MINNESOTA — Hillary Clinton argued Tuesday that the U.S. can stop homegrown terrorism, outlining a plan to combat domestic radicalization two weeks after two ISIS-inspired terrorists killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California.
In a speech that was part policy, part politics, Clinton contrasted herself directly with Republicans running for president, stating that Muslim-Americans are the “first, last and best defense against homegrown radicalization and terrorism.”
“I am confident once again we will choose resolve over fear,” Clinton said in remarks at the University of Minnesota-Minneapolis. “And we will defeat these new enemies just as we have defeated those who have threatened us in the past, because it is not enough to contain ISIS — we must defeat ISIS.”
Clinton stepped deeper into the debate over terrorism with the speech, offering what her campaign aides called a “360-degree strategy to keep America safe,” including how she will work to discover and disrupt terrorist plots before they happen and how she will work with Muslim-American communities to fight radicalization.
As a way to stop terrorists from entering the United States, Clinton also proposed more strict screening of anyone entering the country who had visited a country known to be a hotbed for terrorism.
One key to Clinton’s plan is ending ISIS radicalization online, including by shutting down ISIS-inspired Facebook and Twitter profiles and removing terrorist content.
“Our security professionals need to more effectively track and analyze ISIS’ social media posts and map jihadist networks,” Clinton said. “We have to stop jihadists from radicalizing new recruits in person and through social media, chat rooms and what is called the dark web. To do that we need stronger relationships between Washington, Silicon Valley and all of our great tech companies.”
Clinton also took subtle swipes at Republicans’ rhetoric on ISIS, telling the audience that “shallow slogans don’t add up to a strategy.”
“Promising to carpet bomb until the desert glows doesn’t make you sound strong, it makes you sound like you’re in over your head,” Clinton said, referencing a comment Sen. Ted Cruz made earlier this month. “Bluster and bigotry are not credentials for becoming commander-and-chief and it is hard to take serious senators who talk tough but then hold up key national security nominations.”
Terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, California, and Paris have dramatically altered the tenor of the 2016 campaign, drawing attention to fighting terrorism and protecting the United States. After terrorists killed 130 in Paris last month, Clinton delivered a lengthy speech on fighting ISIS, calling for the United States to “intensify and broaden” efforts against the terrorist group.
The crowd, which included a number of high-profile Muslim leaders from the Minneapolis area who met with Clinton before the speech, responded with multiple standing ovations when Clinton spoke to the need to work with Muslim-American communities to combat domestic radicalization after the attacks in San Bernardino.
“We cannot give in to fear, we can’t let it stop us from doing what is right and necessary to make us safe and doing it in a way that is consistent with our values. We cannot let fear push us into reckless actions that end up making us less safe,” Clinton said.
Speaking directly to Muslim-Americans, Clinton said, “This is your country, too, and I am proud to be your fellow American.”
That comment in particular was well received by local imams in the audience.
“I felt at home,” said Abdisalam Adam, imam at Dar Al-Hijrah Mosque in Minneapolis. To hear “Muslim-Americans are bothers and sisters coming from a presidential candidate really instilled hope in this country. … It was very uplifting.”
Clinton was introduced on Tuesday by former Vice President Walter Mondale, who was defeated by Ronald Reagan in the 1984 presidential election. Minnesota Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith and Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges also attended the event.
“I have known Hillary for a long time,” Mondale said. “There is no one I trust more to sit in the Oval Office.”
Republicans, however, have hammered Clinton for her time in the Cabinet of President Barack Obama, whose administration they have attacked as weak and ineffective in facing international challenges, particularly the rise of ISIS.
They have in particular pilloried her for her record in Libya, where she was an architect of the international intervention that eventually led to leader Moammar Ghadafi’s removal, with many blaming the chaos that has followed for allowing terrorist groups to flourish. Most emphatically, they’ve attacked her for not doing more to protect U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans killed in a terror attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi in 2012.
Clinton’s decision to deliver her speech in Minnesota is not without significance. Clinton held up Minnesota’s efforts to combat domestic radicalization in the state’s Somali-American population, noting the multi-million dollar efforts Minneapolis, St. Paul and other cities have spent to identify radicalization in young people and combat ISIS propaganda.
Religious leaders from Minneapolis’ Muslim community sat in the front row for Clinton’s speech, watching the former secretary of state argue that in order to effectively combat terrorism, Americans need to work with Muslims, not demonize them.
“We must all stand up against offensive, inflammatory, hateful anti-Muslim rhetoric,” she said Tuesday. “As hard as this is, it is time to move from fear to resolve. It is time to step up and say we are Americans, we are the greatest nation on earth, not in spite of the challenges we face but because of this.”
Since Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump proposed a short-term ban on Muslims entering the United States, Clinton and other Democrats have been quick to deride the proposal.
“When he says he wants to stop all Muslims from entering the United States, that runs counter to what I and others who have actually been in the Situation Room, making hard choices, know we have to do,” she said in Waterloo, Iowa, earlier this month, adding that Trump “is supplying [ISIS] with new propaganda” and “playing right into their hands.”
Clinton hopes to parlay her years as secretary of state and New York senator after the September 11, 2001, attacks into traction for her presidential campaign, with the topic of terrorism providing the candidate with a ripe opportunity to showcase her commander-in-chief credentials.
It is also yet another example of Clinton looking ahead to the general election, where terrorism is an issue more important to independents and Republicans than Democrats.