A visibly angry President Obama lashed out at presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump over his proposal to ban Muslims entry into the U.S., and he ridiculed him and other Republicans over their insistence that the president use the phrase "radical Islam" to describe ISIS and homegrown terrorists like the perpetrators of the San Bernardino and Orlando shootings.
"For awhile now, the main contribution of some of my friends on the other side of the aisle have made in the fight against ISIL is to criticize this administration -- and me -- for not using phrase 'radical Islam,'" the president said. "That's the key, they tell us. 'We can't beat ISIL unless we call them 'radical islamists.'' What exactly would using this label accomplish? What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to trying to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this? The answer is -- none of the above. Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away."
It's a "political distraction," the president said, in remarks following a meeting with his National Security Council. Mr. Obama mocked the thinking of those who criticize him for not using "radical Islam" to describe the threat. He said that not once had any of his advisers said to him, "Man, if we use that phrase, we're going to turn this thing around."
"There's no magic to the phrase," he said, calling it a "political talking point," and added, "It's not a strategy."
Until now, the president had had little to say about the insistence by some Republicans that he use the phrase--the label he said, had been about partisanship. But now, he couched the argument as a war on American values.
Directing his ire at Trump, though he didn't name him, the president marveled that "we now have proposals from the presumptive nominee" to "bar all Muslims from the United States of America."
"Where does this stop?" he asked, pointing out that the Fort Hood shooter, one of the San Bernardino shooters and the Orlando shooter were all U.S. citizens. "Are we going to start treating Muslim Americans differently?" he asked. Would they be subjected to special surveillance? And Mr. Obama then wondered, "Do Republican officials actually agree with this?"
He then pushed back against the argument.
"That's not the America we want," he said, adding that it doesn't reflect our democratic ideals, and "it won't make us more safe. It'll make us less safe."
The president pointed out moments in our history when fellow citizens were mistreated, "and it has been a shameful part of our history."
"This is a country founded on freedoms," he said. "We don't have religious tests here."
Earlier, Mr. Obama received an update both on the investigation into the mass shooting in Orlando Sunday and efforts to counter ISIS. There was little new to share about the Orlando case. The killer, Mr. Obama said, appeared to be an "angry, disturbed, unstable young man who became radicalized." And he said, as he has in the past, that lone actors are hard to detect, and law enforcement is doing everything in their power to stop these kinds of attacks.
On Monday, Mr. Obama also called the attack an example of "homegrown extremism" and said that there was no evidence the shooter was "directed externally" by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or any other terrorist group. The president and other officials said it appeared that the shooter had been radicalized through the internet.
The president will travel to Orlando on Thursday to pay respects to victims of the massacre, which left 49 dead at a popular gay nightclub.