WASHINGTON, D.C.: A rash of attacks on US soil has put national security center stage in the presidential campaign, with Hillary Clinton seeking to show a steady hand and Donald Trump saying America needed to be tougher on terror and immigration.
The starkly different responses from the dueling White House hopefuls came after a bombing in New York, a mass stabbing in Minnesota and a New Jersey pipe blast—all on Saturday. They also came less than 50 days before Election Day.
The attacks distilled contrasting approaches on national security and in campaign style, with Democrat Clinton touting experience and patient determination—and Republican Trump channeling outrage and demanding radical change.
At an airfield hangar draped with US flags, Clinton sought to show she has the temperament, smarts and experience needed to be the commander-in-chief.
In brief remarks, Clinton toured a gamut of terror-related issues—from radicalization to policing—before calling for public resolve and a government “intelligence surge” to counter disparate and diffuse plots.
“This threat is real, but so is our resolve,” said the former secretary of state, in a presidential-style address that preceded President Barack Obama’s own remarks seeking to reassure the American public.
Clinton juxtaposed her role in the Obama administration’s killing of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden with a highly charged accusation that Trump’s right-wing rhetoric had helped the Islamic State group.
“The rhetoric we’ve heard from Donald Trump has been seized on by terrorists, in particular ISIS,” she said, adding it plays into the hands of those “who are looking to make this into a war against Islam.”
ISIS is another acronym for the Islamic State group.
Trump’s chosen platform was not the podium, but the bully pulpit—a television news chat show popular with conservative voters, underscoring how central the media has been to the real estate tycoon’s improbable campaign.
He sought to convince Americans that these latest attacks—which left about 40 injured—are an inevitable result of Clinton and Obama’s lax anti-terror and immigration policies.
“Our country has been weak. We’re letting people in by the thousands and tens of thousands. I’ve been saying you’ve got to stop it,” Trump told Fox News.
Doubling down, he later told a rally in Estero, Florida that “these attacks and many others were made possible because of our extremely open immigration system.”
An Afghan-born American man, a suspect in the bombings in New York and New Jersey, was shot and taken into custody Monday.
The Minnesota stabbing attack was carried out by a 22-year-old Somali-American with possible links to the Islamic State group who was shot and killed by an off-duty cop.
The political repercussions of the attacks are hard to predict. Neither candidate moved markedly in the polls after June’s deadly massacre in an Orlando nightclub or the string of attacks in Europe.
According to a Fox News poll published prior to the weekend, 46 percent of voters have more confidence in Clinton regarding questions of terrorism and national security, versus 45 percent who prefer Trump.
But the latest attacks come a week before the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in New York.
Presidential debates are often important staging posts, crystallizing election campaigns as voters shift from getting to know the candidates to imagining them in the Oval Office.
Both Trump and Clinton on Monday tried to show they are ready to sit behind the Resolute Desk.
The UN General Assembly taking place in New York has proved a canvas for both candidates to show they can act on the world stage.
Clinton and Trump are slated, separately, to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Clinton has additional meetings with Japan’s Shinzo Abe and Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko.
Trump has tried to counter his image as a diplomatic neophyte.
He recently visited Mexico and on Monday indicated he had already met “a couple” of world leaders in New
“I’ve had a lot of calls from a lot of different people on the basis that I’m doing well,” he said. “I’ve already met with a couple. I just don’t want to comment specifically on who they are.”
But the Republican has faced questions about why he told a rally in Colorado about the bombing in New York before local authorities had confirmed details of the explosion.
Both candidates get security briefings from the intelligence services.