YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Donald Trump on Monday sought to turn the tables on Democratic critics who are depicting him as unfit for office.
Painting a grim picture of a world under attack and a homeland threatened by terror, he argued that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton doesn’t have the “mental and physical stamina” to fight ISIS.
He argued that only he could be trusted in the White House during a speech outlining how he would combat Islamic terrorism, characterizing the fight as an ideological struggle on par with that of the Cold War.
“Hillary Clinton lacks the judgment … stability and temperament and moral character to lead our nation,” the Republican presidential nominee said. “She also lacks the mental and physical stamina to take on ISIS. And all of the many adversaries that we face.”
Trump also lit into Clinton and Obama for their policies, blaming them for the rise of ISIS and spelling out what he would do instead.
He called for “extreme vetting” of foreigners who want to come the US, spelling out in more detail policies barring certain people from entry that he has articulated throughout the campaign.
And staking out one of the main pillars of his speech, Trump declared that “the era of nation-building will be brought to a swift and decisive end” if he becomes president, criticizing the war in Iraq and the way in which troops were withdrawn though Obama himself has not embraced nation-building.
“Our new approach, he said, “must be to halt the spread of radical Islam.”
“All actions should be oriented around this goal and any country which shares this goal will be our ally,” he continued. “We cannot always choose our friends but we can never fail to recognize our enemies.”
He began his address by ticking down the list of terrorist attacks in the US that have occurred during the Obama administration, right up to the attack on an Orlando nightclub that was the worst mass shooting in American history.
“This summer there’s been an ISIS attack launched outside the war zones of the Middle East — hard to believe — every 84 hours. Here in America we have seen one brutal attack after another,” Trump said. “I’ll tell you what, we can never allow this to happen again.”
Following a week during which the GOP candidate described President Barack Obama as the “founder” and Hillary Clinton as the “co-founder” of ISIS, Trump insisted that “the rise of ISIS is the direct result of policy decisions made by President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton.”
Trump insisted that Obama’s failure to reach an agreement with the Iraqi government to leave a residual presence of American troops in Iraq and his withdrawal timetable “surrendered our gains in that country and led directly to the rise of ISIS.”
“The failures in Iraq were compounded by Hillary Clinton’s disaster — total disaster — in Libya,” Trump added, referring to the US-backed NATO mission that led to the ouster of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
The Republican presidential nominee spelled out proposals including banning individuals from countries with heavy terrorist footprints in which he argued the US government cannot adequately vet visa applicants, as well as increasing cooperation with willing Middle Eastern allies.
Trump vowed to “temporarily suspend immigration from some of the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorism” until the US can improve its vetting process for travelers from those countries.
Trump also proposed a more stringent immigration test for admission into the United States, suggesting an ideological standard for entry to ensure that the US only admits “those who share our values and respect our people.”
“In the Cold War, we had an ideological screening test. The time is long overdue to develop a new screening test for the threats we face today. I call it extreme vetting. I call it extreme, extreme vetting,” Trump said. “Our country has enough problems. We don’t need more.”
Trump’s call to work with Muslim allies comes against a backdrop of fierce criticism and condemnation of the Republican candidate from Muslims in the US and abroad since December, when he proposed “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
Beyond his immigration ban, Trump has also been criticized for suggesting that President Barack Obama is linked to radical Islamic terrorism, floating surveillance of US mosques and proclaiming that he believes “Islam hates us.”
Trump’s speech on Monday coincided with sagging poll numbers for his campaign in key swing states in recent weeks, as the Republican nominee has lurched from one controversy to the next. Top Republicans have called on Trump to straighten out his flailing campaign.
Trump’s controversial proposal to ban Muslims from the US has been through several iterations, with Monday’s speech just the latest to provide a venue for further clarity.
Previously, Trump had moved beyond his call to ban all foreign Muslims from the US and proposed barring all individuals from countries “compromised by terrorism” — though he has not specified which countries match that criterion.
While his campaign staff and surrogates have sought to describe the ban on individuals from terror states as a rollback of Trump’s blanket ban on Muslim immigration, Trump characterized it on NBC’s “Meet the Press” as an “expansion” and has yet to refute his original proposal.
While Trump had not been expected to list on Monday which countries’ citizens would be banned from the US, the senior campaign official offered Syria and Libya as examples of two countries that would be affected by the ban.
The official called on the State Department to release a list of individuals who had obtained visas to the US since 2001 who have since “been charged, implicated or accused of terrorism” in order to determine which countries should be banned.
Trump also described the “test” questioning visa applicants on their support of US values an effort to weed out any supporters of extremist ideologies.
The campaign official specifically noted as an example that “large numbers of people” in Afghanistan “may have attitudes about women or attitudes about Christians or gays that would be considered oppressive, even violent.”
“We have no reason to bring someone into our country who is going to harbor that hostility. We want to bring in people who are reformers or who support moderation or who embrace or expand pluralistic ideas,” the campaign adviser said.
The senior campaign official declined to say exactly what such a test would look like, but said it could include a questionnaire to get potential immigrants on record about their views.