Donald Trump called for “extreme vetting” to root out potential terrorists attempting to enter the United States, as the Republican presidential nominee Monday rolled out a three-pronged strategy to fight and win what he described as an ideological war pitting radical Islamists against the West.
The immigration plan fine-tuned Mr. Trump’s proposal during the Republican primaries to temporarily ban all Muslims from entering the U.S.
Many Democrats and Republicans criticized that plan as unconstitutional and un-American, but Mr. Trump still proposed a temporary travel ban on people from terrorist hotbeds until U.S. officials establish a test to measure cultural and civic compatibility with American values.
Sticking closely to a prepared set of remarks, the presidential candidate said a new immigration policy was needed immediately to stop a pattern of terrorist attacks inside the United States, including the Boston Marathon bombing and the mass shootings in San Bernardino, California, and Orlando, Florida.
Mr. Trump said President Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton failed to appreciate or effectively combat the danger.
“A Trump administration will establish a clear principle that will govern all decisions pertaining to immigration: We should only admit into this country those who share our values and respect our people,” Mr. Trump said in the speech in Youngstown, Ohio.
Focusing heavily on terrorism and conflicts in the Middle East, Mr. Trump offered relatively few remarks on other issues and hotspots around the globe.
Even so, he did include a number of clear breaks with U.S. foreign policy establishment orthodoxy, including arguing for a broad partnership with Russia in the fight against the Islamic State group and saying the U.S. military should have seized and held Iraqi oil after the 2003 invasion to cut off Islamic State funding and provide a source of money to pay for U.S. veterans’ health care and benefits.
Mr. Trump said the pattern of homegrown terrorist who are immigrants or the children of immigrants underscored the need to vet immigrants, asylum seekers and foreign visitors based on their attitudes toward America.
“I call it ‘extreme vetting,’ ” said the New York billionaire. “Our country has enough problems. We don’t need any more, and these are problems like we’ve never seen before.”
The screening would exclude people who support Shariah law, he said, referring to the legal system based on Islam that some followers believe supersedes secular law.
“In the Cold War, we had an ideological screening test. The time is overdue to develop a new screening test for the threats we face today,” he said.
Presenting the threat of terrorism in the starkest terms, Mr. Trump said tougher immigration policies must be part of an aggressive strategy to eradicate radical Islam’s “ideology of hatred,” much like the U.S. defeated Nazis and the Soviet Union in the 20th century.
Mr. Trump’s plan to test people who want to enter the United States mirrored some of the requirements on the citizenship test. However, the test would be applied to people seeking to visit or temporarily live in the U.S.
Terrorism is a top issue in the presidential campaign and potentially Mr. Trump’s best opening to challenge Mrs. Clinton, who served as secretary of state under Mr. Obama as the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, grew into a global powerhouse.
Mr. Trump began his address minutes after Mrs. Clinton and Vice President Joseph R. Biden were savaging his foreign policy and questioning his fitness to be commander in chief during a joint rally in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
A Pew Research Center survey last month found that 84 percent of registered voters nationwide named the economy as a “very important” concern in the election, and 80 percent named “terrorism.”
Clinton and the Islamic State
A week after accusing Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton of being founders of the terrorist group, Mr. Trump detailed how the Islamic State spread on Mrs. Clinton’s watch as secretary of state, including her failed policies in Libya and Syria.
“Incident after incident proves again and again: Hillary Clinton lacks the judgment, the temperament and the moral character to lead this nation,” he said. “Importantly, she also lacks the mental and physical stamina to take on ISIS and all the many adversaries we face — not only in terrorism, but in trade and every other challenge we must confront to turn this country around.”
The other two prongs of Mr. Trump’s strategy against terrorism involved foreign policy.
Mr. Trump advocated for a concerted effort abroad to destroy the Islamic State and other radical Islamic terrorist groups, including military strikes on their strongholds, cutting off their financial resources and using cyberwarfare to shut down their online propaganda and recruiting tools.
In supporting those efforts, he proposed to end U.S. nation-building efforts in troubled states and to team up with countries that back the campaign against radical Islamic groups. He said Cold War foe Russia could be a valuable ally in the fight despite tensions on other fronts.
“We cannot always choose our friends, but we can never fail to recognize our enemies,” said Mr. Trump.
John R. Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who has been supportive of Mr. Trump, told Fox News that the candidate demonstrated “command on the subject matter” and appeared presidential.
However, the speech did little to satisfy Mr. Trump’s critics in national security circles.
“The policies and ‘pillars’ that were offered as solutions were often vague, and it is not clear they’d actually solve the serious challenges that exist in the region,” said Brian Nussbaum, a terrorism analyst at Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy at the University at Albany, State University of New York. “As in several other areas of policy, Trump’s approach to foreign policy and national security seems a bit nebulous, focused on slogans rather concrete policies.”
Ahead of the speech, the Clinton campaign called Mr. Trump “erratic,” “thin-skinned” and “vindictive” and blasted his foreign policy proposals.
“Simply put, Donald Trump is unfit to be our commander in chief. This isn’t overcranked campaign rhetoric — national security experts across the political spectrum are issuing the same warning,” Clinton campaign senior policy adviser Jake Sullivan wrote in a memo.
The ferocity of the pre-emptive strike against Mr. Trump underscored how vulnerable Mrs. Clinton is to criticism about terrorism and her record as secretary of state.
The memo argued that Mrs. Clinton, who also was first lady and a U.S. senator, was “uniquely qualified” to be commander in chief, compared with Mr. Trump, who he said was “uniquely unqualified.”
“The choice is clear,” Mr. Sullivan wrote. “It’s not a choice between a Democrat and a Republican, but between a responsible leader who will keep us safe, and a volatile man who threatens our security.”
• S.A. Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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