC by the numbers,” but one number doesn’t appear on that list — zero. That’s the number of times that speakers mentioned ISIS or radical Islamic terrorism in 61 speeches to the Democratic national convention, a fact noted last night by the RNC at the close of ceremonies. It even got a “True” rating from Politifact (a point also picked up by Politico):
Was the Democratic discussion of ISIS and Islamic terrorism that thin? Basically, yes.
It’s worth noting that the first night was not intended to have a specific focus on foreign policy, leaving the Democrats with three days left to discuss the issue. And Hillary Clinton — away from the podium in Philadelphia — issued a fairly muscular call for action against ISIS at the annual Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Charlotte, N.C. …
That said, as it concerns the convention in Philadelphia, the RNC’s statement is literally correct. Based on our searches of C-SPAN closed-captioning text, Congressional Quarterly transcripts and other video archiving services, we couldn’t find any speaker who mentioned “ISIS,” “Islamic” “terror,” “terrorist,” or “terrorism” during the first day of the convention.
It’s true that the first night didn’t focus on foreign policy, but … that’s a little strange in itself, no? The main argument for Hillary Clinton’s presidential run is her leadership, and the only formal experience she has to back that argument up is in foreign affairs.
Besides, can anyone tell what exactly was the focus last night? The speeches seemed to go all over the place, and even the official agenda doesn’t list themes. The only connecting threads were how prepared Hillary is to be president and how awful a Trump presidency would be, so the absence of foreign policy at all is remarkable in itself.
The RNC wants to focus on foreign policy and national security, even if Hillary and the Democrats don’t want to talk about it. They have a new brace of arguments to pre-empt any defense of Hillary, and Republicans don’t shy away from talking about ISIS at all:
- Clinton served as the chief architect of the Obama Administration’s failed foreign policy.
- Clinton foreign policy failure #1: failing to see the threat of radical Islamic terrorism, the rise of ISIS.
- Clinton foreign policy failure #2: misjudging Iraq and fueling the expansion of ISIS.
- Clinton foreign policy failure #3: failing in Libya and Benghazi, creating ISIS’s new safe haven.
- Clinton foreign policy failure #4: failed judgment on the Syrian civil war and a refugee crisis spreading terrorism globally.
- Clinton foreign policy failure #5: failed judgment on Iran, giving the world’s leading state sponsor of terror billions.
They also replay this John Dickerson interview from an Iowa debate last November in which Hillary ties herself in knots to avoid the mention of radical Islam:
CBS’S JOHN DICKERSON: “Secretary Clinton, you mentioned radical jihadists. Marco Rubio, also running for president, said that this attack showed, the attack in Paris, showed that we are at war with radical Islam. Do you agree with that characterization ‘radical Islam?'”
CLINTON: “I don’t think we’re at war with Islam. I don’t think we’re at war with all Muslims. I think we’re at war with jihadists who have-”
DICKERSON: “Just to interrupt. He didn’t say all Muslims. He said ‘radical Islam.’ Is that a phrase you-”
CLINTON: “I think you can talk about Islamists who clearly are also jihadists, but I think it’s not particularly helpful to make the case that senator Sanders was just making that I agree with that we’ve got to reach out to Muslim countries. We’ve got to have them be part of our coalition. If they hear people running for president who basically shortcut it to say we are somehow against Islam, that was one of the real contributions, despite all the other problems, that George W. Bush made after 9/11 when he basically said after going to a Mosque in Washington, we are not at war with Islam or Muslims. We are at war with violent extremism. We are at war with people who use their religion for purposes of power and oppression. And, yes, we are at war with those people. But I don’t want us to be painting with too broad a brush.”
DICKERSON: “The reason I ask is you gave a speech at Georgetown University in which you said that it was important to show, ‘Respect, even for one’s enemies. Trying to understand and in so far as psychologically possible empathize with their perspective and point of view.’ Can you explain what you mean in the context of this kind of barbarism?”
CLINTON: “I think with this kind of barbarism and nihilism it’s very hard to understand, other than the lust for power, the rejection of modernity, the total disregard for human rights, freedom, or any other value we know and respect. Historically, it is important to try to understand your adversary in order to figure out how they are thinking, what they will be doing, how they will react. I plead that it’s very difficult when you deal with ISIS and organizations like that whose behavior is so barbaric and so vicious that it doesn’t seem to have any purpose other than lust for killing and power and that’s very difficult to put ourselves in the other’s shoes.”
Hillary has now shifted to saying “radical Islam,” a result of an Overton window shift forced by Donald Trump’s campaign, but clearly the rest of the party isn’t comfortable even raising the subject of terrorism. Given the major threat that poses to the US, it speaks particularly ill of Democrats that they feel they can’t even discuss it in connection to the former Secretary of State they’ve nominated to put in charge of our national security.