Presidential Candidates Respond To The Brussels Attacks

As a Belgian citizen who grew up flying out of Zaventem airport on a regular basis, yesterday’s terrorist attacks in Brussels felt like a punch to the soul.

In the wake of the Paris attacks last year, we have witnessed evidence of increased terrorist activity around the world and increasingly so in Western countries. Yesterday’s attacks will redirect focus in the presidential race on national security and religious tensions.

Presidential candidates immediately addressed the attacks. Some took the opportunity to go as far as to call for police-state tactics. Others took a measured approach, warning against a rise in religious discrimination.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz released a statement that called for “empower[ing] law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.” Views of this sort are clear and worrying evidence of the rise of xenophobic and religious tensions in the United States.



This fervor among the electorate is embodied in the passionate support for Donald Trump. It came to prominence with the Tea Party, which helped push Ted Cruz into office.

Cruz’s advocacy for blatant police-state policies has received significant backlash. Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, explained: “In normal times, this would be the sort of thing that would disqualify someone from running for dogcatcher, much less president of the United States.”

Donald Trump took to Twitter to address the Brussels attacks. Bashing President Obama during his historic trip to Cuba, the GOP front-runner tweeted: “President Obama looks and sounds so ridiculous making his speech in Cuba, especially in the shadows of Brussels. He is being treated badly!” Adding that he, Trump, has “proven to be far more correct about terrorism than anybody,” without adding much evidence to support the claim. He also used the opportunity to advocate increasing the use of torture.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich was more modest in his response, but still took a shot at President Obama, saying that he should “return home” to stay abreast of developments and in contact with European allies.

Democratic candidates took a different approach, calling for unity and solidarity.

The Hillary Clinton campaign tweeted: “We can be strong and smart without advocating torture or bigotry. We will not let fear dictate our foreign policy.” A statement that clearly included an attack on the GOP front-runner.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders sounded the most respectful of all, releasing a statement, which read: “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.”

Issues of national security and religious radicalization will continue to be central to the 2016 cycle. They will become increasingly so if we endure more attacks, like those in Brussels and Paris, before November 8.

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