You’ve probably seen the tests on the Internet designed to gauge which presidential candidate comes closest to reflecting your views and values.
Tuesday’s terror attacks in Brussels, Belgium, can provide much the same kind of insight. The following are how the five candidates reacted in the hours following the horrific events that, as of this writing, killed at least 34 and injured more than 200, including several Americans.
▪ “We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.”
▪ “We and our allies must rededicate ourselves to these values of freedom and human rights. We must utterly reject the use of deadly acts of terror.”
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▪ “I would close up our borders. . . . I would use waterboarding. And I would try to expand the laws to go beyond waterboarding.”
▪ “It’s unrealistic to say we’re going to completely shut down our borders to everyone. I know that Americans have every reason to be frightened by what they see, (but) we’ve go to work this through, consistent with our values.”
▪ “Today’s attack is a brutal reminder that the international community must come together to destroy ISIS. This type of barbarism cannot be allowed to continue.”
Those statements were made, in order, by Republicans Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Donald Trump and Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
Clinton, Sanders and Kasich had measured, thoughtful reactions. But Cruz seems to propose preemptive police action against peaceful American Muslim communities while Trump is, well, being Trump with outrageous statements about shutting down U.S. borders and torturing people.
Islamic State, which took credit for Tuesday’s attacks, seeks to drive a wedge between Western nations and the nonradicalized Muslims within their borders. What Cruz and Trump propose would play directly into the terror group’s hands by further isolating and demonizing those Muslims who want to live, work and worship in peace.
Cruz was, however, right to criticize Trump for suggesting (before the attacks) that the United States should rethink its involvement with NATO. The alliance that has been at the core of Western security measures for the past 67 years is key to efforts against the Islamic State and the fighters it has trained and sent back to Europe to commit atrocities.
He said Trump “is wrong that America should withdraw from the world and abandon our allies,” noting that Brussels is headquarters to NATO.
It is a sad reality that the Brussels attack is likely not the last of its kind. The Islamic State, in fact, is promising more and much worse. Americans have every right to be frightened, even though they’re much more likely to be killed by their personal weapons than by terrorists. Self-radicalized attackers – like the San Bernardino killers – are a bigger threat here than the organized cells that struck Paris and Brussels. But a large-scale attack on American soil is surely an Islamic State goal.
We’re in the process of electing a president, and how the candidates react to terrorism should be a crucial consideration. It says a lot about their character, their belief in American values and their fitness to hold such a powerful position.