"Radical Islamic terrorists are determined to strike our homeland, as they did on 9/11, as they did from Boston to Orlando to San Bernardino and all across Europe."You've seen what happened in Paris and Nice. All over Europe it's happening. It's gotten to a point where it's not even being reported. And in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn't want to report it. They have their reasons and you understand that."
Two months ago, on Dec. 6, President Obama traveled to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, where he delivered the final national security speech of his term in office, and his remarks represented a compelling summary of his successes. Obama stressed his opposition to torture, his support for civil liberties, and the importance of "staying true to our traditions as a nation of laws," which in turn "advances our security as well as our values."The Democratic president also spent some time addressing one of the world's largest religions. "We are fighting terrorists who claim to fight on behalf of Islam. But they do not speak for over a billion Muslims around the world, and they do not speak for American Muslims, including many who wear the uniform of the United States of America's military," Obama said. "If we stigmatize good, patriotic Muslims, that just feeds the terrorists' narrative. It fuels the same false grievances that they use to motivate people to kill."He added, "If we act like this is a war between the United States and Islam, we're not just going to lose more Americans to terrorist attacks, but we'll also lose sight of the very principles we claim to defend."Exactly two months later, on Feb. 6, Donald Trump also paid a visit to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, where the new president delivered a very different kind of speech -- his first to military personnel since taking office last month.At the very top of his remarks, Trump said, "We had a wonderful election, didn't we? And I saw those numbers, and you liked me, and I liked you. That's the way it worked." As Ben Rhodes, a former Obama aide, noted, it's extremely unusual, if not unheard of, for a sitting president to discuss "campaigns and voting data when talking to Americans in uniform."Trump also celebrated Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), in part because he endorsed Trump's candidacy. "If they don't endorse, believe me. If you're ever in this position, it's never quite the same, OK?" the self-indulgent president declared. "You can talk, but it never means the same."A bit later in his remarks to U.S. Central Command, Trump again went off-script:
Oh my.First, it's interesting that the president specifically mentioned 9/11, Boston, Orlando, and San Bernardino -- each of which generated enormous media attention -- because in these cases, deadly attacks were perpetrated by people who are unrelated to Trump's Muslim ban.Second, the idea national news organizations are deliberately ignoring terrorist attacks for nefarious reasons only Trump understands is completely bonkers. The president, who makes no secret of his affection for wild-eyed conspiracy theories, thought it'd be a good idea to talk to military servicemen and women about a media cover-up about national security that doesn't actually exist, but he thought wrong.The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza described comments like Trump's as "dangerous" for a straightforward reason. "He's implying that the media is allowing its own collective biases to get in the way of his efforts to keep the country safe from the threat of terrorism. That the media is, at best, downplaying these attacks because of their own ideological biases and, at, worst, siding with the terrorists. That's staggering stuff -- even for Trump."Obama's remarks at MacDill Air Force Base were a call to America's highest ideals. Trump's remarks, just two months later, were at times petty and bizarre. The bookends speak volumes about what the two men bring to the table as Commander in Chief.