The deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history coincides with a presidential race made all the more frenetic by ever-faster communications.
Leading up to their first set speeches in response to the Orlando horror, candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton exchanged remarks by Twitter and network news. Current conditions seem to forbid a respite period for shock and grief.
Clearly seeking to steer attention and outshout his opponent, Trump made several comments critics easily condemned as reckless.
Trump’s willingness to jump out on a thin factual limb is getting as predictable as his preening. This time, Trump darkly hinted that President Barack Obama was actively complicit in Islamic terrorism. He said Clinton dared not call it by that phrase, and gave one of his undocumented conspiracy theories as to why.
Fitting with his pattern in reacting to previous calamities, Trump acknowledged those who purportedly congratulated him for being “right” on the issue and projected himself as the agent for “toughness and vigilance.”
Later he took anew to the TelePrompTer where he recited several of the same themes, raised more alarms about Syrian refugees and warned that “otherwise it’s too late for our country.”
For her part, Democrat Clinton rather quickly responded with “whether you call it radical jihadism or radical Islamism, I am happy to say either.” She also dished out a warning of her own: That Trump’s words are “quite dangerous for our country.”
As you’d expect, Clinton was more conventional, more scripted, more saccharine, palpably general, in line with the current administration, and less overwrought than her Republican opponent.
Three sample quotes sum up her speech on the topic Monday:
“The terrorist in Orlando targeted LGBT Americans out of hatred and bigotry. An attack on any American is an attack on all Americans.”
“Background checks and an assault weapons ban might not stop every attack — but they’ll stop some and save lives. We need to fight for them.”
“As president, I will make identifying and stopping lone wolves a top priority.”
Of course, salient questions about motives and events leading up to the weekend murders require more than an exchange of slogans, pledges and one-liners, or in Trump’s case, exotic, off-the-cuff claims.
Those questions demand answers with obviously big implications for future government policies.
The FBI since 2013 said it took two close looks at Omar Mateen, 29, who, aside from statements of support for radical Muslim groups, was regarded as given to “toxic” remarks about people of several ethnicities and homophobia.
Mateen’s ex-wife called him “mentally unstable and mentally ill.” Mateen, by all accounts, was carrying powerful weapons legally — owing to his employment in the security industry by a company that gets big government outsourcing work.
Take your pick of issues — guns, immigration, mental illness, religious extremism, civil liberties, security procedures, foreign interventions.
No matter who wins, these debates will survive the campaign. Even in this period of speedy spin, the realm of difficult facts outlasts elections.