Trump and Clinton strike contrasting tones after Orlando shooting

Clinton and Trump

Clinton and Trump

The bloody attack on an Orlando nightclub by a radicalized US citizen has crept into the presidential campaign, prompting responses from both of the parties’ presumptive nominees.

Republican Donald Trump said the mass shooting in Florida proved tougher action against terrorism was needed, while boasting for “being right” about the threat.

For Hillary Clinton, the tragedy prompted a pledge to more aggressively pursue the Islamic State group in the Middle East as well to keep “weapons of war” off America’s streets.

The responses of Trump and Clinton to the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history were a study in contrasts between the two White House hopefuls.

The motive behind Sunday’s early morning rampage at a gay nightclub in Orlando was unknown when Trump and Clinton began weighing in – a law enforcement source later said gunman Omar Mateen had professed allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State group before the carnage.

As information began trickling out, Trump took to Twitter to say he was “praying” for the victims and their families. “When will we get tough, smart & vigilant?” he wrote.

Within a few hours, the presumptive Republican nominee was back on social media saying that he’d appreciated “the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism”.

After a deadly December shooting rampage in San Bernardino, California, Trump stunned many in his own party by calling for a temporary ban on Muslims coming to the US. Rather than sink his political prospects, it helped propel the businessman to his first victories in the GOP primary.

Speaking to supporters in the state of New Hampshire on Monday afternoon, Trump repeated he would implement a temporary ban on Muslims, and suggested he would extend the plan.

“When I am elected I will suspend immigration from any areas of the world where there is a proven history of terrorism against the US, Europe or our allies until we know how to end these threats,” he said.

He touted an upcoming meeting with the pro-gun National Rifle Association, and promised to “always defend the second amendment”, in reference to Americans’ constitutional rights to own firearms.

Clinton, who is more schooled in the political customs of responding to tragedies from her years as a senator and secretary of state, was careful in her initial comments.

The presumptive Democratic nominee also made her first remarks on Twitter early Sunday, writing: “As we wait for more information, my thoughts are with those affected by this horrific act.”

Like Obama, Clinton prefers to avoid early missteps even if that leaves her looking overly cautious. On Sunday, she waited for the president to declare the shooting an “act of terror” before doing the same.

Clinton didn’t avoid the prospect of a link to international terrorism in her statement, though she was vague in her language. In several televised phone interviews Monday morning, she warned against feeding propaganda by the Islamic State group that convinces new recruits the US hates Islam.

She turned her attention to the Islamic State group more forcefully later in the day during a speech to supporters in Cleveland, Ohio.

The Orland shooter “is dead, but the virus that poisoned his mind remains very strong and we must attack it”, she said, adding that the Islamic State group “could not be contained” but must “be defeated on the battlefield”.

Then, digging into Trump and his previous calls to ban Muslims from entering the US, she hailed “peace-loving Muslims who live, work and raise families” across the country. “We should be intensifying contacts in those communities, not scapegoating and isolating them.”

Clinton also used the speech to rage against failures to improve gun control laws. “If the FBI is watching you for suspected terrorist links, you shouldn’t be able to just go buy a gun with no questions asked,” she said, sparking applause among the audience.

Clinton and Obama postponed plans to campaign together Wednesday in Wisconsin, a decision driven both by political appearances and an expectation the president would need to spend his week overseeing the government’s response to the shooting.