Donald Trump Thinks America Must Commit War Crimes As a Matter of Principle

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Donald Trump Holds Campaign Rally In Phoenix, Arizona
Make America Commit War Crimes Again.Photo: Ralph Freso/2016 Getty Images

Hours after Tuesday’s massacre at Ataturk International Airport, Donald Trump called on America to “fight fire with fire.” The presumptive GOP nominee told supporters in Ohio that, while he likes waterboarding, it probably isn’t “tough enough.”

 We have to be so strong,” Trump said. “We have to fight so viciously. And violently because we’re dealing with violent people viciously.”

On Thursday night in New Hampshire, Trump reiterated his belief that America should hold itself to the same standard as a fascist death cult. Asked by local station NH1 to respond to Senator John McCain’s claim that torture is “not the American way,” Trump replied:

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It’s worth remembering that, for the Republican standard-bearer, ordering the military to hunt down and kill the wives and children of suspected terrorists falls under the “thinkable” column.

That Donald Trump will happily court human beings’ worst instincts for political gain is not breaking news. What’s interesting about his renewed support for deliberate war crimes is that there’s no evidence such heinousness even has a political upside. In the wake of the Orlando shooting, the American people were scared. Eight in ten told pollsters from the Washington Post and ABC News that they were afraid of lone-wolf terrorism. But those respondents also overwhelmingly preferred Clinton’s response to the tragedy over Trump’s, and had more faith in her capacity to handle terrorism than they did in the mogul’s. This marks a departure from past campaign cycles, in which Republican candidates have consistently enjoyed higher marks than their Democratic rivals on matters of national security.

Part of this change can be explained by the unusually stark discrepancy between the two presumptive nominees’ levels of foreign-policy experience. But in the previous Washington PostABC News poll, taken in May, Trump was only three points behind Clinton on the issue of terrorism; he fell 11 points behind her in the wake of Orlando. Thus, it appears that the American people find a former secretary of State calmly laying out a detail-oriented plan for reducing terrorism to be more comforting than a real-estate mogul shouting that the nation must chose between his radical agenda and certain doom.