Wednesday | July 27, 2016
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Calling the terrorists what they are

Among President Obama’s many admirable qualities is the ability to effectively communicate to the public in cautious, measured tones. Unlike his predecessor, the current commander in chief isn’t the type to shoot from the hip or challenge his adversaries with a gruff “Bring ’em on.”

In the course of normal Washington politics, we generally prefer Obama’s subtlety to the swagger of the Bush years. When the moment calls for moral clarity, however, the current president’s professorial mien can occasionally leave us longing for his predecessor’s forthrightness. In such moments, we turn to Joe Biden.

The vice president may be known for his gaffes, but the same plainspoken style that occasionally lands him in hot water also allows him to get to the heart of the matter in a fashion that often eludes his boss.

Such was the case Wednesday, when Biden, speaking at a memorial service for the MIT police officer killed during the Tsarnaev brothers’ alleged Boston terror spree, referred to the attackers as “twisted, perverted, cowardly, knock-off jihadis.”

We’d say that about covers it.

What makes Biden’s pronouncement all the more consequential, however, is that it breaches the topic of the Islamic fundamentalism that motivated the Tsarnaevs, an issue that has otherwise been met with silence by the Obama White House.

That aversion to rhetorical reality has been a hallmark of this administration — remember, for instance, that Army Maj. Nidal Hasan murdering 13 individuals at Ford Hood while shouting “Allahu Akbar” was officially classified as “workplace violence” rather than terrorism.

That squeamishness doesn’t serve anybody well. In the eyes of our aggressors, it makes the Obama administration seem more concerned with protecting delicate domestic sensitivities than truthfully identifying our enemies — a trait sure to be interpreted as indicative of weakness. For the general public, it only obscures the nature of those who wish to inflict as much harm as possible on the nation.

Perhaps the primary victims of this silence, however, are American Muslims themselves. Silence from the White House only abets those who would conflate the tiny minority of Islamists bent on sowing chaos with the broad majority of peaceful, patriotic Muslims. For all of his other rhetorical indelicacies, George W. Bush was both adamant and consistent in denouncing radical Islam and distinguishing it from the faith’s moderate mainstream. Obama would do well by American Muslims to make a similar case.

We recognize the president’s desire to tamp down the rhetorical excesses of the Bush years. And we don’t mind his desire for a more nuanced tone. America still has fervent enemies bent on our destruction, however.

Obscuring that fact — and avoiding mention of the ideology that animates it — will not change the reality on the ground. If anything, it will only make it more difficult to combat.

— From the Orange County Register


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