- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Reactions by U.S. presidential candidates to the horrific bomb attacks Tuesday in Brussels revealed a stark contrast in how the political parties respond to radical Islamic terrorism, as Democrats pledged resolve but offered few details for advancing the fight and Republicans laid out concrete plans for a security crackdown on U.S. borders.

Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton set the tone for her party by offering thoughts, prayers and a refusal to be intimidated in the face of coordinated terrorist attacks that killed at least 31 people at the Brussels airport and a subway station.

“Today’s attacks will only strengthen our resolve to stand together as allies and defeat terrorism and radical jihadism around the world,” Mrs. Clinton said in a statement.

The rhetoric of solidarity and resolve helped keep Mrs. Clinton on the foreign policy course set by President Obama, whom she served as secretary of state for four years.

Matt A. Mayer, a homeland security and counterterrorism analyst who is a visiting fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, described Mrs. Clinton’s response to the terrorist attack as “plain vanilla.”

“Any time there is an attack, this is what you say as a politician,” he said. “I would consider to be the standard, general ‘we support Europe and we’re going to beat the bad guys’ response.”

Mrs. Clinton’s long-shot challenger for the nomination, Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, echoed her sentiments. He offered “deepest condolences” and promised to stand with European allies in the fight against terrorism.

“This type of barbarism cannot be allowed to continue,” Mr. Sanders declared.

Meanwhile, Republican front-runner Donald Trump doubled down on his call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States until law enforcement officials figure out how to identify radical Islamic terrorists. He was referring specifically to terrorists from the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, which claimed responsibility for the Brussels attacks.

“This is just the beginning. It will get worse and worse, because we are lax and we are foolish,” Mr. Trump said on Fox News. “At this point, we can’t allow these people to come into the country. I’m sorry.”

Mr. Trump first proposed the ban after a husband-and-wife team inspired by the Islamic State killed 12 people in San Bernardino, California, on the heels of Islamic State attacks in Paris in November that killed 130 people.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas also called for get-tough measures on U.S. borders, though he stopped short of endorsing Mr. Trump’s ban on Muslims entering the U.S., which has been denounced on both the right and the left as un-American.

“We need to immediately halt the flow of refugees from countries with a significant al Qaeda or ISIS presence. We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized,” said Mr. Cruz, who is Mr. Trump’s chief rival for the Republican presidential nomination.

“We need to secure the southern border to prevent terrorist infiltration. And we need to execute a coherent campaign to utterly destroy ISIS,” he said. “The days of the United States voluntarily surrendering to the enemy to show how progressive and enlightened we are are at an end. Our country is at stake.”

Mr. Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a fellow Republican presidential hopeful, also used the attack as a pretext to slam Mr. Trump’s foreign policy stances. They described Mr. Trump’s proposal to reduce U.S. involvement in NATO as a retreat from global leadership.

Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the left-leaning Center for American Progress who specializes in national security strategy and counterterrorism policy, dismissed the Republican reactions as “erratic and tending toward fearmongering.”

The attacks on Mr. Trump, he said, resembled a “circular firing squad.”

Mr. Katulis said the response from Mrs. Clinton was more political.

“On the Democratic side, you are hearing a message of steady resolve and resilience and we are strong enough to stay true to who we are, meaning we don’t have to demonize certain religions or certain people,” Mr. Katulis said.

Mrs. Clinton fleshed out her response to the Brussels attacks during an interview on CNN. She proposed cutting off the flow of foreign fighters into Syria, working with Muslim countries to stabilize the Middle East and North Africa, and creating a global “If you see something, say something” campaign.

Mrs. Clinton also advocated tighter controls and monitoring of the Internet.

“You can put walls around your country, but you can’t keep out the Internet,” she said.

Still, Mr. Mayer said the visceral response from Mr. Trump was more likely to strike a chord with voters and helped explain why he is winning the Republican presidential race.

“People are worried and anxious and afraid, and so he starts tapping into that base human-nature fear reaction,” said the AEI scholar. “He says stuff that you and I may disagree with, some of the substance of it, but it’s hard not to say he’s tapping into Main Street America.”

Mr. Mayer said the different responses from Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton bode well for the real estate tycoon in a general election matchup.

“That relates to her generalities and all her inability on the left to really focus on this issue because they are too concerned with being politically correct,” he said. “It will allow him to essentially assuage the fears that Americans increasingly have as these attacks continue.”

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