- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 14, 2016

President Obama hit back Tuesday at criticism that he’s afraid to utter the phrase “radical Islam” in the war on terror, saying “there’s no magic” to the words that would help the U.S. defeat terrorists.

Lecturing Republicans and presidential nominee Donald Trump, Mr. Obama challenged his critics defiantly, asking, “What exactly would using this label accomplish? What exactly would it change? Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away. This is a political distraction.”

His comments came two days after a Muslim gunman killed 49 and wounded 53 at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Mr. Obama also renewed his call for Congress to impose more gun control, especially a ban on assault-style rifles such as the one used in Orlando.

“Stop making it easy as possible for terrorists to buy assault weapons. Reinstate the assault weapons ban,” Mr. Obama said. “Otherwise … these kinds of events are going to keep on happening.”

The president said his refusal to say the phrase “radical Islam” in connection with such attacks “has nothing to do with political correctness, and everything to do with actually defeating extremism.”

But Republicans including Mr. Trump and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani are raising their accusations that Mr. Obama and his advisers can’t effectively fight an enemy if they won’t even call it by its real name.

“The words that the president uses are important,” Mr. Giuliani said Tuesday on CNN. “He is creating a feeling, particularly among maybe more liberal members of society, you can’t say Islamic terrorism.”

Mr. Giuliani said, “The Obama strategy of not mentioning a name obviously isn’t working. We’ve had four attacks in the last year [Paris, San Bernardino, Brussels and Orlando]. That’s outrageous. We’ve had four attacks. They’re increasing. The fact is that the weaker you are, the harder they hit you.”

He included former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, as part of the problem.

“It’s their policies that brought us to where we are today,” Mr. Giuliani said. “We’re in a much more dangerous situation than we were before Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton took over.”

Mr. Obama said of his critics in the GOP, “That kind of yapping has not prevented folks across government from doing their jobs.”

“The men and women who put their lives at risk and the Special Forces I ordered to get bin Laden and are now on the ground in Iraq and in Syria — they know full well who the enemy is,” Mr. Obama said. “So do the intelligence and law enforcement officers who spent countless hours disrupting plots. And protecting all Americans, including politicians who tweet, and appear on cable news shows. They know what the nature of the enemy is. So there’s no magic to the phrase ‘radical Islam.’ It’s a political talking point.”

Referring to Mr. Trump’s proposal to bar Muslims from entering the U.S., Mr. Obama said, “we are now seeing how dangerous this kind of mindset” can be.

Noting that the killers in San Bernardino, California, and Fort Hood, Texas, attacks were U.S. citizens, the president said authorities cannot conduct blanket surveillance on all Muslims.

“Where does this stop?” Mr. Obama asked. “Are we going to start subjecting them to special surveillance? Do Republican officials actually agree with this? Because that’s not the America we want. It won’t make us more safe, it will make us less safe.”

The president said Omar Mateen, the Orlando gunman, appears to have been radicalized by extremist propaganda on the internet.

While Mr. Obama said there’s no information that Mateen was directed by the Islamic State or another terrorist group, an investigation shows it’s “increasingly clear that the killer took in extremist information and propaganda” online.

The president said the gunman appears to have been an “angry, disturbed young man who became radicalized” by that propaganda.

The president spoke after meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and other top advisers about counterterrorism efforts against the Islamic State, a meeting that had been planned before the Orlando attack.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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