Ted Cruz used the Brussels subway bombing to attack Donald Trump with whom he is locked in a race for the Republican presidential nomination. The spectacle of a U.S. senator, who aspires to the Presidency, rushing to get in front of the television cameras to use this tragedy for temporary political gain was unseemly and unpresidential. Such crass opportunism is both transparent and self-defeating.
Just as Cruz blamed Trump for for Leftist mob violence in St. Louis, Chicago, and Dayton, Ohio – violence that saw a policeman sent to the hospital and Trump attacked on stage – he saw a terror attack that left 34 dead as an opportunity to score political points. Why? The premise of the Cruz nomination is that he is a man of principle – the true, rock-ribbed conservative. And of his devotion to conservative ideas I have little doubt. But what of his judgement?
Would it have been so hard to simply condemn the mobs in the country for their violence, for their attempts to silence Mr. Trump and deny his supporters their constitutional right to peaceably assemble? Could he not have taken a principled stand in favor of first amendment rights, even for a political opponent? And with the Islamist terror attack in Brussels, would not Senator Cruz have been better to make a strong statement of solidarity with our European allies, of compassion for the victims, and of condemnation of the murderers who planned and carried out the attack? Would not these have been better, truer courses for a man of principle?
Attacking Mr. Trump in both of these cases makes Senator Cruz seem small and petty – not the principled statesman of his campaign narrative. Every politician wants to make political hay out of every event in every news cycle. It’s in the DNA. We know this. It’s not pretty, but we know it. The better ones though will subdue their animal instincts. They will rise above their personal desires and speak truthfully the language of high principle, of conviction, and of compassion in time of tragedy. They find that this truer path is also good politics. Witness the nearly inexhaustible store of goodwill Rudy Giuliani built up after 9/11. I do not say that his actions in those dark days were politically motivated – not hardly – but that his selfless leadership and personal sacrifice had political benefit.
In the immediate aftermath of the Brussels attacks, with bodies still in the streets, the terrorists who planned the attack still on the run, and the uncertainty about whether more attacks might follow, Ted Cruz identified Donald Trump, by name, as part of the problem. Donald Trump spoke to the press as well. He did not name a political opponent. He spoke only of the common enemy, the threat of radical Islam, and how the West must confront it. He spoke of how to make this country – the one he would lead as President – more secure.
The contrast is striking. It might say something about character but it certainly says something about wisdom and maturity. Voters sense this. Ted Cruz may line up more perfectly on paper with conservative principles, but such raw opportunism in the face of tragedy suggests a lack of wisdom and maturity.
We have video of both men’s statements below.