Is Donald Trump ever going to go ‘too far’?

Republican presidential front-runner again draws wide condemnation, this time for “divisive” remarks about Muslims.

Trump repeated his call to stop Muslims entering the US at a campaign stop in South Carolina on Tuesday [Randall Hill/Reuters]
Trump repeated his call to stop Muslims entering the US at a campaign stop in South Carolina on Tuesday [Randall Hill/Reuters]

Washington, United States – Many times during the Republican presidential campaign, commentators have been provoked to say: “This time he’s gone too far.”

They did when he criticised Mexicans, then war veterans, women and fellow Republicans.

But each time, Donald Trump refused to back down and emerged with his poll numbers growing.

What is different this time around is that the condemnation has been across the political spectrum.

Even his fellow Republican candidates, who have previously been reluctant to criticise the billionaire businessman in the hope his supporters will eventually turn to them, have been unusually strong in the criticism.

Rising Islamophobia concerns US Muslims

So what did he say now?

He issued a statement saying he wanted all Muslims banned from entering the US, until the leaders “figured out what was going on”.

At a campaign stop in South Carolina on Tuesday, he repeated the statement to cheers from the crowd.

Among his rivals, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush called Trump “unhinged”; Ohio Governor John Kasich called his statement “outrageous divisiveness”, while Florida Senator Marco Rubio called it “offensive and outlandish”.

Former US Vice President Dick Cheney said Trump’s statement “goes against everything we stand for and believe in”.

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But the condemnation hasn’t just been confined to these shores.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said it was concerned an important resettlement programme for refugees was being put at risk. David Cameron, the British prime minister said the comments were “divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong”.

Trump said many Muslims hated the US – and such a radical step was needed if the US was to avoid “many more World Trade Centers”, referring to the site of two of the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

The pro-Jewish Anti-Defamation League called Trump’s comments deeply offensive, adding: “In the Jewish community, we know all too well what can happen when a particular religious group is singled out for stereotyping and scapegoating.” 

Yet there are many people who say Trump is a strong leader who would do better with foreign policy than President Barack Obama and they support the actions he would take against Muslims.

And last week’s attack in San Bernardino, California, where a Muslim couple who are believed to have been “radicalised” killed 14 people and wounded more than 20, has added to the fears some people carry.

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The Council on American-Islamic Relations said: “Donald Trump sounds more like the leader of a lynch mob than a great nation like ours,” adding, “These are not just words, Trump and [fellow Republican contender, Dr Ben] Carson’s mainstreaming of Islamophobia in the election is inciting discrimination, hate crimes and violent attacks against Muslims and mosques.” 

It’s instructive to look at the politics here.

Donald Trump continues to rise in the polls and his unvarnished position on immigration and national security plays directly to the concerns of the Republican base.

To suggest otherwise is to continue to ignore his lead in the polls. His rival candidates have been reluctant to criticise him on these issues because they don’t want to alienate that support.

Bush and Kasich have perhaps been the most outspoken because they don’t see Trump supporters being a natural fit for their campaigns anyway.

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Brian Beutler, writing in the New Republic, suggests that the failure to confront Trump fully on some of the more outrageous things he said early in the campaign has left many in the Republican Party complicit in his ascent.

Trump also knows that all people will be talking about for the next few days is him. And that starves oxygen from the other campaigns. All they can do is react. And if they’re not talking about what they would do for the US, it’s unlikely their poll numbers will grow.

One liberal commentator has seriously suggested that Trump is so “spooked” by his own success that he may be saying even more provocative things “to blow up his presidential campaign”.

Which sounds a bit like: “This time he’s gone too far.” Again.

Source : Al Jazeera


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