Washington Post (Plum Line):
By Greg Sargent
November 30, 2015
Over the weekend, Donald Trump continued to dig in behind his assertion that “thousands and thousands” of people in New Jersey cheered the fall of the Twin Towers. But the argument remained in a kind of he-said-she-said netherworld that skirted the debate’s actual subtext. It was about whether any actual evidence exists of Trump’s claims, and not about his deeper implication that you should fear the violent intentions of huge numbers of American Muslims.
Now Trump’s demagoguery has taken a new turn that could focus the debate a bit more directly on this implied message.
On Morning Joe today, Bloomberg’s John Heilemann asked Trump directly whether he thinks Islam is an inherently violent or peaceful religion. Trump declined to answer, and instead suggested that there is a “lot of hatred” coming out of a “big part” of Islam:
HEILEMANN: “Do you think that Islam is an inherently peaceful religion that’s been perverted by some? Or do you think Islam is an inherently violent religion?”
TRUMP: “All I can say is there’s something going on. I don’t know that that question can be answered. It could be answered two ways. It could be answered both ways. But there’s something going on there. There’s a lot of hatred coming out of at least a big part of it. You see the hatred. We see it every day. You see it, whether it’s in Paris, or whether it’s the World Trade Center….
“There’s something nasty coming out of there. You could answer it any way you want. But at least we have to know the problem.”
How will the other GOP presidential candidates react to this? It seems plausible that Jeb Bush might forcefully denounce it, since Bush has unequivocally condemned Trump’s vow to close mosques and his suggestions that we may need a Muslim registry.
Ted Cruz is beginning to escalate his attacks on Trump, apparently in hopes of winning over Trump’s evangelical supporters. But Cruz was very quick to claim after the Paris attacks that Muslim refugees in particular should be barred from entering the United States.
Marco Rubio at first tiptoed carefully around Trump’s mosque comments, and while he subsequently came down a bit harder on them, he plainly has exercised caution around Trump’s gradual ratcheting up of demagoguery, perhaps out of fear of alienating Trump supporters.
By declining to say whether Islam is a violent religion, and by suggesting that “hatred” is coming out of a “big part” of Islam, Trump has exposed the xenophobic subtext of his rhetoric about Muslims, much the way his previous comments about Mexicans helped illuminate the true intended appeal of his immigration prescriptions. Of course, for all we know, this might only help him further with his supporters.
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