More bad things will happen around the world in the ugly months between now and Election Day.
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the most likely candidates to face off in November, will weigh in when when bombs explode, or shooters slaughter innocents.
If their words and tone — his bold and angry, hers tempered and calculated — don’t give some hint of how they might act if elected to the most powerful job in the world, then America’s campaign season isn’t just annoying. It’s pointless.
For now, it’s what we’ve got to work with.
The deaths in Brussels had Trump in his usual tough-guy stance on Tuesday. Such an attack, he argued, shows why the country needs to seal its borders, especially against Muslims.
On the Fox News Channel, Trump said: “Assimilation is very, very difficult and in some cases impossible.”
He suggested the immigration of Muslims to Brussels, capital to both Belgium and the European Union, had destroyed the city’s character and created an incubator for budding terrorists that is now “an armed camp. … If you went into Brussels 20 years ago, it was like a magical city.”
Muslims, he told Fox, are “very untrusting of people other than Muslims. Somehow that community doesn’t believe in reporting.”
Likewise, he doubled down again on tougher interrogation techniques.
“Waterboarding would be fine and if they could expand the laws, I would do a lot more than waterboarding,” Trump told NBC. Authorities “should be able to do whatever they have to do,” he said. “You have to get the information and you have to get it rapidly. …We can’t be soft and weak.”
That attitude, he suggested, explains the political success that has him on a surprise path to the Republican nomination. “It’s why I’m probably number-one in the polls. Because I say we have to have strong borders.”
On Twitter, Trump said the “U.S. must be vigilant and smart.” It wasn’t clear how that might translate to policy.
Clinton had not used the 140-character medium to weigh in on the terror strikes Tuesday morning. But she, too, had talked with NBC.
Where Trump channeled anger and frustration at yet more terrorism, Clinton, the former secretary of state, opted for measured words.
She called the number of casualties — at least two dozen killed — “deeply distressing.” Clinton called for Washington to work with allies across Europe to track potential terrorists and said a “dream of a whole, free Europe (at peace) should not be walked away from.”
She did not join Trump on Team Waterboard — citing military experts and others fearful that confessions from torture don’t necessarily yield reliable intelligence.
Officials “do not need to resort to torture, but they are going to need more help,” she said. “We’ve got to work this through consistent with our values.”
Ted Cruz, the senator and Texan most likely to disrupt the Clinton-Trump showdown, suggested President Barack Obama bore some blame for what happened in Belgium.
He voiced the common Republican complaint that the president’s unwillingness to talk about “radical Islam” makes it more difficult for the West to tackle the terrorist threat more directly. (Democratic politicians, Obama and Clinton among them, argue the term does more harm to the cause than good. They say it alienates Muslims both at home and abroad needed as allies in the anti-terror fight.)
On Facebook, Cruz posted: “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. 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.”
Later Tuesday morning, Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders issued a statement on his website offering “condolences to the families who lost loved ones in this barbaric attack.” He called the strike “another cowardly attempt to terrorize innocent civilians.”
“We stand with our European allies to offer any necessary assistance in these difficult times,” the statement continued. “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.”
Meantime, third-place Republican John Kasich said Obama needed to cut short his visit to Cuba — Republicans aren’t wild about his move to warm relations with the communists in Havana — in light of the Brussels violence.
Kasich issued his own statement of solidarity with Belgians and called terror attacks in Europe assaults “against our very way of life.”
“We must also redouble our efforts with our allies to identify, root out and destroy the perpetrators of such acts of evil,” the campaign statement said. “We must strengthen our alliances as our way of life and the international system that has been built on our common values since the end of the Second World War comes under challenge from these and other actors of evil.”