Appearing on CNN's New Day Monday, White House Press Secretary, Josh Earnest, did everything in his power to avoid the question asked of him by host Chris Cuomo:
CUOMO: "The face of the man on the screen [Manhattan bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami], the name; he is a naturalized citizen here; he is from Afghanistan. It raises the specter of the fear, the xenophobia, of those who are getting into this country, and whether they are efficiently vetted in a way that has to be done...Can it be done well enough? This is a big, big issue in the campaign. Is this a reflection of not getting it done?"
In what is perhaps the greatest feat of political spin in recent history, Earnest simply didn't answer the question...like, at all. After talking about being in a "narrative battle" against ISIS, he condemned religious profiling:
"We can't play into this narrative that somehow the United States and the West is fighting against the Muslim religion. The fact is there are millions of patriotic Muslims in this country right now...we can't paint with a broad brush. We can't suggest and hold under suspicion individuals as possible terrorists just because of the way that they worship God."
Earnest built a beautiful straw man argument, lumping those who want to "ban all Muslims" with those who want to properly vet potential radical Islamic threats.
According to CNBC, despite Ahmad Khan Rahami allegedly taking a trip to Afghanistan several years ago, at which point he may have become radicalized, he was not on any "U.S. terrorist watch list or NYPD list."
The New York Times reports:
"When he returned, some patrons [at First American Fried Chicken] noticed a certain transformation. He grew a beard and exchanged his typical wardrobe of T-shirts and sweatpants for traditional Muslim robes. He began to pray in the back of the store. His previous genial bearing turned more stern."
The Times quotes Flee Jones, who grew up with Rahami:
"It’s like he was a completely different person. He got serious and completely closed off."
Rahami was even arrested in 2014 for allegedly stabbing someone in the leg.
Despite his alleged trip to Afghanistan, which was followed by a marked change in personality, as well as criminal charges for violent behavior, none of these sequential red flags appear to have caught the attention of the FBI or other officials.
As the investigation continues into the Manhattan bombing, more details will come to light. These details could very well paint a picture of Rahami as a radical whose past behavior should have been noticed by federal officials.
There are those who want a blanket ban of all Muslims, and there are those who want potential threats to be properly vetted and apprehended before they commit mass atrocities. Those are not the same people.
However, if you listen to Josh Earnest, you might believe that they're one and the same.