WASHINGTON – Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton is coming to Minnesota on Tuesday to give what is being billed as a major speech to lay out her plan to defeat Islamic terrorists.
Clinton will present her plan in Minneapolis as the state struggles with terrorism recruitment, including the recent arrest of another Minnesotan accused of preparing to join and fight with ISIL.
The former secretary of state is expected to draw a stark contrast between her own plans and those of Republican front-runner and business mogul Donald Trump, who earlier this month called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States.
In previous speeches, including one just last week in Iowa, Clinton has said she hopes to enlist help from Muslims — both in the United States and across the world — in defeating “radical jihadists and the hateful ideology that they represent.”
“Instead, Donald Trump is supplying them with new propaganda,” Clinton said Dec. 9 in Waterloo. “He is playing right into their hands.”
Clinton has worked carefully to avoid alienating Muslim-Americans, saying that demonizing them runs counter to American values and stokes anger that aids terror recruiters.
“We should be supporting them, not scapegoating them,” Clinton said at a forum in December. “But at the same time, none of us can close our eyes to the fact that we do face enemies who use Islam to justify slaughtering innocent people. We have to stop them and we will. Radical jihadists, like so many adversaries in our history, underestimate the strength of our national character.”
Clinton’s speech at the University of Minnesota comes at a time when the country is roiled in a large and complex debate about how to handle the growing threat of terrorism. It also comes on the heels of two prominent attacks — one in Paris and one in California — committed by people who were purported to be inspired by Islamic extremists. A recent Quinnipiac University national poll found that 83 percent of voters said it is very likely or somewhat likely that terrorists will strike the U.S. in the near future, resulting in a large loss of life.
The Republican-controlled Congress is weighing several efforts to tighten restrictions on visas and Syrian and Iraqi refugees slated to enter the United States in swelling numbers next year. And on the presidential campaign trail, Republicans have been trading barbs, with one another and against Clinton and President Obama, about strategies to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.
Republican presidential hopefuls have called Obama’s approach weak. Some, including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, have used more heated rhetoric to say that the U.S. is at war with radical Islamic terrorists — a phrase avoided by both Obama and Clinton out of fear of sounding like the U.S. is at war with a particular religion.
Minnesota Republicans tried to link Obama’s terrorism strategies to Clinton.
“When our president, and his former secretary of state, have proved themselves unserious about confronting the terror threat abroad — and unwilling to acknowledge the terror threat at home — the odds of success … become longer and longer,” said former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman.
The issue is particularly important in Minnesota, where a 10th Somali-American was charged last week with planning to travel to Syria to fight with ISIL forces.
Clinton’s team says she plans on using her platform while in Minnesota to go into more detail outlining her specific strategy to confront the threat of domestic radicalization and foreign-inspired terrorist attacks inside the United States. She also is hosting a private fundraiser.
Jim Manley, a D.C.-based Democratic political consultant and an Edina native, said Clinton must lay out her plan carefully to appease Minnesotans concerned about the growing number of Somali-Americans “trying to wage jihad” and the state’s DFLers who are dominated by the antiwar wing of the Democratic Party.
“This is going to be a somewhat tricky balance for her,” said Manley, a Clinton supporter and adviser. “In many respects, she is much more hawkish than President Obama, but at the same time the Democratic Party as a whole has become a lot less interventionist than in years past.”