MOUNT PLEASANT — Republican front-runner Donald Trump chose the aircraft carrier Yorktown to make perhaps the most extreme statement of his political career, calling for a “total and complete” ban on Muslims entering the U.S. “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
“Are we going to be politically correct, or are we going to be stupid?” Trump asked in front of a crowd of more than 2,000 people inside the ship’s massive hangar deck.
Trump’s call comes in the wake of two targeted mass shootings of civilians, in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., that were perpetrated by Islamic extremists and claimed the lives of nearly 150 people.
It also is sure to shake up the Republican primary race even further.
Such a ban would be unprecedented in modern American history, as it calls for a complete shutdown of the borders, airports, seaports and immigration offices to individuals of one specific — but theologically complicated — faith. His lockdown would cover all types of visas but also foreign tourists.
During his one-hour address, Trump provided no details on how such a ban would be enforced or legally monitored, policed and for how long, instead focusing on the radicalization of extremists and the unknowns headed to American shores.
“Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in jihad and have no sense of reason or respect for human life,” he said.
Trump spoke while standing beneath the museum’s B-25 Mitchell bomber that hung from the ceiling. It is the same type of plane that took part in World War II’s “30 Seconds Over Tokyo” raid.
Speaking on the 74th anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, Trump made reference to Dec. 7, 1941, saying he did not want to see anymore “World Trade Centers,” the terrorist attacks that started the war on terror 14 years ago.
Beyond his call to close the borders, Trump stuck to his common themes of being tough with America’s adversaries, negotiating better deals and cracking down on illegal immigration.
“We have illegal immigrants that are being taken care of better than our incredible veterans,” he said. But he continued to come back to foreign policy, the Obama administration’s handling of threats and the threat of Islamic-aligned terrorism that is escalating in its violence.
“We’re out of control. We have no idea who is coming into our country,” he said. “We have no idea if they love us or if they hate us. We have no idea if they brought bombs. We have no idea what’s going on.” Trump advocated for racial profiling and monitoring of mosques as well.
He was particularly pointed in saying how the victims in California and Paris were defenseless because they were unarmed at the time. “It was like target practice,” he said.
Polls show Trump is the Republican favorite nationally and in South Carolina by wide margins. The latest polling among Palmetto State Republicans done by race by CBS News last month gave Trump a 16-point lead over his next-closest challenger, Dr. Ben Carson, by a 35 percent-19 percent margin.
Charleston resident and Trump supporter David Moreau, 70, hesitated when asked about Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the country, but he said it might be what is needed for now.
“It’s tough to go to that extreme, but I think that many Muslims support the (radical) Muslim lifestyle” said Moreau, who added he believes there are Muslims who support the radicalized faction, but keep their thoughts private. “It’s just a natural fact of life.”
Trump’s comments drew widespread support from those in the audience but condemnation from both his and the other side of the political aisle.
“As a conservative who truly cares about religious liberty, Donald Trump’s bad idea and rhetoric send a shiver down my spine,” S.C. GOP Chairman Matt Moore said in a tweet.
Local Democrats compared Trump’s support for a ban based on religious belief to decades past. “Segregating and legally separating people based on their religious preferences is something that should have ended in the 1940s and should not be tolerated in 2015,” said Charleston County Democratic Party Chairman Brady Quirk-Garvan.
As in previous campaign stops, Trump’s Yorktown speech was interrupted as many as five times by protesters, some yelling “black lives matter.” They were soon drowned out by his supporters yelling “Trump, Trump, ”and “U-S-A, U-S-A,” before being escorted away.
Their interruptions puzzled Glen McLaughlin and Sharon Putnam, both of Myrtle Beach.
“If they didn’t like what he had to say, then why did they come?” Putnam said.
McLaughlin theorized protesters just wanted to make noise and be disruptive. He said, however, that though some might not like Trump’s tone, it is what the country needs.
“The whole world is in combat and we’re gearing up,” McLaughlin said. “I’ll hire this man for eight years, and when he’s done, I want his daughter in for the next eight.”