Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: A reluctant but necessary discussion on Trump and terrorism

The presidential race has a new focus on national security — and, of course, Donald Trump. We hate to even mention the guy’s name, because his key strategy is to dominate news coverage. But we can’t ignore his bigotry.

Has Donald Trump crossed the line from entertaining to downright frightening and dangerous?

Pignanelli: “So what if the media question Trump’s bending the truth. There never has been more truth bending from Washington, D.C., than right now!” —Iowa Trump supporter on NBC "Meet the Press."

The recent denunciations of Trump by Republican, Democrat, religious, community and business leaders is heartwarming and a testimony to the great soul of this nation. I will pile on with an additional perspective.

With a dark demeanor and weird hair, Trump is providing a public service. His comments are generating a hostile reaction that is unifying disparate factions and reminding the country of the principles that bind us. Further, he is illustrating that our democracy is not impervious to — and can breed — charismatic jingoistic power seekers whose ultimate ambition is tyranny. We must be ever vigilant against this threat, whether from Trump or another demagogue with cheap promises of security (and a worse haircut).

Normally Trump would be easily dismissed. But the dysfunction in Washington, D.C., and its inability to articulate a response to terrorism is creating the vacuum that the blowhard billionaire can fill with horrible rhetoric against Muslims. The partisan bickering has now fostered another terrible menace.

If 300 million Americans must endure the buffoonery for another six months, then we put the nonsense to good use for a massive "teaching moment."

Webb: Donald Trump will never be elected president. Thank goodness. But he is fully capable of electing Hillary Clinton and a Democratic U.S. Senate. He could care less about what’s best for America. He cares only about Donald Trump.

As a young man, I served my church in Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population — many millions of sweet, caring, wonderful Muslim people. To think that Trump would prevent citizens of this entire nation from entering my country is reprehensible.

Remember, our most important allies in the fight against Islamic terrorism are Muslims and Muslim countries. Islamic terrorists mostly maim and kill other Muslims.

Just as scary as Trump himself is the fact that some 30 percent of Republicans actually support him. I don’t like to offend people, but I worry about the intellectual capacity of these folks who seek simplistic answers to complex questions, who are so easily influenced by a charismatic charlatan, who seek a nonexistent political savior. Too many people get caught up in celebrity worship, the political equivalent of the Kardashians.

Thankfully, most Utahns are not so naïve. Polling by Dan Jones & Associates for shows some 65 percent of Utahns reject Trump’s views on banning Muslims. Trump’s presidential bid has only 13 percent support in Utah. He’s running even or behind Ted CruzBen Carson and Marco Rubio.

Remember, it’s not a big leap from Muslims to Mormons to Jews or whatever other religion Trump decides to persecute.

In his speech to the nation, President Obamaoutlined his approach to dealing with terrorism at home and abroad. Was the speech adequate for the occasion and inspiring enough to spur action?

Pignanelli: The Democrats I listened to in the media or encountered during the days following the speech gave a ho-hum critique of the president’s presentation. (Of course, I endured the usual stream of complaints from Republicans.) Many hoped Obama would have given an emotional delivery to rally the nation and restore confidence. He didn't.

Perhaps Obama is channeling the fear and confusion plaguing the nation’s capital on this matter. There is much shouting and finger wagging. But our leaders have no real plan. We have never faced an enemy with such tactics.

I am optimistic that the White House will recover its footing, develop a strategy, and reach out to the nation for support. The alternative to this dream is a real nightmare.

Webb: Obama’s trumpet continues to give an uncertain sound. The speech was a dud. Obama didn’t say anything new and he certainly didn’t inspire Americans or make them feel safer or more patriotic.

The terrorist attack in San Bernardino has reignited national security issues related to NSA’s desire to collect bulk phone records. Was it a mistake to restrict NSA’s data-collecting program?

Pignanelli: No expert has argued that NSA retention of these records would have prevented this and other tragedies. Such information, if needed, can be accessed by the subpoena of communications service providers. A strong response to the terrorists must be coupled with an equal determination to prevent government overreach.

Webb: Banning bulk collection of phone records is completely ridiculous. Anyone who isn’t a terrorist has absolutely nothing to worry about. Who has been hurt by this practice? Only bad guys. Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Facebook and your local department store know far more about you than the NSA ever will. Ted Cruzand others of his ilk are fearmongers who place political expediency over national security.