Trump exploits Orlando tragedy
WASHINGTON – How long will it be before American Muslims are forced to wear yellow badges with the star and crescent?
Donald Trump, the man Republicans will nominate to be president, has already said that, in addition to banning Muslim immigration, he would also look at closing mosques and forcing Muslims already in the country to register with the authorities.
And now, exploiting the massacre in Orlando, Trump is claiming "thousands" of American Muslims, protected and hidden by their coreligionists, are prepared to commit even greater carnage because of their hatred for the country in which they live.
"You have many, many, many people, right now living in the United States who are worse than him, who are more hateful than him," Trump said on Fox News last week. Trump determined that "you have thousands of shooters like this, with the same mentality out there in this country."
The presumptive nominee, speculating that the trouble could be "in their religion," said "you have many, many people, thousands of people, already in our country that are sick with hate. And people that are around them, Muslims, know who they are, largely."
If that were too subtle, Roger Stone, Trump's confidant and informal adviser, said on Sirius XM that Huma Abedin, a Muslim who is a top Hillary Clinton adviser, could be a Saudi spy or a "terrorist agent."
Trump also floated, again, the notion that President Obama is in cahoots with the terrorist enemy — thus accusing the commander in chief of the capital crime of treason. Trump said Obama "should immediately resign in disgrace" if he refuses to use the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism." Obama, like George W. Bush before him, avoids words that needlessly inspire further radicalization. But Trump saw a conspiracy, telling Fox that Obama perhaps "gets it better than anybody understands" and "has something else in mind. ... There's something going on. It's inconceivable."
Pressed on NBC about this inconceivable "something," Trump said that "there are many people that think maybe he doesn't want to get it."
Trump has floated versions of Obama-as-Muslim-traitor conspiracy theories for years. Last year, he said of Obama's decision to allow Syrian refugees into the United States: "A lot of people think it's evil intentions." At another point Trump said Obama was "emphatic on not solving the problem" with terrorism because "there's something we don't know about."
Before that, of course, was his questioning of Obama's birth: "He doesn't have a birth certificate or, if he does, there's something on that certificate that is very bad for him. Now somebody told me ... that where it says 'religion' it might have 'Muslim.'"
The Orlando tragedy has allowed Trump to shift the conversation from his racist attacks on a federal judge of Mexican descent. But the shocking carnage in Orlando doesn't lend itself to simple politicization. The killer appeared to have mental problems and, while claiming allegiance to Islamic State, he was obviously motivated by anti-gay hatred. And Trump couldn't blame immigrants because the killer was American-born.
Still, Trump tried, saying in a prepared speech last week — using the teleprompter he once forswore — that "the only reason the killer was in America in the first place was because we allowed his family to come here" and that Muslim communities must "turn in the people who they know are bad — and they do know where they are."
As part of his conspiracy theory spinning on Fox, Trump declared that "ISIS took over our passport machines. They make passports now better than we do." (Actually, U.S. intelligence has warned that terrorists might be able to make authentic-looking passports with their own machines.)
Trump, as I've written, has spread dozens of conspiracy theories, many with racist overtones and often couched by saying he's merely repeating what "some" or "a lot" of people think — much as he denies culpability when he retweets the work of white supremacists.
Before the Orlando shooting, Mitt Romney told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that he worried about Trump's "trickle-down racism." Good phrase, though Trump is more accurately tapping underground racism and causing it to gush freely.
Trump, hours after the Orlando slaying, tweeted: "Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism."
He does deserve congratulations — for a new wave of radicalization. Trump's anti-Muslim hostility makes it easier for terrorists to recruit and to inspire disaffected young Muslims. Trump warned last week that the terrorism seen in Orlando "is going to get worse and worse" — and, thanks to him, that's probably true.
Dana Milbank is a columnist for The Washington Post.