Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have different styles responding to national security events
The Democratic nominee tends to be more careful in her words than her GOP rival
The contrasting styles of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are on display each time the two presidential nominees are forced to react to a national security event.
Trump is often loose with his language in describing what has taken place, and couples it at times with bragging about his own calls for toughness. Clinton, meanwhile, often urges restraint and waiting for more details, and at times pushes gun control measures.
These different styles were evident Saturday night after an explosion injured 29 people in a Manhattan neighborhood. Trump immediately said a “bomb went off.” Clinton, meanwhile, called for support for first responders and said she wanted to “let this investigation unfold.”
Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the first reactions from Clinton and Trump to incidents at home and abroad that have taken place during the 2016 campaign:
New York bombings, September 17, 2016
Clinton: The New York City blast occurred on the same day an explosion went off near a Marine Corps charity run in New Jersey and a man stabbed nine people at Minnesota mall, leaving people across the country on edge. After being briefed by staff, Clinton spoke with reporters at the back of her plane after touching down in New York. “I have been briefed about the bombings in New York and New Jersey and the attack in Minnesota. Obviously we need to do everything we can to support our first responders, also to pray for the victims. We have to let this investigation unfold. We have been in touch with various officials, including the mayor’s office in New York, to learn what they are discovering as they conduct this investigation. And I will have more to say about it when we have some facts,” she said.
Trump: “Just before I got off the plane, a bomb went off in New York and nobody knows exactly what’s going on,” Trump said before officials had determined the cause of the explosion, within 30 minutes of the initial reports of an explosion in New York.
Orlando nightclub shootings, June 12, 2016
Clinton: Her first live reaction to the Orlando shooting came in a series of phone interviews. Speaking with NBC, Clinton called it a terrorist attack and noted that ISIS – by that time – had taken credit for it.
“This is a terrible, personal tragedy for all of them as well as a real shock and tragedy for our country,” she said. “So many people are still waiting to hear what happened to their loved ones who are unaccounted for. So I think we need to keep our focus there as well as our thoughts with the first responders who risked their lives and performed incredibly bravely in Orlando.
“And even as we figure out more about what happened, we need to get to work. This was a terrorist attack. ISIS appears to be claiming credit for it. At a minimum, they seem to have inspired it. I have a plan to defend our country from the, so called, loan wolves and to work with our allies to dismantle the global networks that fuel this kind of radicalization.”
Trump: Trump said on Twitter the day of the attack: “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!” It was not clear at that time whether the shooting had been an act of “radical Islamic terrorism.”
The next day, he suggested on Fox News that Obama was somehow complicit in the attack, saying: “We’re led by a man that either is not tough, not smart, or he’s got something else in mind,” Trump said. “People can’t believe it. … They can’t believe that President Obama is acting the ways he acts and can’t … mention the words radical Islamic terrorism. There’s something going on. It’s inconceivable.”
Brussels bombings, March 22, 2016
Clinton: Her first response came through a statement released by her campaign. It said: “Terrorists have once again struck at the heart of Europe, but their campaign of hate and fear will not succeed. The people of Brussels, of Europe, and of the world will not be intimidated by these vicious killers. Today Americans stand in solidarity with our European allies. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed and wounded, and all the people of Belgium. These terrorists seek to undermine the democratic values that are the foundation of our alliance and our way of life, but they will never succeed. Today’s attacks will only strengthen our resolve to stand together as allies and defeat terrorism and radical jihadism around the world.”
Trump: “I will tell you, I’ve been talking about this a long time, and look at Brussels,” Trump said the day of the attack on Fox News. “Brussels was a beautiful city, a beautiful place with zero crime. And now it’s a disaster city. It’s a total disaster, and we have to be very careful in the United States, we have to be very careful and very vigilant as to who we allow in this country.”
“It’s going to get worse and worse,” he said. “In my opinion, this is just the beginning. It will get worse and worse because we are lax and we are foolish – we can’t allow these people, at this point we cannot allow these people to come into our country. I’m sorry.”
San Bernardino attack, December 2, 2015
Clinton: She was campaigning in Manchester, New Hampshire, and called for gun control legislation. “They should not have been able to do this,” no matter “what motivated” the shooters, Clinton said. “I don’t believe we can stop every incident of gun violence but we sure can stop a lot of them. … We need to take action now.”
Trump: Trump immediately tweeted: “California shooting looks very bad. Good luck to law enforcement and God bless. This is when our police are so appreciated!”
The after shooting, on CNN, he said: “Whenever there’s a tragedy, everything goes up, my numbers go way up because we have no strength in this country, we have weak, sad politicians.”
Paris attacks, November 13, 2015
Clinton: Clinton’s first comprehensive reaction to the Paris attack came during the November 14, 2015, debate in Iowa. “Well, our prayers are with the people of France tonight,” Clinton said. “But that is not enough. We need to have a resolve that will bring the world together to root out the kind of radical jihadist ideology that motivates organizations like ISIS, the barbaric, ruthless, violence jihadist, terrorist group.”
She added, “This election is not only about electing a president. It’s also about choosing our next commander in chief. And I will be laying out in detail what I think we need to do with our friends and allies in Europe and elsewhere to do a better job of coordinating efforts against the scourge of terrorism. Our country deserves no less because all of the other issues we want to deal with depend on us being secure and strong.”
Trump: The day after the attack, Trump immediately seized on the issue of gun control. “When you look at Paris – you know the toughest gun laws in the world, Paris – nobody had guns but the bad guys. Nobody had guns. Nobody,” Trump said at a rally in Beaumont, Texas. “They were just shooting them one by one and then they (security forces) broke in and had a big shootout and ultimately killed the terrorists. … If you have 25 people in there with guns, OK, it would’ve been a totally different story.”
He also lammed Obama’s leadership: “We have leadership who doesn’t know what they’re doing.” And he said “we have to be insane” to continue to allow Syrian refugees into the US.