Shortly after this week’s terror attacks in Brussels, American politicians and elected officials of all stripes issued statements and made comments. Many said they stand in solidarity with Belgium, that the country was in their thoughts and prayers. President Obama said America would do all it could to help bring the perpetrators to justice.
But at least one comment after the attacks drew swift criticism in some corners. In a statement issued Tuesday, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz wrote, “We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.”
During a news conference in Argentina on Wednesday, President Obama went after Cruz, alluding to surveillance programs in Cuba, a country he just left. “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,” Obama said, “which by the way, the father of Sen. Cruz escaped for America, the land of the free. 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.”
“I just have to say it’s reprehensible,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told CBS News of Cruz’s proposal. “His comments are not about safety and security. It’s demagoguery.”
On Wednesday, New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton told CBS This Morning that Cruz has “no idea what the hell he’s talking about.” Bratton said he took great offense at the statement.
“I have almost a thousand Muslim officers in the NYPD,” Bratton said. “Ironically, when he’s running around here, we probably have a few Muslim officers guarding him [Cruz].”
On Tuesday, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said of plans to increase surveillance of Muslim neighborhoods: “That would be unconstitutional. It would be wrong. We are fighting a terrorist organization, a barbaric organization that is killing innocent people. We are not fighting a religion.”
At a rally in Seattle on Tuesday, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton took shots at Cruz, and Donald Trump, who said he agreed with Cruz on the patrolling comment and said in the aftermath of the attacks that torture might be necessary to gain intelligence of the attacks. “What Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and others are suggesting is not only wrong, it’s dangerous,” she said.
On CBS Wednesday morning, Cruz defended his comment, saying policing focused on particular communities has worked before. “Gang violence is a real problem in a lot of places across the country,” Cruz said. “What does law enforcement do with proactive policing? You go into the neighborhoods where gang violence is a problem, and you work proactively to get the gang members off the street.”
In another press appearance, Cruz said: “It is standard good policing to direct your resources to where the threat is coming from. We should do the exact same thing with radical Islamic terrorism.”