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Earnest: Senators 'Who Like to Talk' Have 'Luxury' of Saying 'Radical Islam'

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill on May 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

White House press secretary Josh Earnest accused Senate Republicans who voted down a series of gun-control proposals Monday of having the “luxury” of using the phrase “radical Islam” as “a political talking point as a substitute for a counterterrorism strategy.”

“The truth of the matter is the individuals who spend their time talking about radical Islamic terrorism are individuals like Republicans in the Senate who voted against legislation that would prevent those individuals from being able to buy a gun. And those are individuals who not actually put forward their own strategy for keeping the country safe,” Earnest told CNN this morning.

“Using the term ‘radical Islamic extremism’ is not a counterterrorism policy. It is a political talking point plain and simple. And what the president of the United States has done, has put forth a comprehensive strategy to squeeze Islamic — the Islamic State in Iraq and in Syria to inhibit their ability to recruit and radicalize around the globe.”

Earnest argued that President Obama “has implemented a strategy that has put increasing pressure on ISIL, and has made the country safer.”

“But he has not relied on a political talking point as a substitute for a counterterrorism strategy. Republicans in the Senate who like to talk have that luxury. But when you’re the president of the United States, and you’re focused on keeping the country safe, you don’t have that luxury. What you do is you focus on a strategy that will put pressure on ISIL, that’s going to make sure that we send a clear message to the Muslims in the United States, that we want their help and protecting their community from efforts — from ISIL to radicalized vulnerable members of our population,” he said.

“So, the president is focused on a strategy. You have Republicans in the Congress are focused on a talking point.”

On MSNBC, the White House spokesman charged that “Republicans have run around and spent the last week saying ‘radical Islamic extremism’ to anybody who will listen, but when it actually comes to preventing those extremists from being able to walk into a gun store and buy a gun, they’re AWOL — they won’t do anything about it because they’re scared of the NRA.”

A House Democrat disagreed with the White House last week on their assertion that the term used to describe terrorism is insignificant.

“This is something that I have disagreed with the president on, because I think it’s important that you identify your enemy, you know who they are, you call them by their name, and you understand the ideology that’s driving them,” Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) told CNN. “You know, I understand and appreciate the president’s concern, which is, he doesn’t want all Muslims to be cast with the same targeting or the same look as this handful of radical jihadists, and I agree with that. No one wants that to happen.”

“But that’s why I think it is important that we make the distinction between the vast majority of Muslims who are practicing their spiritual path, who appreciate and support a pluralistic society and government that’s free vs. this small handful of people who basic — like ISIS and al Qaeda, who believe that unless you abide by their caliphate and their theocracy, you should be killed. And, obviously, that’s something that we need to be able to identify in order to defeat this threat.”