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Analysis: Trump's terrorism speech stretches the truth

Trump's plan to fight ISIS

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - Donald Trump gave a speech Monday, ostensibly about combatting radical Islamic terrorism, which contained numerous vaguely-defined proposals, inaccuracies, and misrepresentations of his past viewpoints.

In it, he harkened back to a past era - likening the fight against ISIS to battling Russia during the Cold War, an analogy rich with irony, given that a better relationship with Moscow is a major Trump policy plank. "We cannot let this evil continue," Trump said, referring to Islamic terrorism, as he received his first applause line of the speech.

The address provided a broad framework based on two basic pillars: the end of U.S.-endorsed regime change and a geography-based ban on immigrants from countries that, under Trump's definition, export terrorism.

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This ban is the latest iteration of a policy that was formulated in December of last year, when Trump angered international heads of states, foreign policy experts and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle by proposing to ban all Muslim immigration to the United States.

Trump's surrogates are frequently unclear about what the ban consisted of and have offered conflicting views as to what the candidate himself said. However, the original proposal, titled "Donald J. Trump Statement On Preventing Muslim Immigration," is still on Trump's campaign website.

Was this an oversight? Consider that last week, when Trump gave an economic policy speech in which he tweaked details of his tax plan, he removed his old tax plan from his website. The same cannot be said of the Muslim ban.

For the newer regionally-based plan, Trump wouldn't specify which countries would be banned. He said this would only be revealed after he takes office.

"As soon as I take office, I will ask the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to identify a list of regions where adequate screening cannot take place," Trump said. "There are many such regions."

This would seem to be Trump having it both ways. The original ban remains on the website as official policy, but he says that's not the policy. The new policy is based on geography rather than religion, but he won't release what countries would be part of the new ban.

Trump only says that there will be countries from which immigration will be banned. If the list of regions is exclusive to those with Muslim-majority populations, that might be a Muslim ban by another name.

For prospective immigrants from regions that aren't banned, Trump called for an ideological test, so that immigrants line up to his definition of American values.

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"I call it extreme vetting," Trump said to applause.

"In addition to screening out all members of the sympathizers of terrorist groups, we must also screen out any who have hostile attitudes toward our country or its principles, or who believe that Sharia law should supplant American law," Trump continued.

"Those who do not believe in our Constitution or who support bigotry and hatred will not be admitted for immigration into our country."

Trump did not exactly specify what constitutes bigotry and hatred, or how new immigrants could be screened for such beliefs. He did, however, lament the treatment of gays in regions of the Middle East throughout his speech and blasted President Barack Obama for not condemning "the oppression of women and gays in many Muslim nations" in his 2009 speech in Cairo.

"My administration will speak out against the oppression of women, gays, and people of different beliefs," Trump said.

But Trump did not mention the treatment of gays in Russia, which in 2013, set off an international firestorm when it passed a law that fined the spreading of "nontraditional" sexual relationships among minors, widely perceived to be targeting gays. Instead, Trump once again went out of his way to call for closer ties with that country.

"I also believe that we could find common ground with Russia in the fight against ISIS. Wouldn't that be a good thing?" Trump said. "Wouldn't that be a good thing? They, too, have much at stake in the outcome in Syria and have had their own battles with Islamic terrorism just as bad as ours. They have a big, big problem in Russia with ISIS."

Claims Trump made about his stance on the war in Iraq were also not entirely accurate. As he often does on the campaign trail, Trump said that he opposed the war from the start.

There is no public statement that Trump made that shows this to be the case. In Youngstown, Trump cited an interview he had with Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto before the invasion.

"I said in an interview with Neil Cavuto...that, quote, perhaps we shouldn't be doing it yet and that the economy is a much bigger problem."

Trump is right on the second half of that statement. He told Cavuto, "Well, I'm starting to think that people are much more focused now on the economy." However, he did not say the United States shouldn't be going into Iraq.

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The closest Trump came to taking a position in that interview was saying, "Either you attack or you don't attack." In fact, Trump wrote about being in favor of regime change in his 2000 book, The America We Deserve, and voiced support for the war in a 2002 interview with Howard Stern.

"Yeah, I guess so," Trump told Stern, answering if he was in favor of invading. "I wish the first time it was done correctly."

As Buzzfeed reported, soon after the invasion, Trump referred to the invasion as "a tremendous success from a military standpoint."

On Monday, Trump struck a very different note: "What was the purpose of this whole thing?...All those Iraqi kids who'd been blown to pieces and it turns out that all of the reasons for the war were blatantly wrong. All of this death and destruction for nothing."

The contradictions went much farther than that.

"By that same token, President Obama and Hillary Clinton should have never attempted to build a democracy in Libya to push for immediate regime change in Syria, or to support the overthrow of the [Hosni] Mubarak in Egypt," Trump said.

But Trump supported intervening in Libya and is on record doing so multiple times. In 2011, Trump told Piers Morgan, "If you don't get rid of [Muammar] Gadhafi, it's a major, major black eye for this country." In October, though, Trump told CNN that the world would be "100 percent" better off if Gadhafi and Saddam Hussein were still in power. Trump also, at multiple points in 2011, supported ousting Mubarak, telling Fox News' anchor Greta Van Susteren, in an interview unearthed by Buzzfeed, that Mubarak's overthrow was "a good thing."

Beyond that, Trump seemed to walk back his comments to the Miami Herald last week, where he suggested that Americans suspected of terrorism might be tried in a military tribunal and sent to Guantanamo Bay, saying only that "foreign combatants will be tried in military commissions."

Another repeatedly debunked claim that Trump made - and that he repeats on the campaign trail - involves the San Bernardino shooters.

"These are the people we're taking in. A neighbor saw suspicious behavior -- bombs on the floor and other things," Trump said. "But didn't warn authorities because they said they didn't want to be accused of racial profiling."

Trump has used this as an example of why American Muslims should report other Muslims to authorities. He has even used this example as the basis for his assertion that there should be "consequences" for people that do not report suspicious activity.

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Yet, there is no evidence that neighbors saw "bombs on the floor" and did not tell the authorities. As a number of fact checkers have noted, there were local media interviews with a man who said he saw suspicious activity but didn't mention bombs or anything of the sort.

In a speech about combatting radical Islamic terrorism, Trump, oddly enough, barely mentioned combat. He did not mention whether ground troops would be needed to fight ISIS. He gave a scant mention to NATO, saying, "We will also work very closely with NATO on this new mission."

And he reiterated his argument for a lack of specificity on his plan to eliminate the terrorist group: he wants to be unpredictable.

"General Douglas MacArthur and the great General George Patton would be in a state of shock if they were alive today to see the way President Obama and Hillary Clinton tried to recklessly announce their every move before it happens," Trump said.

As he often does, the Republican nominee also took issue with the naming of the terrorist threat, declaring, "Anyone who cannot name our enemy is not fit to lead our country. Anyone who cannot condemn the hatred, oppression and violence of radical Islam lacks the moral clarity to serve as our president."

The president refers to ISIS combatants as terrorists, thugs and violent extremists and does not use the same terminology as Trump and Republicans, "radical Islam." In June he dismissed Trump's attack as a "political distraction," saying, "What exactly using this label would accomplish and what will it change?...Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away."

Clinton says she has no objections to the phrase. "[W]hether you call it radical jihadism or radical Islamism, I'm happy to say either," she told CNN in June. "I think they mean the same thing."

One thing that is certainly predictable when it comes to Donald Trump: The fact checking industry will always be busy.

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