Breaking all of the usual taboos for a national tragedy, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said Monday that the shooting massacre in Orlando, Florida, should be a redefining moment for America’s relationship with Muslims overseas and at home, where he said they must do more to inform on potential terrorists.
In less than 24 hours, Mr. Trump called for President Obama to resign for mishandling the threat from radical Islam, congratulated himself for predicting another attack and revamped his own call for a temporary ban on Muslims from being admitted to the U.S.
Mr. Trump broke from his usual practice by delivering a speech from a teleprompter — but the tone was classic Trump, firing at both Republicans and Democrats for botching the war on terrorism.
He went a step further by arguing that gay rights supporters should withhold support for Democrats and their likely presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, because the high levels of immigration that she supports is what allowed the parents of the attacker into the U.S. in the first place.
“Ask yourself, who is really the friend of women and the LGBT community: Donald Trump with his actions, or Hillary Clinton with her words?” Mr. Trump said after calling for a temporary immigration freeze from countries with terrorist activity. “Clinton wants to allow radical Islamic terrorists to pour into our country. They enslave women and murder gays. I don’t want them in our country.”
The White House announced Monday night that Mr. Obama will take the more customary presidential route, traveling to Orlando on Thursday to express solidarity with the community there. Press secretary Josh Earnest provided no further details.
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Mrs. Clinton also took a more traditional approach during a campaign stop in Ohio by saying “today is not a day for politics” and “Americans woke up to a nightmare that’s become mind-numbingly familiar.”
The former top diplomat expressed optimism in the nation’s ability to come together in the aftermath to deal with threats and voiced her support for stricter gun control laws and beefing up online surveillance.
Generally speaking, Mrs. Clinton’s approach has been the one preferred by politicians. On Capitol Hill, the House and Senate held moments of silence, and staffers behind the scenes bickered over how best to honor the memories of those killed.
Expressions of unity, vows of resolve and insistence that the U.S. will emerge proud and strong were standard fare.
But not for Mr. Trump, whose brash style has helped him ascend the Republican presidential dog pile this year and who shows no sign of changing tactics.
“Normally, politicians do not make the contrast as strong as he did so soon after a tragedy,” said Neil Levesque, executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics and Political Library at St. Anselm College, which hosted Mr. Trump’s speech. “But it is 2016, and politics is different and it had changed and people want that.
“Trump doesn’t necessarily stick with the standard rules of political procedure,” Mr. Levesque said.
Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist, said Mr. Trump is “trolling at the bottommost depths of the political discourse in this country” and that the tycoon was “trying to divide the country to score political points.”
“Any normal politician would express sympathy while encouraging the country to rally around each other at such a difficult time,” Mr. Manley said.
“The question is whether it is going to work,” Mr. Manley said. “If you look at social media, a lot of people are applauding this tough-guy rhetoric, but I think most Americans are absolutely appalled at what he is saying the last few hours.”
Mrs. Clinton didn’t name Mr. Trump once in her speech. He, however, name-checked her 18 times and wrapped in Mr. Obama with those attacks.
“The Obama administration, with the support of Hillary Clinton and others, has also damaged our security by restraining our intelligence-gathering and failing to support law enforcement. They have put political correctness above common sense, above your safety and above all else,” Mr. Trump said. “I refuse to be politically correct.”
On Sunday, Mr. Trump demanded that Mr. Obama name “radical Islam” as the root of the problem. When the president delivered a statement without following Mr. Trump’s advice, the candidate said it was time for Mr. Obama to resign.
The White House waved off the Trump comments. Mr. Earnest said earlier Monday that they were beneath a president focused “on something as big as helping the country respond to the worst mass shooting in our nation’s history.”
Asked what he himself thought, Mr. Earnest took a pass. “I took my own advice, and I’ve been focused on not being distracted by something so small,” he said.
Beyond the usual political barbs, Mr. Trump did open an attack on Mrs. Clinton, saying she cannot be a supporter of high immigration from terrorist-connected countries and claim to celebrate diversity in the U.S.
Mr. Trump said many immigrants from those countries hold “oppressive views and values,” including antipathy toward gay rights.
“She can’t have it both ways,” he said. “She can’t claim to be supportive of these communities while trying to increase the number of people coming in who want to oppress them.”