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MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- Hillary Clinton further detailed her plan to defeat ISIS Tuesday, and specifically spoke to the threat of homegrown radicalization in a city that has been on the front lines, while also warning that Islamophobia is not just offensive but harmful to American national security.
"We are in it for the long haul and we will stand taller and stronger than they could possibly imagine," Clinton said of ISIS on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis.
National security has emerged as a top issue in the 2016 presidential election following terrorist attacks in Paris that left 130 dead and a mass shooting by a radicalized couple in San Bernardino, California, that killed 14 earlier this month.
Clinton acknowledged that Americans have a right to be fearful in this climate, while knocking Republicans for taking advantage of the country’s collective anxiety. Without naming them, Clinton took clear shots at Republican candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio for stoking fears, while blasting Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslim immigration headon.
"Shallow slogans don’t add up to a strategy. Promising to carpet bomb until the desert glows doesn't make you sound strong -- it makes you sound like you're in over your head," Clinton said. "Bluster and bigotry are not credentials for becoming commander-in-chief.”
Tuesday marked Clinton’s third speech on combating global terrorism in less than a month, underscoring her campaign strategists’ recognition of the importance of this issue. At the Council on Foreign Relations in November, Clinton described her plan to “defeat and destroy” ISIS, and at the Saban Forum a few weeks ago, she urged Silicon Valley to take an active role in the dismantling of the terrorist network’s communication operation.
Stopping potential jihadists from getting training overseas is a critical part of a what she dubbed a "360-degree strategy" to keep America safe. She said the U.S. needs to target the "network of enablers" that help finance ISIS, in addition to combating the organization online to cutoff recruitment. Clinton also called for stricter screenings for visa applicants who had been to a country in Islamic State-controlled areas in the last five years.
In addition, the former secretary of state highlighted the importance of working closely with Muslim-American communities and the location for the speech was no accident. The Twin Cities have been at the forefront of the fight against radicalization from terrorist organizations and Clinton praised the work of the law enforcement in Minnesota as a successful model for combating homegrown radicalization.
“We must all stand up against offensive, inflammatory, hateful, anti-Muslim rhetoric,’ Clinton said. “These Americans might be our first, last and best defense against homegrown radicalization and terrorism.”
She said comments by people like Trump are not only anti-American but “dangerous,” since they erode trust with the Muslim-American community at home and Muslim allies abroad.
The Democratic presidential frontrunner invoked an unlikely figure to make the point. “George W. Bush was right,” she said, referring to his warning just says after the September 11 terror attack against vilifying Muslim-Americans.
But some of her biggest applause lines came when Clinton directly connected terrorism and the need for gun control. Acknowledging that Republicans would disagree with her, Clinton said it was simple: “Terrorists use guns to kill Americans. I think we should make it harder for them from to do that."
Saying "the phrase 'active shooter' should not be one we have to teach our children,” Clinton said, “It defies common sense that Republicans in Congress refuse to make it harder for potential terrorists to buy guns.”
In recent weeks, Clinton has implored Congress to pass an updated authorization to use military force, stressing that the “time for delay is over.” She has repeatedly said that the fight against ISIS needs to take place in the air, on the ground, and in cyberspace, but stressed that a full-scale war with American troops in the Middle East would not be wise.
And she used the speech as another opportunity to push for the reauthorization of the Zadroga Act, which pays for health care for 9/11 first responders, saying it’s “disgraceful” for Republicans to say they want bolster law enforcement to fight terrorism while also opposing the bill.
Minneapolis has one of the largest Muslim populations in the country, especially refugees from Somalia. That’s made it fertile ground for recruitment, with the tenth arrest of a Minnesota man planning to join ISIS occurring just last week. At least 22 young men left the Twin Cities area to join the Somali militant group Al Shabaab between 2007 and 2009.
Before the speech, Clinton met with local Muslim leaders, including the first Somali-American member of the Minneapolis City Council, where her campaign says she discussed efforts to combat radicalization.
Republicans have sought to portray Clinton as weak on terrorism, since she served as secretary of state in the administration that witnessed the rise of ISIS after it pulled American troops out of Iraq.
While Clinton has sought to present tougher rhetoric on ISIS than Obama, she is also facing criticism from her left. Sen. Bernie Sanders, her top rival for the nomination, has charged that Clinton’s support for the War in Iraq, as well as for the toppling of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya, make her overly hawkish and too quick to intervene.
Foreign policy and terrorism are expected to be central topics at not only tonight’s GOP debate in Las Vegas, but Saturday’s Democratic debate in New Hampshire.