President Trump was so quick to try to take political advantage of the attacks in London last night that he didn’t wait to find out who was responsible before piling on Muslims and making a renewed call to ban them from the country. He had essentially done the same thing after a robbery and fire in the Philippines killed dozens on Friday. In the latter case, the Islamic State took credit for the carnage in Manila but the Filipino government rejected their claim and said the evidence showed a botched robbery attempt.
“Islamic State fighters carried out the Manila attack in the Philippines,” the militant group’s Amaq news agency said.
But that was quickly rejected by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, who said all the evidence pointed to an attempt to steal casino chips. Police said they were not looking at other motives, although security in the capital had been beefed up.
“This is plain and simple propaganda,” Esperon told Reuters. “If the lone gunman was really an IS terrorist, why did he not shoot and kill people in the casino? He only went for the casino chips.”
The IS claim, which came nearly 24 hours after the attack, also contradicted a statement from Ernesto Abella, a spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte, who said there was no evidence linking it to fighting between government troops and Islamist militants in the country’s south.
“All indications point to a criminal act by an apparently emotionally disturbed individual,” Abella told a news conference. “Although the perpetrator gave warning shots, there apparently was no indication that he wanted to do harm or shoot anyone.”
In the London case, Trump turned out to have guessed correctly, but it should be clear that he was only guessing. He went on to trash the mayor of London Sadiq Khan by taking his comments out of context and making it look like he thought the attacks were nothing to worry about.
A spokesman for Khan later responded that the mayor “has more important things to do than respond to Donald Trump’s ill-informed tweet that deliberately takes out of context his remarks.”
He also subjected us to another example of the deranged argument that attacks conducted with knives justify giving people easier access to military style weapons.
So, our president chose to respond to a tragedy in London not by gathering together his national security team but by shooting off his mouth on Twitter, criticizing our allies, demonizing a religion based on stereotyping and a hunch, and arguing for preexisting policies about banning Muslims while doing nothing about mass-shooting events.
I guess he’s lucky that the London terrorists were motivated by Islamist ideology so he at least doesn’t look as foolish as he had the day before when popping off about the Philippines. But that’s all it is…luck.
They make movies and television series all the time about presidents who either manufacture a terrorist threat or cynically seek to capitalize from true terrorist events. The idea that this might happen is obviously something we’re warned about constantly and it clearly capture people’s imaginations. But it’s usually a lot more sophisticated than this and way less obvious.