Politics & Policy

PC Response to Terror Is Reviving Democrats’ Weak 1980s Image

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

President Obama’s decision to suddenly address the country from the Oval Office tonight for only the third time is in part a belated realization that he and his party have lost touch with the country on terrorism.

The initial response by Obama and other Democrats to recent terror attacks was listless and inexplicable. Obama termed the Paris massacre a mere “setback” and continued to claim that climate change was a greater threat, and he also has steadfastly refused to identify “radical Islamic terrorism” as the enemy in the war on terror. Instead, his first instinct was to call for more gun control: “The one thing we do know is that we have a pattern of mass shootings that have no parallel anywhere in the world.” That is an obvious lie in the wake of recent terror incidents around the world from Paris to Mali.

For her part, Hillary Clinton also called for more gun control, before she finally acknowledged that perhaps the U.S. visa-screening program needed “a hard look.”

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In the wake of San Bernardino, Attorney General Loretta Lynch promptly announced that “her greatest fear” was that anti-Islam “rhetoric will be accompanied by acts of violence.” She pledged to prosecute anyone who engaged in “anti-Muslim rhetoric” that “edges towards violence” against Muslims. It is an odd priority given that Jews are consistently targeted for their faith far more often than members of any other religious group, and that the latest statistics show that over 60 percent of religious hate crimes in this country are committed against Jews, with less than 14 percent against Muslims.

As for prosecuting the war on terror, more and more experts have begun questioning the White House’s failed strategy. Former CIA director Michael Morrell admitted that concerns about environmental damage have prevented the White House from bombing oil wells that finance the ISIS.

“We didn’t go after oil wells, actually hitting oil wells that ISIS controls, because we didn’t want to do environmental damage, and we didn’t want to destroy that infrastructure,” Morell said last week on PBS’s Charlie Rose.

#share#In the last few days, Democrats in Congress have begun hearing from constituents who are angry at Democrats’ out-to-lunch reaction to the recent terrorist attacks. Even liberal commentators have started raising the alarm. Mark Shields, a former Democratic campaign strategist turned PBS commentator, warned that since Paris, “the Democrats have been tone-deaf” on the rising tide of terrorism. “There is a sense of fear,” he said. “Since Paris, you have Great Britain going in against ISIS. You have got Germany going in against ISIS. This was really a seminal event, Paris was, and I think San Bernardino is, just another chapter in that.”

RELATED: San Bernardino Shows the High Cost of Political Correctness

But Democrats have for now been paralyzed by their political correctness, which has stifled a vigorous Democratic response to recent terror attacks. Hillary Clinton said today on ABC’s This Week that she still won’t use the term “radical Islam” because “it doesn’t do justice to the vast number of Muslims in our country and around the world who are peaceful people.”

#related#New Jersey governor Chris Christie scoffed at that reasoning. “They won’t say radical Islamic jihadist,” he told CBS’s Face the Nation today in criticizing Obama and Clinton. They fail to see, he said, why it’s vital to describe the enemy properly so that we can properly combat them: “Now when you say ‘radical Islamic jihadist,’ they understand, the rest of the Muslim community understands. The folks who are peaceful and who attend mosques in a peaceful way, work in our country, raise their families, pay their taxes. They know they’re not radical Islamic jihadists.”

President Obama’s speech tonight will be an attempt to lower the level of fear the country is feeling, and he will also aim to convince people that he has the issue in hand. But more and more Democrats are anxious that a tone-deaf White House is pushing the party back to the days of the late 1970s and 1980s, when Democratic candidates from Jimmy Carter to Walter Mondale to Michael Dukakis were viewed as insufficiently responsive to foreign-policy threats. The party paid a price for that, and Democrats worry that they now look out-of-touch and uncertain in foreign policy. To the extent that continues, the Democratic party could pay a steep price at the polls next year.

— John Fund is National Review Online’s national-affairs correspondent.

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