Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), the day after speaking to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference, told a scrum of reporters Tuesday morning that “these attacks will continue until ISIS is defeated.” He castigated the president for “political correctness,” in refusing to recognize the nature of the threat we face and again called for measures such as halting entrance of Syrian refugees and reexamination of the visa waiver program. While his own plans to defeat the Islamic State include stepped up bombing and arming the Kurds, he now, as he has begun to do regularly, includes in his policy prescriptions the need to embed forces on the ground. He also asserted that Obama should return from Cuba or go to Brussels, rather than continue to “grovel” at Castro’s feet.
He seized the opportunity to bash Donald Trump. “It is striking that the day after Donald Trump called for weakening NATO, withdrawing from NATO, we see Brussels, where NATO is headquartered, the subject of a radical Islamic terror attack,” he said. “Donald Trump is wrong that America should withdraw from the world and abandon our allies. Donald Trump is wrong that America should retreat from Europe, retreat from NATO, hand Putin a major victory and while he’s at it hand ISIS a major victory.”
In a sit-down afterward that Right Turn and a number of other journalists attended, Cruz picked up on his criticisms of Trump. He asserted that Trump’s worldview is similar to that of left-wing politicians from Jimmy Carter to Secretary of State John F. Kerry, to whom Trump has given money. Trump, he argued, in calling for the impeachment of President George W. Bush, echoes the rhetoric of the “fever swamps” of the left. Asked if Trump is intent on rewriting Republicans’ foreign policy, Cruz said dismissively, “I don’t think he has enough knowledge to be rewriting [conservative foreign policy].” And in some of his harshest criticism of Trump, Cruz said that while Trump sounds angry and tough, on substance he is “weak” and he “believes in isolationism.” He further mocked Trump for claiming at AIPAC that he had studied the Iran deal more than anyone else. The reaction, he recalled, was “unrestrained laughter.”
While the tragedy in Brussels is one more reminder for the country at large of the dangers of Islamic terrorism and the Obama-Kerry-Clinton foreign policy failure, it is also Cruz’s chance, maybe the best one yet, to point out that Trump would be worse as commander in chief than Obama, who has, Cruz noted, not gone as far as Trump in suggesting we bug out of NATO. Cruz is on firm ground both in arguing that Trump is entirely clueless on the specifics of foreign policy and in emphasizing that rather than “Make America great,” Trump’s policies would double down on the Obama approach of retreat and retrenchment, making the United States and our allies that much more vulnerable.
Will GOP voters perk up? If they don’t, Hillary Clinton will be able to run to the right of Trump in the general election as the tougher, savvier candidate to become commander in chief. The large majority of voters is likely to agree.