Reading from a teleprompter, Donald Trump gave a lengthy speech on national security in Ohio on Monday in a desperate attempt to turn around his flailing campaign. The GOP candidate covered various topics in his speech, including security measures he claimed were a central part of a plan to defeat the so-called "Islamic State" (IS), a battle he said was "akin to the Cold War struggle against communism."
Trump also said he would work with NATO to defeat IS, reversing previous statements where he said the US might not meet its obligations to the military alliance, should he win the White House.
"I have previously said NATO was obsolete because it failed to deal adequately with terrorism. Since my comments, they have changed their policy and now have a new division focused on terror threats, very good," he said.
Trump was vague about what he would do differently to decimate IS in its strongholds in Iraq and Syria. He vowed to partner with any country that shares his goal of defeating the extremist group, regardless of other strategic disagreements, and named Russia as a nation he would like to improve relations with.
'America's Angela Merkel'
While proposing his new national security plan, Trump named Germany as an example of a bad immigration policy and likened his Democrat opponent Hillary Clinton to Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel.
"Hillary Clinton wants to be America's Angela Merkel - and you know what a disaster this massive immigration has been to Germany and the people of Germany," he said.
He said crime in Germany had risen to new heights beyond people's expectations - despite a national decrease in violent crime in recent years. Specifically, he called out the New Year's Eve reports of sexual assaults and attacks in Cologne.
"We have enough problems in our country, we don't need another one," Trump added.
The Republican presidential candidate's aides told reporters that a Trump government would use questionnaires, social media, interviews with family and friends, "or other means" to vet applicants' attitudes on issues including religious freedom, gender equality and gay rights.
He also called on parents, teachers and others to promote "American culture" and encourage "assimilation."
Trump himself did not clarify how officials would assess the responses to the questionnaires or how much manpower it would require to complete the vetting, but said implementing the policy overhaul would require a temporary halt in immigration from "the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorism."
He would ask the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to decide which regions once he is elected. "We will stop processing visas from those areas until such time as it is deemed safe to resume based on new circumstances or new procedures," Trump said. He had earlier promised to release his list of "terror countries" soon.
"Those who do not believe in our Constitution, or who support bigotry and hatred, will not be admitted for immigration into our country," Trump told a gathering of supporters in Youngstown, Ohio. "Only those who we expect to flourish in our country - and to embrace a tolerant American society - should be issued visas."
During his campaign to become the Republican candidate in this year’s election, Trump called for a temporary barring of foreign Muslims from entering the country.
Turning around a failing campaign?
Trump is running several points behind Clinton in the race to the White House and has alienated many in his own party, with several Republican national security experts saying recently that Trump is unfit to serve as commander in chief.
The right of center newspaper "The Wall Street Journal" editorial board called for Trump on Monday to change his ways and campaign with more discipline - or step aside in favor of his vice presidential running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence. "If they can't get Mr. Trump to change his act by Labor Day September 5, the GOP will have no choice but to write-off the nominee as hopeless and focus on salvaging the Senate and House and other down-ballot races," the paper wrote.
Preaching to the converted
Compared with his preferred off-the-cuff speeches, which give him ample opportunity to go off message and blurt out incendiary comments, this prepared address was delivered in a more measured tone.
Trump delivered his speech to a supportive crowd in Youngstown, Ohio - the heart of the so-called Rust Belt, an area suffering from urban decay and economic blight as the region's once prosperous industrial sector continues to decline.
The area hugs the Great Lakes region, extending from western New York state, through Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan. The region is home to many disenfranchised blue-collar voters, one of Trump's most successful demographics. His speech was occasionally interrupted with vociferous chants of "Trump! Trump! Trump!"
Except for New York, which is solidly Democratic, the three other states are crucial to Trump's hopes of winning the presidency. He is behind in the polls in all three states, by sizable margins in Pennsylvania and Michigan. Only in Ohio is his deficit relatively narrow at 2.6 percent.
Attacks on Obama
Against that backdrop, Trump attacked Obama and Clinton for what he called their failed policies to defeat IS militants, an immigration policy he described as "soft" and accused Clinton of profiting from her four-year term as Secretary of State.
Trump reeled off a list of terror attacks organized or inspired by IS that have rattled the US and Europe in recent years and offered that as proof of failed policy. This despite the US and their local ground forces reportedly killing at least 25,000 IS fighters, and perhaps as many as 45,000, in recent years.
Vice President Joe Biden campaigning with Clinton in Scranton, Pennsylvania called Trump's views "dangerous" and "un-American."
Trump, again, slammed Obama for refusing to use the term "radical Islamic militants," which Trump says is a refusal to recognize the enemy and also vowed that the US would prevail in its fight against extremists if he is elected president.
He also vowed to cut off militants' online communications. The logistics and legality of such a move are questionable, and could even be strategically self-defeating as intercepting jihadists' online communications is thought to be one of the best weapons western intelligence has for undermining the militants.
"Radical Islamic militants will be eliminated, one by one," he said, adding ominously, "viciously if necessary."
rs, bik, jbh/kl, se (AP, AFP, dpa)