By Clay Waters ~
Monday’s New York Times reacted to the Islamic terror massacre in Orlando in predictable fashion, with muted gun control editorials in its news reports and warnings to Donald Trump not to “demagogue” the issue of radical Islam. Omar Mateen, who claimed loyalty to ISIS and went on a rampage at a gay nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 people and injuring scores of others, declared allegiance to the Islamic State in a 911 call. Yet beyond the accurate front-page stories, some Times reporters did their best to downplay the Islam angle.
Times reporter Michael Shear offered “After Another Hail of Bullets, Obama Offers a Familiar Lament.” Shear, who fawns constantly over Obama, penned a news item that read more like an anti-gun editorial straining to escape.
The tableau at the White House was chillingly familiar: The somber president, nearing the end of his eight-year term, walked grim-faced to the podium to offer his condolences, promised action in the wake of suffering and pleaded for a new resolve that just might prevent more deaths in a hail of bullets.
The list of tragedies on President Obama’s watch seems countless by now. An elementary classroom. A church. A military base. A movie theater. And, now, a gay nightclub. Mr. Obama said Sunday’s massacre, by a gunman with a handgun and an assault weapon, is another brutal reminder of how easy it is for someone to slaughter dozens.
“We have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be,” Mr. Obama said on Sunday as he mourned the nation’s deadliest mass shooting. “And to actively do nothing is a decision, as well.”
Mr. Obama vowed to respond forcefully to what he called a devastating “act of terror and an act of hate.” This time, it was a tragedy that combined gun violence, a hatred of gays and ties to Islamist terrorism.
It took only hours for questions about those connections to become fodder in the presidential campaign. Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, seized on the attacks as evidence of America’s weakness in facing terrorism. He demanded that Mr. Obama resign because he refused to say the words “radical Islam” in his remarks.
Mr. Obama pleaded with Americans during his remarks not to “give in to fear or turn against each other,” a somewhat muted reference to Mr. Trump’s previous call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States.
For Shear, the massacre in Orlando was somehow not to be blamed on Islamic terror, but instead the problem is America’s — specifically, America’s failure to mandate gun control:
During his presidency, Mr. Obama has repeatedly mourned victims of mass shootings, often expressing anger and frustration at what he has said is the country’s apparent willingness to let them become a “normal” part of life.
That anger has been compounded by Mr. Obama’s inability to persuade lawmakers to impose new restrictions on the availability of firearms, especially the assault-style rifles like the one believed to have been used by the gunman in Sunday morning’s attack in Orlando. A major push for a ban on assault weapons after the 2012 massacre of schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn., ended in failure.
“Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?” an emotional Mr. Obama said after the Newtown attack.
Shear talked about hatred of gays but didn’t mention Islam, though homosexuality is a sin worthy of the death penalty in many theocratic Muslim countries.
Mr. Obama has often hailed the progress on gay rights that has been made during his presidency, especially the decision by the United States Supreme Court to allow same-sex marriage. But those legal protections have not erased hatred in the country.
Shear indulged in a bit of Obama mind-reading and anti-gun sentimentalism rather unbecoming an objective journalist.
Mr. Obama took no questions from reporters after delivering his five-minute remarks. He turned from the podium to walk back into the West Wing, once again left to monitor the investigation, prepare a likely eulogy for the dead and wonder when he might have to come into the briefing room again.
Shortly after he spoke, Mr. Obama ordered that flags at the White House and other federal sites around the world be lowered to half-staff. Again.
Reporter Jonathan Martin also seemed to seethe with repressed anger against Donald Trump for daring to raise the issue of Islamic terror after the worst shooting in U.S. history: “Trump Seizes on Massacre and Repeats Call for a Temporary Ban on Muslim Migration.”
In a demonstration of his willingness to flout convention and engage in a style of demagogic politics rarely displayed by a presidential nominee, Mr. Trump claimed he had warned of the sort of terrorism that marked the shooting, which killed 50 and was the worst in the country’s history.
“I said this was going to happen — and it is only going to get worse,” Mr. Trump said in a statement, arguing that Mrs. Clinton’s presidency would mean “hundreds of thousands” more Middle East migrants.
In a separate statement on Twitter, Mr. Trump said that the rampage in Orlando “is just the beginning” and noted that he “asked for the ban” on Muslim immigration to America. He has made his hard line against Muslims central to his campaign, and, even after becoming the presumptive nominee and turning to a broader electorate, refused to fully back off from his call to temporarily halt Muslims from traveling to America.
A tragedy in the middle of a presidential race would typically force restraint on candidates. But this tradition has largely vanished in the era of the superheated, social media news cycle, where mass shootings immediately set off debates about access to guns and, if the perpetrator is Muslim, Islamist terrorism. And if the Orlando massacre was a test of how willing candidates and their supporters are to pursue partisan attacks in the aftermath of horrific violence, Mr. Trump left little doubt about his willingness to push the boundaries of the country’s public discourse.
He had no public events Sunday and, in a rarity, did not appear on any of the weekly political talk shows. But he made ample use of his Twitter account, where he said: “appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism.”
Martin painted Hillary Clinton’s “restrained” response (she did later take up Trump’s offer to use the term “radical Islam”) as somehow the inherently preferable one.
If Mr. Trump was characteristically bellicose in his response, Mrs. Clinton was typically restrained….