Trump, Clinton have vastly different responses to Orlando attacks

Donald Trump pointed the event as another example of 'being right on radical Islamic terrorism,' while Hillary Clinton called the attack an act of terror and of hate.

Genna Martin/AP
Jeffrey Erikson and Jamie Fernandez hold each other during a moment of silence at a vigil in Cal Anderson Park in Seattle on Sunday, June 12, 2016 for the victims of a mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

Following Sunday's terror attack at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., presumptive presidential nominees Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton took very different approaches in responding to the massacre.

Mr. Trump swiftly declared that motive behind the event meant that has been "right on radical Islamic terrorism" – the shooter declared his allegiance to the Islamic State – and criticized President Obama and Mrs. Clinton for not calling the attack radical Islamic terrorism. Clinton declared the attack "an act of terror" and hate, echoing Mr. Obama's response to the tragedy

The difference between the two presumptive presidential nominees for the Republican and Democratic parties highlights the challenges of running a contentious campaign in the middle of a national tragedy where politicians must find the balance between coming out strongly against acts of terror while also leading and reassuring the voting public. 

Trump went on the attack as news of the massacre spread, tweeting, "Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!" 

In a statement from his campaign, Trump criticized Clinton for wanting to "dramatically increase admissions from the Middle East" and called for Obama's resignation if he didn't use the phrase "radical islamic" terrorism in discussing the event. 

"Because our leaders are weak, I said this was going to happen – and it is only going to get worse. I am trying to save lives and prevent the next terrorist attack. We can't afford to be politically correct anymore," said Trump. 

Clinton tweeted that she "Woke up to hear the devastating news from FL. As we wait for more information, my thoughts are with those affected by this horrific act." 

She later released a statement saying the attacks showed the need to "redouble our efforts to defend our country from threats at home and abroad" and that she will fight for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community to allow them to "live freely, openly and without fear." She said the shooting showed the need to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists and violent criminals. 

"This is the deadliest mass shooting in the history of the United States and it reminds us once more that weapons of war have no place on our streets," Clinton said in a statement.  

Although Clinton did not respond directly to Trump, members of her campaign used the responses to highlight the differences between the two candidates in a time of tragedy, as The New York Times reported.  

"This act of terror is the largest mass shooting in American history and a tragedy that requires a serious response," Jennifer Palmieri, communications director for the Clinton campaign said in a statement. "Donald Trump put out political attacks, weak platitudes and self-congratulations."

Trump supporter and former House speaker Newt Gingrich told The Washington Post Trump should "ignore" those who said his response to the attack was inappropriate. 

"What Trump ought to do, and what he has historically done, is go to the country. And he should take the elite media head-on. There is no possibility of coexisting peacefully with these people. They are his mortal enemy, so he should relax and accept it," Mr. Gingrich told the Post. "He should use a campaign on social media to beat them."

Trump's response to the attacks showed he didn't recognize that there were times when the president needs to be emphatic, wrote Chris Cillizza in a politics blog post for The Washington Post, noting the difference in tone was striking, as Clinton was "empathetic and sorrowful" while Trump was "triumphant and aggressive."

"Trump's tweet speaks to the single largest problem facing his presidential campaign: While he's mastered the role of tough and unapologetic leader, he simply cannot seem to understand that at times a president needs to be an empathetic consoler in chief, too," he wrote. 

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