Every time there is a terrorist attack attributed to Muslim extremists anywhere in the world, Donald Trump will rush forward to claim, as he did after an Easter bombing in Pakistan, that he alone can solve the problem of radical Islamic terrorism. His eagerness to score political points has come back to hurt him in the past, as when, following this summer’s mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, he sent a tasteless tweet bragging: “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!” He must have been deeply disappointed that the Orlando attack, which resulted in the deaths of 49 people, did not give him a boost in the polls. But, he apparently figures, there is still time to make political hay out of the suffering of others.
In the case of the weekend attacks in New York City, New Jersey, and Minnesota, which did not kill anyone but did leave numerous people injured, Trump did not even wait to find out exactly what had happened before telling a rally in Colorado on Saturday night: “We better get very tough, folks.… It’s a terrible thing that’s going on in our world and in our country, and we are going to get tough and smart and vigilant.” The next day he tweeted with transparent glee: “Under the leadership of Obama & Clinton, Americans have experienced more attacks at home than victories abroad. Time to change the playbook!”
With only seven weeks to go until the election, the question at hand is whether voters will be satisfied with Trump’s calls to get “tough and smart” or whether they will demand to know what exactly he is going to do to stop terrorism, because if they do want details, they won’t find any. Beyond Trump’s bluster, there is … more bluster. To the extent that he has spelled out any specific policies, they are likely to exacerbate rather than ameliorate the danger.