Donald Trump on Monday focused on national security in a speech to a raucous crowd of nearly 10,000 people, days after the terrorist attacks in Paris sent shockwaves around the world and rippled through the 2016 presidential race.
Slamming President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton for not referring to the threat from ISIS as “radical Islam,” Trump told his supporters here that it’s time to “talk about” the threat and pledged a more aggressive response if elected president.
“You hear the term radical Islamic terrorism. He won’t say it. He won’t say it,” Trump said referring to Obama. “I mean you can’t solve a problem if you refuse to talk about what the problem is. And he won’t talk about it. I don’t know what ‘s going on with this man. And you know who else won’t talk about it? Hillary. She won’t talk about it.”
Trump also suggested that “weak and ineffective” leadership was to blame for the attacks in Paris, which killed at least 129 people.
“When you’re weak and ineffective, bad stuff does happen. And that’s what we’re seeing,” Trump said at the top of his speech as he opened with the Paris killings, but did not elaborate on the remark.
Stumping Saturday in Beaumont, Texas, Trump first reacted to the terrorist carnage by saying that the tragedy “would’ve been a much, much different situation” if Paris had looser gun laws.
“If you have 25 people in there with guns, OK, it would’ve been a totally different story,” Trump said Monday, before pivoting to the need to protect the Second Amendment at home.
Trump’s speech Monday drew 9,750 people to the Knoxville Convention Center, according to the venue’s general manager, Mary Bogert. The animated crowd was a welcome sight for Trump, who has seen several of his competitors surging in the polls, endangering his months-long lead at the top of the GOP presidential pack.
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson is now neck-and-neck with Trump nationally and in the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa. And Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are steadily climbing to the top-tier of the pack, with the media narrative shifting to a potential contest between the two Cuban-American senators.
And while Trump hit Rubio Monday night as he typically does on the stump, the brash billionaire pulled his punches against Carson, who has been a focus of Trump’s barbs — and one Instagram video — in recent weeks.
Instead, Trump focused his attack lines on Obama, Clinton and the political class of politicians running for the GOP nomination.
“When a guy gives $5 million to let’s say Jeb Bush, or 5 million to Hillary of 5 million to Rubio,” Trump said, before pausing to say he doesn’t understand Rubio’s appeal. “But when they give all of this money, they expect something, folks.
But Trump didn’t linger on his rivals, instead delivering as promised a mostly national security-focused address. And it paid off.
Trump’s biggest applause lines came as he once again pledged to “bomb the shit out of” ISIS and forcefully insisted the U.S. should not accept any Syrian refugees.
Instead, Trump called for building a “tremendous safe zone” in Syria where Syrians could live without fear of being bombed.
Obama has already said the U.S. would accept 10,000 Syrian refugees fleeing the civil war and ISIS’s barbarism in Syria.
Trump’s election could spell disaster for those 10,000, though, as he once again pledged to send those refugees back to the Middle East if elected: “Anyone that’s brought in to this country from the migration is going to be out.”
It’s a position that resonated with Trump’s supporters in Knoxville — eight of whom interviewed Monday by CNN said they strongly agreed with Trump’s hardline refusal.
“I would say not all of them are terrorists, obviously, but the ones that would slip in or could slip in easily present a major issue,” supporter Douglas Buckley said. “How can you vet someone who’s going to lie anyway?
Another supporter 65-year-old Max Henderson agreed: “You think ISIS is not going to put — ISIS is going to put ’em there. They’re gon’ be there.”