During last year’s presidential campaign, Donald Trump was repeatedly insistent that everyone should use the term “radical Islamic terrorism”. For example, his reaction to the Orlando massacre, from Inside Edition 7/13/2016:
Announcer: Trump spoke out about the massacre today, saying the president is afraid to call it an act of Islamic terrorism.
Donald Trump: He won’t even use the term “radical Islamic terrorism” which I think is insulting to our country and it’s insulting to everybody. And if you don’t use the term, if you don’t describe what’s happening, you’re never going to solve the problem.
So like many others, I was curious how he would handle the issue in his speech to the “Arab Islamic American Summit” yesterday in Riyadh.
According the White House’s version of his “remarks as prepared for delivery”, he was going to go with the somewhat more PC approximation “Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires”.
Of course, there is still much work to do.
That means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires. And it means standing together against the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews, and the slaughter of Christians.
The idea behind this difference is that “Islamic” ties the underlying ideas and motivations directly to the religion as a whole, while “Islamist”, echoing “fundamentalist”, could mean a political ideology claiming a (perhaps false) relationship to an allegedly original version of the religion. President Obama argued against all such terms, while Hilary Clinton preferred “radical Islamism” or “radical jihadist terrorism”.
But what Donald Trump actually said was a bit different. He changed “Islamist” to “Islamic”, added a reference to “Islamicists”, and interpolated a sentence about “what they’re doing to inspire”:
Of course, there is still much work to be done.
That means honestly confronting the crisis
of Islamic extremism
and the Islamicists and Islamic terror of all kinds.
We must stop what they’re doing to inspire
because they do nothing to inspire but kill
and we are having a very profound effect
if you look at what’s happened recently.
And it means standing together against the murder of innocent Muslims,
the oppression of women,
the persecution of Druz- Jews,
and the slaughter of Christians.
The omission in the prepared text of the signature phrase “radical Islamic terrorism”, and these interpolations in the speech as delivered, were noted in the media coverage. Thus Olivia Beavers, “Official: Trump’s ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ wording changed because he’s ‘exhausted’“, The Hill 5/21/2017:
A senior White House official said Sunday President Trump mixed up the wording of his prepared remarks in Saudi Arabia because he was “exhausted.”
“He’s just an exhausted guy,” the official told reporters on background, after many pointed out that Trump avoided the term “radical Islamic terrorism,” during the speech to leaders of more than 50 Muslim-majority nations.
Trump diverted slightly from his prepared remarks in using “Islamic” rather than “Islamist.”
After remaining largely on script, that diversion caught the attention of many listeners who were curious to see whether Trump would use his key phrase.
Or Jamin Lee “WH: Trump was ‘exhausted’ when he said ‘Islamic extremism’“, CNN 5/22/2917:
The difference between “Islamic extremism” and “Islamist extremism”? One exhausted President.
President Donald Trump’s substitution of the slightly different terms during his highly anticipated speech in Saudi Arabia on Sunday might go unnoticed by the average US listener.
But the subtle change — or slip, as the White House called it — could mean the difference between offending Middle Eastern allies and not, a concern for any president looking to create a good first impression with a key ally on a first trip abroad.
Using the word “Islamic,” a reference to the religion, in the same breath as “terrorism” could be seen by Muslims as an affront to their faith and actually play into the terrorists’ “clash of civilizations” narrative — reasons why President Barack Obama assiduously avoided the combination during his presidency.
“Islamist,” meanwhile, refers to political movements that seek to implement Islamic law and theology, making it less objectionable to Muslims when paired with “terrorism,” the idea goes.
Most of the president’s other deviations from the written text were interpolated intensifications of one kind or another — for example:
Text: and I want to express our gratitude to King Salman for this strong demonstration of leadership.
Speech: and I want to express our gratitude to King Salman
for his strong demonstration
and his absolutely incredible and powerful leadership.
Text: This fertile region has all the ingredients for extraordinary success
Speech: The fertile region
and it is so fertile
has all of the ingredients
for extraordinary success
Text: I ask you to join me, to join together, to work together, and to FIGHT together— BECAUSE UNITED, WE WILL NOT FAIL.
Speech: I ask you to join me, to join together,
to work together, and to FIGHT together
because united we will not fail,
we can not fail
can beat us
These seem like glimpses of the president’s true style.
There were certainly a few speech errors that might be indications of exhaustion. Thus “true toll” in the prepared text came out as something more like “too troll”:
The true toll of ISIS, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and so many others, must be counted not only in the number of dead.
The [tu trol] of ISIS,
if you look at what’s happening,
Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and so many others,
must be counted not only in the number of dead.
“Leaving” in the text became “living” in the speech, and with some improvised material to rescue the slip:
The surge of migrants and refugees leaving the Middle East depletes the human capital needed to build stable societies and economies.
The surge of migrants and refugees living
and just living so poorly
that they’re forced to leave
the Middle East
depletes the human capital needed to build stable societies
And an extra syllable slipped into “ethnicity”:
We must practice tolerance and respect for each other once again—and make this region a place where every man and woman, no matter their faith or ethnicity, can enjoy a life of dignity and hope.
We must practice tolerance and respect for each other once again
and make this region a place
where every man and woman, no matter their faith
can enjoy a life of dignity
The outcome of “ethnicity” alone:
I’m prone to similar speech errors on certain words or phrases, though I don’t have the impression that fatigue makes this type of error more likely.