Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Trump, Clinton Reactions To Orlando Offer Window Into Foreign Policies


This week's shooting at a gay club in Orlando was a sort of test for the presidential candidates. It was a chance for both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to show how they would respond to a sudden unexpected tragedy. Both candidates shuffled campaign schedules in order to address the shooting, and as NPR's Scott Horsley reports, both offered windows into their very different ideas about governing.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Donald Trump's first campaign appearance after Sunday's massacre had the trappings of a serious policy speech - an invited audience, a scholarly setting and carefully scripted remarks that the candidate read from a teleprompter. The underlying message, though, was not much different from Trump's usual dire warnings about immigration. He took his proposal to outlaw Muslim immigrants one step further.


DONALD TRUMP: When I'm elected, I will suspend immigration from areas of the world where there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies.

HORSLEY: Trump was characteristically vague about which countries that ban would apply to, and his campaign did not respond to repeated inquiries. Mary Habeck of the American Enterprise Institute says, given the homegrown attacks in Paris and Brussels, much of Europe could be barred from sending immigrants to the United States.

MARY HABECK: Does that include France? Does it include Belgium? He really doesn't explain.

HORSLEY: Brian Michael Jenkins warns Trump's plan could backfire if it makes blacklisted countries less willing to cooperate with the U.S. Jenkins has been studying counterterrorism efforts at the RAND Corporation for more than four decades.

BRIAN JENKINS: I somehow have the feeling that if there were an easy solution to this problem, we would have stumbled across it by now.

HORSLEY: Jenkins says the U.S. used to focus on countering the tactics of terrorism with airport metal detectors and barriers outside buildings. Then it tried a military campaign. But despite years of effort, terror attacks have continued. Jenkins says it's no surprise some people have gravitated to Trump's proposal to try to wall-off the United States.

JENKINS: When people become frightened, ideas like that become very, very popular, but it's essentially medieval and it doesn't really work that well in today's world.

HORSLEY: Hillary Clinton spelled out her own strategy for battling terrorism this week, and like Trump's, it's a reflection of Clinton's overall style. Her plan is detailed and multifaceted. It calls for beating ISIS and stricter gun control. She also sent a calculated message to America's wealthy allies around the Persian Gulf.


HILLARY CLINTON: It is long past time for the Saudis, the Qataris and the Kuwaitis and others to stop their citizens from funding extremist organizations.

HORSLEY: AEI's Mary Habeck says trying to cut off financing for terrorist-backing groups is a good idea, but she cautions it's been tried before and it's not easily done.

HABECK: It is incredibly difficult to do, and it is never 100 percent successful.

HORSLEY: Habeck suggests both candidates have responded to the Orlando massacre with familiar policy prescriptions - Trump's call for an immigration ban and Clinton's push for more gun control.

HABECK: You get the feeling that people are kind of running to their comfort zones. They're focusing on those issues that they're comfortable talking about for which they already have policies.

HORSLEY: The RAND Corporation's Jenkins says finding and stopping terrorists is hard precisely because their numbers are so small. Even the term lone wolf is overly dramatic, he says - what authorities really need to watch for is the rare but dangerous stray dog.

JENKINS: You have a lot of people who are beating their chests on the internet or in statements to others all snarling and barking, and the question is, OK, which one is actually going to bite?

HORSLEY: Jenkins estimates 9 out of 10 terrorist plots are discovered and thwarted. It's the one that slips through that keeps presidents and those who would be president up at night. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.