The horrific terror attacks in Brussels on Tuesday morning inspired expressions of sympathy, solidarity, and, from the two leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, painfully predictable scapegoating and torture talk.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz, the most steadily shameless of the contenders for the Republican nomination, moved immediately to his default positions: attacking President Obama and promoting himself. “Radical Islam is at war with us. For over seven years we have had a president who refuses to acknowledge this reality. And the truth is, we can never hope to defeat this evil so long as we refuse to even name it,” the senator announced, as details were still being reported from the sites of the attacks on the airport in Brussels and a metro station near the headquarters of the European Union. “That ends on January 20, 2017, when I am sworn in as president. We will name our enemy—radical Islamic terrorism. And we will defeat it.”
Cruz, who is emerging as the favorite of establishment Republicans in their efforts to prevent Donald Trump from securing their party’s nomination, had to repeat his talking points in a statement posted on Facebook. He them extended his extremism with a statement released by his campaign and his Senate office that declared: “We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.”
Those words confirmed that Cruz is every bit as reactionary and irresponsible as Trump. Indeed, Senator Barbara Boxer, D-California, felt it was necessary to remind the Texan that: “You are running for President of the United States — not some authoritarian police state.”
Of course, the front-runner for the Republican nod did not suffer the indignity of having to craft reactionary statements for posting on social media. Enjoying his usual wall-to-wall television coverage, Trump just phoned in his xenophobia and hatemongering.
The billionaire renewed the crudest messages of a candidacy that has been built around the exploitation of anti-Muslim, anti-refugee, anti-immigrant bigotries. Even before many of the details of the attacks (which killed dozens and injured hundreds) were known, Trump was offering interviewers of messy mix of extreme responses, finger-pointing, and predictions of peril.
“I would close up our borders to people until we figure out what’s going on,” he announced on Fox & Friends. “We have to be very, very vigilant with who we let into this country. We are taking in people without real documentation,” continued Trump. “We don’t know who they are or where they’re from. We don’t learn. I will tell you I’ve been talking about this for a long time. This whole thing will get worse as time goes by.”