Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was in Minnesota Tuesday for what was billed as a significant speech outlining her policies toward terrorism and especially ISIS.
The former first lady, senator and secretary of state received a friendly response from the audience at the McNamara Alumni Center of the University of Minnesota. She was introduced by DFL icon Walter Mondale, who supports her candidacy, and the front rows were heavy with major DFL figures, including both U.S. senators.
She described a lot of policy ideas — large and small, but mostly small — for destroying ISIS and in the meanwhile protecting Americans from terror attacks like the recent one in San Bernardino. I’m not sure which of her proposals were new and which she has outlined before.
Her topline policies toward the Mideast theater seemed close to what President Obama is already pursuing. For example, she said “we can’t afford another major war in the Middle East,” but the United States should hit ISIL from the air and recruit allies on the ground.
“We can’t let fear push us into reckless actions,” she said. The strategy will require a lot of recruitment of and coordination with allies and support from the air, but “what it will not require is tens of thousands of American troops” on the ground.
I didn’t attend but watched the speech live by Internet. I don’t have the full text, but until I can acquire one, a few impressions:
Clinton didn’t mention her remaining challengers for the Democratic nomination — Sen. Bernie Sanders or former Gov. Martin O’Malley — by name nor even by vague allusion that I could detect. She seemed to be in general-election mode.
Clinton mentioned Donald Trump only once or twice and none of the other Republican candidates by name, but the speech definitely was about distinguishing her approach to fighting ISIS from that of several Republicans. For example, Clinton said: “Promising to carpet bomb the desert until it glows doesn’t make you sound strong, it makes you sound like you’re in over your head.” That bit about the glowing desert comes from Sen. Ted Cruz, not Trump, although Clinton didn’t name Cruz.
But one of her main purposes seemed to be strike a balance — in a way that seemed intended as a rebuke to Trump’s recent call for a moratorium on Muslim immigrants — between small steps that would learn the right new tactics from recent attacks and make America safer, while preserving American traditions of tolerance for immigrants and diversity.
The biggest ovations seemed to occur on the latter theme. She relied on the success of Minnesota in accepting Somali immigrants as a case where the balance has been well struck.
She said that empowering the Muslim-American community, to seek the help of Muslims in identifying possible terror recruits, to keep alive the vision of a nation in which members of all faiths can seek a future together, is “the first, last and best defense” against radicalization.
The message we should send to Muslim Americans, whom Clinton referred to as “our Muslim brothers and sisters,” should be that “this is your country too, and I am proud to be your fellow American.”
She talked about a lot of small initiatives to, for example, monitor Internet communications better, to take down the “network of enablers” that helps ISIS recruit, and even to provide significant extra scrutiny to visa applicants who have traveled within five years to areas of ISIS strength. But, she said, the idea of using a religious test for those who qualify for visas “is not who we are as Americans — we are better than that.”
She also took on the gun lobby, thus: “Terrorists use guns to kill Americans and I think we must make it a lot harder for them to do that.” For example, those who are on the do-not-fly list should not be allowed to buy assault weapons.