Politics & Policy

Democrats’ PC Refusal to Name ‘Radical Islam’ Betrays a Deeper Weakness

On stage at the Democratic presidential debate, November 14, 2015 (Mandel Ngan/AFL/Getty)

During Saturday’s debate, all three Democratic presidential candidates refused to say that the U.S. was at war with “radical Islam.” They all bobbed and weaved as they tried to follow the PC line and avoid admitting that obvious fact.

“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,” Hillary Clinton said. “You can talk about Islamists who clearly are also jihadists.” She went on to urge outreach to Muslim countries — ironically, many of which recognize that perverted strains of Islam are indeed at war with them and modernity itself.

Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley were equally unwilling to say the words “radical Islam,” and Sanders went so far as to claim that climate change was the greatest threat to U.S. security.

The charade led GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee to tweet out a message for the trio: “You’re all grown up now. You can do it. Three words. Ten syllables. Say it with me: ‘Radical Islamic terrorism.’”

After the debate, the Clinton camp stood its ground. Communications director Jennifer Palmieri told Yahoo News, “I think she was really clear that we don’t need to go to war. We don’t need to go to war with Islam. We’re going to war with extremists.” But CBS News debate moderator John Dickerson had made it clear he was not referring to all Muslims in his question, just “radical Islam.”

Liberals were quick to jump on Dickerson for raising what they claimed was a Republican talking point and, moreover, simply a semantic argument. Former Democratic-party chairman Howard Dean said he found Dickerson’s approach “disappointing.” Washington Post contributor Paul Waldman, a senior writer at the leftish American Prospect, wrote:

I’ve yet to hear any conservative give a substantive reason why it would be preferable to have the president say “We’re at war with radical Islam,” other than that doing so would prove that he or she is tough and strong. . . . Democrats do have a good reason why they think it’s a mistake to feed into the idea that this is a religious war. They argue that in order to stop terrorism, we need the help of the world’s Muslim populations, and the last thing we want to do is drive them away by implying that they’re all our enemies.

But Senator Marco Rubio put that argument to rest on NBC’s Meet the Press this Sunday, noting that ignoring ISIS’s background would “be like saying we weren’t at war with Nazis, because we were afraid to offend some Germans who may have been members of the Nazi party but weren’t violent themselves. I don’t understand it. We are at war with radical Islam.”

That said, the three Democratic candidates soon did find an enemy they could not only identify clearly but also promise to wreak havoc upon: Wall Street. Bernie Sanders claimed that Wall Street’s business model was “fraud.” Hillary Clinton performed verbal somersaults to deny she had any connection with Wall Street. Recall that during the first Democratic debate, Hillary, when asked which enemies she had that she was proudest of, responded “probably the Republicans.”

None of the three candidates were willing to state the obvious: that President Obama’s foreign-policy fecklessness has made America less safe.

The debate on Saturday exposed the real weakness the Democratic field has on national security. None of the three candidates were willing to state the obvious: that President Obama’s foreign-policy fecklessness has made America less safe. Former CIA deputy director Michael Morell told CBS News’s Face the Nation on Sunday that “it’s now crystal clear to us that our strategy, our policy, vis-à-vis ISIS is not working, and it’s time to look at something else.” The day before, Morell had told CBS’s 48 Hours that it was now the duty of the intelligence community to confront President Obama with that news.

The sad truth is that the victims of Friday’s terrorist attacks — the French — are far more clear-eyed about the threat facing them and more willing to acknowledge that they need a new strategy. In January, after the Charlie Hebdo attacks and long before Friday’s massacres, French prime minister Manuel Valls declared: “We are at war — not a war against a religion, not a war against a civilization, but to defend our values, which are universal. It’s a war against terrorism and radical Islamism, against everything that would break our solidarity, our liberty, our fraternity.” On Sunday, France signaled a renewed commitment to the War on Terror by launching punishing air strikes against ISIS.

#share#By comparison with the French, the three Democratic presidential candidates looked timid, obsessed with political appearances, and unserious. Perhaps Wall Street executives should be worried about one of them becoming president, but I’m not sure ISIS leaders should.

— John Fund is national-affairs correspondent for National Review.

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