Donald Trump outlined his plan to defeat ISIS and protect America with “extreme vetting” of immigrants in a speech at Youngstown State University on Monday.
“The rise of ISIS is a direct result of policy decisions made by President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,” he remarked. This is more plausible version of his comments last week that painted President Obama as the founder of ISIS. (The real founder of ISIS is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.)
Appropriate to the college setting, he first gave an abridged history lesson that boils down to this: In January of 2009, the situation in Iraq, Libya, and Egypt was looking up. Iran was hemmed in. ISIS was barely on the map. Eight years of President Obama, and four of Secretary Clinton, have reversed that progress.
Trump went on to describe something he calls “extreme vetting,” which entails stopping issuance of visas in parts of the world with known terror problems. Trump pledged to improve U.S. intelligence agencies so that they are capable of precise and accurate vetting. He promised to reach out to moderate Muslims both at home and abroad to help inform his policies.
This was not the yelling version of Trump who appears at rallies. This was measured, thoughtful, quieter Trump. Acoustic Trump, if you will.
“We should only admit into this country those who respect our people and our values,” he said.
He spoke about honor killings, and promised to speak out on behalf of women, gays, and non-Muslims who are targets for violence and intimidation under certain Middle Eastern regimes.
Trump lamented the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 (which, at the time, he supported). The speech came down hardest not on entry into Iraq, but exit from it. Trump argued yet again in favor of keeping the oil in Iraq, something he has tweeted and said to the media several times. He also criticized President Obama and Hillary Clinton for withdrawing from Iraq too quickly, and “on a timetable advertised to our enemies.”
Instead of the “Crooked Hillary” moniker Trump so often uses for his opponent, he instead opted for a foreign policy jab: “Hillary Clinton wants to be America’s Angela Merkel.” The Trump we knew a year ago might have called this speech “low energy – sad!” Current Trump-backers hope it will turn the tide for the GOP nominee, positioning him as a serious and strategic thinker.
To that end, Trump also changed his position on NATO. Now that NATO has started working on anti-terror issues, Trump said that he is now eager to engage with our allies in that organization. He named Israel, Egypt, and Jordan as our allies in the Middle East.
His plan to stop ISIS from recruiting over the internet is to keep ISIS from getting internet access, which received considerable mocking on social media.
Yet the emphasis on America as a nation of shared ideas -- not of a shared religion or race -- gave the speech a positive tone. It’s August, and Trump went back to school. It remains to be seen if his foreign policy will make the grade.