After Worst Shooting In US History, GOP Struggles To Answer For Its Nominee

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump applauds during a rally, Thursday, June 2, 2016, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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In his first real test as the Republican standard bearer, Donald Trump responded to America’s deadliest mass shooting in history Monday by re-upping his ban on Muslims and insinuating that President Barack Obama was somehow in cahoots with Islamic terrorists.

Trump’s incendiary and divisive message increased pressure on Republican leaders on Capitol Hill who were in an already untenable position: answering for a nominee who they did not agree with on tone or even in substance.

“I am not gonna comment for Donald Trump,” Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) told reporters Monday as she boarded a Capitol Hill subway. “My own personal feeling, I am very sympathetic and want to express my condolences to those family members, but I can’t speak for Donald Trump.”

Ernst added she didn’t support any ban on Muslims coming to the United States.

When asked what he thought of Trump’s response to the Orlando shooting that left 50 dead, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) dodged the question.

“There you go again, asking me about Trump.”

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) said he hadn’t “had a chance” to completely evaluate Trump’s response on Monday evening.

“I am not going to make a career out of responding to every comment and every tweet,” Wicker said.

Reporters kept asking. What did he think of the ban on Muslims? What about Trump’s statement that Obama should resign?

“I have been on a train and I haven’t had a chance to look at any of those,” Wicker said.

“I expect the president will not resign,” he added.

The magnitude of the tragedy over the weekend and Trump’s response to it, once again put Republican senators in the hot seat as they were forced to contend Monday with both their nominee and the growing call to pass Democratic- sponsored legislation that they say would keep guns out of the hands of potential terrorists.

“You know, I’m just not gonna comment on stuff, we’ve gone through this before,” Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) said on how to combat gun violence. “We’re looking at the terrorist, which I was pleased to see that Secretary Clinton did refer to him as Islamic terrorist. I think that’s an important step for her to make.”

Democrats said Monday morning that they planned to once again bring up an amendment that would ban individuals on the terrorist watchlist from legally purchasing firearms. The Senate voted back in December on the measure. It failed mostly along party lines.

“Let ’em all vote against a bill we are going to bring up as soon as we can [on] the terrorist watchlist. Let ’em all vote no again on that. See how the American people like that,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters Monday.

The alleged Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, had legally purchased the two guns he used in the shooting. He had been questioned by the FBI, but was no longer on the terrorism watch list when he bought the guns so it is unlikely the proposed legislation would have been able to stop him from purchasing the guns.

Republicans argued Monday that the real solution wasn’t another gun law, but to expand surveillance capabilities of the FBI.

“The question I would ask them is, ‘Do you actually want to stop these things from happening?’ because this guy was not on the watch list. He’d been investigated twice and the FBI had cleared him so he was not on the watchlist,” Cornyn said. “This is really a counterterrorism debate. This isn’t just about guns.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would not comment on what the Senate would do next or if they would move forward with expanding FBI surveillance abilities.

“I’m my usual loquacious self right now,” McConnell said.

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Notable Replies

  1. “After Massacre at Pulse, GOP Senators ‘Stonewall’ on Trump”

    FIFY.

  2. TPM and the rest of the internet have got to STOP making IT all about Donald Trump. Seriously, you’ve got to STOP IT.

  3. “I have been on a train and I haven’t had a chance to look at any of those,” Wicker said.

    "I expect the president will not resign," he added (Roger Wicker-R, Senator from MS)

    Gee, ya think? Come on, dude – Trump is your guy, you and your ilk trained your people to be just like him.


    Look, partisanship aside, I want to point to what most everyone is bypassing in this whole debate: Radical religion. Not radical Islam, radical Christianity, etc., – but radical religion. It’s appearing more and more likely that this young man, Omar Mateen, was either gay, bisexual or transgender–though, most likely a gay man–and that he just couldn’t come to terms with that in a healthy way due, in very large part, to the religion in which he was raised and how it was drilled into his head how homosexuals are worthy of death. He internalized that, like so many poor souls – and look at the results of that self-hatred, taught to him by one of the world’s biggest and most powerful religions, and fostered somewhat by a complicit society at-large. That is the other half of this real tragedy here, the other being (obviously) the innocent victims in his rage.

    Come on, America, let’s listen to our better angels. We need to talk about two things: Radical religion and its effects on us individually and as a society, and our puritanical views on sex and sexuality. Thank you.

  4. Cornyn said. “This is really a counterterrorism debate. This isn’t just about guns.”

    Maybe not, Johnny-boy, but let’s think about this: If Mateen had tried to act out whatever the hell his problem was with a soup spoon, say, whaddya think the death toll would have been?

  5. I agree.

    But, you know, the problem is that it’s like driving by a really bad car accident and NOT rubbernecking. You know it’s wrong (or at least tasteless/insensitive) and you feel really guilty for doing it, but you still look… It’s like you just can’t NOT look.

    So people look, the clicks are counted and TPM and others print more, knowing it’s wrong (or at least tasteless/insensitive) and they feel really guilty for doing it, but they can’t NOT print it.

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