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President Obama, Presidential Candidates Respond


It is the worst mass shooting in American history. At least 50 people are dead, and 53 more have been sent to area hospitals. Joining us now for the latest on this story is NPR's Scott Detrow. Scott, thanks so much for speaking with us.


MARTIN: President Obama spoke earlier today from the White House. What did he have to say?

DETROW: Well, President Obama was cautious. He said that when it comes to the motives and ties to broader terror networks, investigators are still looking into this. President Obama did reach out to the LGBT community saying attacks on any Americans is an attack on all Americans. And the president also talked about gun control. And frankly, he sounded a little bit dejected.


BARACK OBAMA: Today marks the most deadly shooting in American history. The shooter was apparently armed with a handgun and a powerful assault rifle. This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school or in a house of worship or a movie theater or in a nightclub. And we have to decide if that's the kind of country we want to be. And to actively do nothing is a decision as well.

DETROW: You know, the president has spoken more than a dozen times after mass shootings. He spent a lot of his second term trying to get some sort of gun restriction passed. It hasn't happened, and you could hear that frustration and anger.

MARTIN: And what about the candidates from the major - the two major political parties? What have we heard from them today?

DETROW: Well, Hillary Clinton is being much more careful than Donald Trump. Like Obama, she did talk about gun control in her statement, saying, quote, "this is the deadliest mass shooting in the history of the United States. It reminds us once more that weapons of war have no place on our streets." Donald Trump is being much more combative. He's attacking Obama for not doing enough to prevent terror attacks. And he's almost saying I told you so.

Here's a line from his statement. (Reading) If we do not get tough and smart real fast, we're not going to have a country anymore because our leaders are weak. I said this was going to happen, and it's only going to get worse.

And he didn't say this in the full statement that the campaign released. But on Twitter, Trump seemed to double down on the temporary ban on immigration from all Muslims that he called for in the wake of the San Bernardino shootings. That's something that as it's gone from the primary to a general election, some of his staff has suggested was not something that Trump fully supported. But here on Twitter, he appears to be endorsing that position again.

MARTIN: But what would be the relevance here? Because the suspected shooter, the only one that the FBI has identified so far, is an American citizen. He was born in this country. So what would be the relevance?

DETROW: That's a good point. He is an American citizen. But what Trump talked about was criticizing the Obama administration. His argument is that allowing people to come into the country allows potential ISIS sympathizers to infiltrate the country.

MARTIN: I understand that some people might not consider it appropriate to talk about politics at a time like this. And yet, you were telling us earlier that an event like this can change the tone and focus of the presidential campaign. Tell us how so.

DETROW: Well, on a small level it's already affecting the schedule of what was going to happen over the next week. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were going to hold their first campaign event together. This was going to be a big moment for the Clinton campaign. That's since been postponed. It just doesn't feel appropriate at the moment. But looking at those San Bernardino shootings, they definitely affected the Republican primary. We saw Ben Carson's lead evaporate because voters just didn't seem to trust him with foreign policy and national security.

At the time, Donald Trump benefitted from that. The question is would he now? It's a much different electorate. It's the whole country instead of just Republican voters. Hillary Clinton is, of course, a former secretary of state. And we have some recent polling from The Wall Street Journal and NBC showing a wide lead for Clinton over Trump when it comes to who voters want to - would trust with foreign policy. It was 56 percent to 29 in Clinton's favor.

MARTIN: And she's also made a point about temperament.


MARTIN: She has said explicitly in political speeches and her speech marking her being named the presumptive nominee and having captured enough delegates to claim that title - she doubled down on the whole question of temperament. Do we have any sense of whether temperament is something that the voters are thinking about now?

DETROW: I think it's an argument that the Clinton campaign is going to be making over and over again over the next few months. You saw a bit of it in the big commercial that she announced today. And just look at their - both responses on social media to get a sense of the different approaches - Hillary Clinton being very cautious, saying we're waiting for the facts to come in. Donald Trump is making declarations saying this is tied to radical Islamic terrorism. We need to do something. And that's not a clear fact we've heard from the FBI and other federal investigators yet.

MARTIN: That's NPR's Scott Detrow here with us in our studios in Washington, D.C. Scott Detrow, thanks so much for speaking with us.

DETROW: Any time. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.
Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.