Billed as a major speech on terrorism and immigration, Donald Trump’s remarks featured the usual mixture of half-truths and boasting. Most important however was what Trump didn’t say.
After a blistering week a visibly more subdued Trump gave a speech on the issue he apparently believes he can best score points on: terrorism and immigration. Reading diligently from a teleprompter the Republican presidential candidate managed to get through the entire manuscript without gaffes or insults.
He did repeat his false claim that he opposed the Iraq war from the outset. And his vow to end the current nation building strategy was similarly misleading. After all, reducing America's military global footprint has been one of the key goals of the Obama administration. It is precisely for this perceived retrenchment that many Republicans - and Trump - have repeatedly criticized Obama.
And it is also rich for Trump, someone who has made political hay out of insulting Mexicans, Muslims, African-Americans and women, to close his speech by invoking an appeal to work against bigotry and oppression. All of it is still very vexing, but not surprising any more.
Trump's back paddling
That's why it is more important what Trump didn't say in his remarks riddled with half-truths and impudence. He steered clear of two of his most outrageous statements related to terrorism and immigration. First, his recent claim that President Obama was a "founder" of the terrorist group "Islamic State". And second, his call for banning Muslims from entering the US, made at the end of last year.
In his speech Trump did say that the foreign policy of Obama and Clinton "unleashed" the "Islamic State". And instead of a wholesale ban on Muslims he now calls for the "extreme vetting" of potential immigrants that should include an ideological screening test.
One does not need to share Trump's latest remarks. Instead, his statements about US foreign policy and the rise of the Islamic State as well as his legally and ethically problematic call for an ideological test for immigrants should be discussed and challenged.
But compared to his previous, completely unacceptable, statements on these important issues Trump's latest remarks are an - admittedly small - sign of progress. For the charged political climate in this presidential campaign that is a welcome sign. How long it holds remains to be seen.