Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill stood apart from their presumptive presidential nominee yet again — but this time in the aftermath of a major terror attack on the American homeland, an event that historically has brought parties together, not driven them apart.
Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee, responded Monday to the deadly Orlando mass shooting by reiterating his own support for a ban on the immigration of Muslims and calling for an expansion to encompass “areas of the world where there’s a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies.”
That drew a fresh condemnation from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who called Tuesday for “a security test, not a religious test” for immigrants. “I do not think a Muslim ban is in our country’s interest,” he told reporters. “I do not think it is reflective of our principles, not just as a party but as a country.”
Trump also suggested that American Muslims were not cooperating with law enforcement to combat radicalism. He said, “They have to work with us. They know what’s going on. They know that he was bad. They knew the people in San Bernardino were bad. But you know what? They didn’t turn them in. And you know what? We had death, and destruction.”
“If we don’t get tough, and if we don’t get smart, and fast, we’re not going to have our country anymore,” Trump said. “There will be nothing, absolutely nothing, left.”
Ryan drew a sharp distinction between terrorist radicals and Muslims generally. “This is a war with radical Islam; it’s not a war with Islam,” he said. “The vast, vast majority of Muslims in this country and around the world are moderates. They’re peaceful. They’re tolerant. They’re among our best allies, among our best resources in this fight against radical Islamic terrorism.”
In December, when Trump first proposed a ban after a deadly attack in San Bernardino, California, Ryan denounced the plan as “not conservatism” and “not what this party stands for.” Ryan said at the time: “Freedom of religion is a fundamental constitutional principle. It’s a founding principle of this country.”
On Monday, Trump suggested among other things that moderate Muslims and perhaps even Obama himself might sympathize with radical elements.
“Mr. Trump seems to be suggesting that the president is one of them; I find that highly offensive, I find that whole line of reasoning way off base,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said. “Mr. Trump’s reaction to declare war on the faith is the worst possible solution.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said Trump’s comments could be used to radicalize uneducated Muslims. “I guess I appreciate Mr. Trump’s fieriness in talking about it . . . but you don’t do it by alienating the very people we need and those are moderate Muslims,” he said. “To use religion as a test, to say we’re going to discriminate against all Muslims, is so counterproductive it really almost doesn’t deserve being talked about.”