The battles between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz over the virtues of their respective wives – and themselves – would be amusing if we weren’t talking about candidates seeking to be leader of the Western World.
But perhaps Cruz is also trying to trump Trump’s call to block Muslims from entering the United States, by calling for patrols to police Muslim neighborhoods.
“We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized,” Cruz proposed, after terrorist attacks March 22 in Brussels, Belgium.
Cruz has recently drawn the backing of former GOP presidential competitors Rick Perry, Lindsey Graham, and now Jeb Bush, and 2012 nominee Mitt Romney.
His sword-brandishing drew stiff criticism March 23 from Democratic President Obama and his former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic presidential candidate, and later New York Police Commissioner William T. Bratton.
Cruz had said in December that he would wipe out Islamic State terrorists – called ISIS or ISIL or Daesh – with massive bombing.
“We will utterly destroy ISIS,” Cruz said then. “We will carpet bomb them into oblivion. I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out.”
President Obama, who went from a state visit with Cuban President Raul Castro in Havana to one with Argentinian President Mauricio Macri, belittled Cruz’s pronouncements at a March 23 joint press conference with Macri.
“(W)hen I hear somebody saying we should carpet-bomb Iraq or Syria, not only is that inhumane, not only is that contrary to our values, but that would likely be an extraordinary mechanism for ISIL to recruit more people willing to die and explode bombs in an airport or in a metro station,” Obama said. “That’s not a smart strategy. . . .
“One of the great strengths of the United States, and part of the reason why we have not seen more attacks in the United States, is we have an extraordinarily successful, patriotic, integrated Muslim American community,” Obama said.
“They do not feel ghettoized, they do not feel isolated. Their children are our children’s friends, going to the same schools. They are our colleagues in our workplaces. They are our men and women in uniform fighting for our freedom,” Obama said.
“And so any approach that would single them out or target them for discrimination is not only wrong and un-American, but it also would be counterproductive, because it would reduce the strength, the antibodies that we have to resist terrorism.
“As far as the notion of having surveillance of neighborhoods where Muslims are present, I just left a country that engages in that kind of neighborhood surveillance — which, by the way, the father of Senator Cruz escaped for America, the Land of the Free,” Obama said.
“The notion that we would start down that slippery slope makes absolutely no sense. It’s contrary to who we are. And it’s not going to help us defeat ISIL,” Obama declared.
How Cruz would pull off the Muslim police patrols isn’t clear, since Muslims don’t necessarily stand out. There are some concentrations of Muslims – like, in mosques – but they don’t necessarily conveniently bunch up.
Cruz proposes “that the police create a looming presence to intimidate Muslim neighborhoods with a show of force,” said New York City Police Commissioner Bratton, in a column in The New York Daily News.
“In New York City, we protect all communities from crime and terrorism — yes, Muslim communities too — because like us, they are Americans who own businesses, work hard, pay taxes and dream of a better life for their children,” Bratton wrote.
Plus, a significant number of American Muslims are the police.
“Over 900 of them work in my police department as police officers, many of them in counterterrorism and intelligence,” Bratton wrote. “Many of them have served in the military and fought for their country.
“We police our city not by campaign slogans or inflammatory rhetoric, but by an old piece of parchment called the U.S. Constitution and another called the Bill of Rights. . . .
“Sen. Cruz needs to do some homework before he speaks again,” Bratton wrote. “Meanwhile, in New York, we will continue keeping the city safe while policing constitutionally, respectfully and effectively.”
Clinton, in a speech at Stanford University, charged Cruz’s call for police patrols in Muslim neighborhoods in America is “wrong, it is counterproductive, it is dangerous.” She compared it to “treating American Muslims like criminals” and “racially profiling.”
As for “ carpet-bombing populated areas into oblivion,” Clinton said, “Proposing that doesn’t make you sound tough. It makes you sound like you are in over your head.
“Slogans aren’t a strategy,” Clinton said. “Loose cannons tend to misfire.”
DAVE MCNEELY is a politial columnist. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (512) 458-2963.