What she did not mention, but the moderators did, is that Trump is the candidate in the race who proposed a temporary ban on all Muslim immigration and then modified that to a ban on all immigration from countries with a history of terrorist activity. He has repeatedly described the more than 4.7 million Syrian refugees set adrift in the world by conflict in that country as mysteriously rich in "big strong men," and a "Trojan horse," through which terrorists will enter the United States. In answering the woman's question, he did it again.
Clinton and Trump face off during second presidential debate in St. Louis
But here is the thing. The essence of what Trump said in response to this woman's question is worth noting because it was itself full of the kind of ideas and suppositions which fuel Islamophobia. His comments were riddled with false information, a reference to an act of terrorism perpetrated by an American-born Muslim man and his wife who was neither Syrian nor admitted to the United States as a refugee. And before he was done, Trump described himself as the only candidate with a simple solution to a complex challenge: He would resolve the problem — which problem, it's not clear — by using the right language. He would say the words, "radical Islamic terror."
This is the heart of what Trump said, from a transcript of the debate:
QUESTION: Hi. There are 3.3 million Muslims in the United States, and I'm one of them. You've mentioned working with Muslim nations, but with Islamophobia on the rise, how will you help people like me deal with the consequences of being labeled as a threat to the country after the election is over?RADDATZ: Mr. Trump, you're first.TRUMP: Well, you're right about Islamophobia, and that's a shame. But one thing we have to do is we have to make sure that — because there is a problem. I mean, whether we like it or not, and we could be very politically correct, but whether we like it or not, there is a problem. And we have to be sure that Muslims come in and report when they see something going on. When they see hatred going on, they have to report it.As an example, in San Bernardino, many people saw the bombs all over the apartment of the two people that killed 14 and wounded many, many people. Horribly wounded. They'll never be the same. Muslims have to report the problems when they see them.And, you know, there's always a reason for everything. If they don't do that, it's a very difficult situation for our country, because you look at Orlando and you look at San Bernardino and you look at the World Trade Center. Go outside. Look at Paris. Look at that horrible — these are radical Islamic terrorists.And she won't even mention the word and nor will President Obama. He won't use the term "radical Islamic terrorism." Now, to solve a problem, you have to be able to state what the problem is or at least say the name. She won't say the name and President Obama won't say the name. But the name is there. It's radical Islamic terror.
It was, in many ways, no worse than the moment that a black man stood and asked Trump if he could be a devoted president to all Americans and Trump prattled on about what he would do to repair the nation's war zone-like inner cities and what he would do for "the Latinos," and "the Hispanics," but made no mention at all of what he might do to develop an understanding of nonwhite Americans that is not built on stereotypes and other politically convenient fictions.
And it was much like the moment when Trump responded to the very first debate question about the candidate's ability to demonstrate "appropriate behavior" by answering a different question, then shortly thereafter pivoting to mentions of Bill Clinton's infidelity and sexual misconduct and crimes of which Clinton has been accused.
In a debate in which most professional political watchers had described the most critical thing Trump could do as demonstrate contrition, it was fairly clear he'd opted against their advice.