Trump’s Attacks On Clinton’s ‘Stamina’ Are Obvious, Not Dog Whistles

Trump’s Attacks On Clinton’s ‘Stamina’ Are Obvious, Not Dog Whistles

Let's look at the substance of his foreign policy critique.
Mollie Hemingway
By

Donald Trump gave a speech on combating radical Islam on Monday. Shockingly, considering it was delivered by Donald Trump, it was not bad. Fred Barnes at The Weekly Standard said it wasn’t enough to answer questions of Trump’s fitness for office, but it was a good start.

Trump compared the fight against Islamic terror to the fights against fascism, Nazism, and Communism. He briefly listed the many recent attacks on U.S. soil by ISIS and other Islamist terrorists. He talked about the horrific attacks by Islamist terrorists in Paris, Brussels, Nice, Normandy, and on a German train. He also discussed ISIS attacks on and persecution in the Middle East.

Trump said radical Islam can’t be allowed to spread, that people unable to name the enemy are not fit to lead the country, that those who cannot condemn radical Islam lack the moral clarity to be president.

Trump didn’t just reiterate his view that the rise of ISIS is the direct result of the policies of President Barack Obama and his former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he added to it. He brought up the Obama and Clinton policies that led to the destabilization of Libya, the destabilization of Syria, the destabilization of Egypt, the destabilization of Iraq, the tremendous growth of ISIS, and the strengthening of Iran.

Trump reminded listeners of what he called “President Obama’s global ‘Apology Tour'” where he repeatedly described the United States in negative terms. He contrasted this with the rhetoric of Reagan. He said Obama’s Cairo speech lacked the moral courage to tout the superiority of freedom.

It was this context into which he said:

The failure to establish a new Status of Forces Agreement in Iraq, and the election-driven timetable for withdrawal, surrendered our gains in that country and led directly to the rise of ISIS.

The failures in Iraq were compounded by Hillary Clinton’s disaster in Libya. President Obama has since said he regards Libya as his worst mistake. According to then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the invasion of Libya was nearly a split decision, but Hillary Clinton’s forceful advocacy for the intervention was the deciding factor.

With one episode of bad judgment after another, Hillary Clinton’s policies launched ISIS onto the world.

Yet, as she threw the Middle East into violent turmoil, things turned out well for her. The Clintons made almost $60 million in gross income while she was Secretary of State.

Incident after incident proves again and again: Hillary Clinton lacks the judgement, the temperament and the moral character to lead this nation. Importantly, she also lacks the mental and physical stamina to take on ISIS, and all the many adversaries we face – not only in terrorism, but in trade and every other challenge we must confront to turn this country around.

Emphasis mine. Trump went on to speak against nation-building, in favor of crushing one’s enemies and seizing their assets, and in favor of prioritizing the fight against Islamist terror. He said the United States should work with Russia to fight ISIS. He listed military operations, blocking of finances, expanded intelligence sharing, and targeted cyberwarfare. He called for ideological warfare, in which the United States condemns radical Islam. He called for limiting and screening immigrants to make sure radical Islamists aren’t given access to the country through immigration procedures. And he said the FBI’s pattern of missing Islamist threats needed to be changed.

In any case, some journalists began hearing the boldfaced portion as a “dog whistle.”

Here’s how The Daily Beast categorized its snippet on his remarks:

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 9.37.28 PM

The dog whistle The Daily Beast heard was different than the dog whistle other journalists heard, though not all. On MSNBC and CNN, there were discussions about this being a secret dog whistle about Hillary not being able to fight terrorism effectively because she’s a girl. On The Daily Beast, the dog whistle was supposed to signal she was physically unfit.

Donald Trump suggested—as he has in the past—that Hillary Clinton is somehow secretly ill. This time though, Clinton lacks the ‘mental and physical stamina’ to take on ISIS, which comes just a week after conspiracy theories bubbled to the surface once again saying that the Democratic nominee has some terminal ailment.

Is it time to review what a dog whistle is? A dog whistle is, according to Wikipedia, “political messaging employing coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has an additional, different or more specific resonance for a targeted subgroup.”

Saying that Hillary Clinton lacks the physical and mental stamina to take on ISIS is literally saying the thing that supposedly needs to be dog whistled as a supersecret message. It can’t be secret, coded messaging when it’s the thing he says!

It’s the same thing independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin just said about Donald Trump.

Journalists should feel free to disagree with what Trump says, and openly state their rather obviously held beliefs that Hillary Clinton has the judgment, temperament, and moral character to lead the country. They should feel free to note that they believe she has the physical and mental stamina to take on ISIS. But there is no need to say that the words Trump is openly saying are a dog whistle.

Besides, can’t we move on to a better quality of coverage? For journalism’s sake?

True. There is a disturbing pattern of the media doing everything in its power to avoid discussions about U.S. foreign policy, particularly as it relates to Islamist terrorism. This is just the second example in under a week.

Granted, Trump’s speech — and that of his surrogates — is frustratingly non-specific. Still, political reporters’ extreme swings from hyperliteralism to superfine-tuned dog-whistle detection comes off as erratic. We’d be better served if reporters provided some calm journalistic coverage.

Perhaps spending less time hearing dog whistles and more time just noting the different foreign policy approaches of these two presidential candidates is in order. This speech provides just that opportunity.

Mollie Ziegler Hemingway is a senior editor at The Federalist. Follow her on Twitter at @mzhemingway
Photo By CNN
Photo CNN / CNN.com

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