Stop playing politics with 9/11

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks Saturday in Birmingham, Ala.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks Saturday in Birmingham, Ala. The Associated Press

We’re in the heat of a presidential campaign in which terrorism is a major issue. So the candidates can be forgiven the occasional mention of 9/11, the worst terrorist attack on American soil.

But some are already taking this license too far.

Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, during a debate the day after the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, invoked Sept. 11 to defend her sizable campaign contributions from Wall Street.

“We were attacked in downtown Manhattan where Wall Street is,” she responded to challenger Bernie Sanders. “I did spend a whole lot of time and effort helping them rebuild. That was good for New York. It was good for the economy, and it was a way to rebuke the terrorists who had attacked our country.”

That was unbecoming of Clinton.

But leave it to Republican Donald Trump to shamefully go way over the top.

In an ugly tirade against American Muslims, he recently claimed that on 9/11 “thousands and thousands” of Arabs in New Jersey cheered as the World Trade Center collapsed.

To be absolutely clear, there’s not a shred of evidence that that actually happened. There were some celebrations in Muslim countries overseas, but only conspiracy theorists believe it occurred in America. Fact-checking organizations have called Trump on it.

But given a chance Sunday to admit he misspoke or misremembered, he doubled down. “They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down,” Trump said on ABC. “I know it might not be politically correct for you to talk about it, but there were people cheering as that building came down.”

This isn’t about being “politically correct.” This is about the truth vs. outright lies – lies that deepen divides in our country.

Using 9/11 for political purposes is one thing. To use it to incite hate dishonors its 3,000 victims, who we should remember came from 78 different countries and represented many faiths, Islam included.

By going so far beyond the pale, Trump stretches the limit for other candidates to be hateful and turns the campaign even more toxic. Add this to the long list of reasons why Trump is not suited to be president. Sooner or later, voters need to realize that.