Donna Brazile: Killing terrorism without killing freedom

By Donna Brazile

Last week, three men out of 7 billion souls on this planet blew themselves up in a Brussels airport and a subway station, killing at least 31 civilians, wounding more than 300.

The evil they did far exceeds their numbers.

I've rounded up the reactions of these White House hopefuls to see what they tell us about their readiness to answer a "3 a.m. phone call."

Candidate responses fell into two categories. The prime one, of course, deals with plans to increase protection against terror attacks at home and overseas. The second deals with how we keep our democracy's values and freedoms while defending them.

Sen. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump took a break from their Twitter spat to propose extreme measures for dealing with ISIS.

Cruz called for an immediate closing of our borders to refugees "from countries with a significant al-Qaida and ISIS presence." Cruz would effectively turn Muslim neighborhoods into in-place internment camps, saying government should "empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized."

Trump mostly repeated old statements, then echoed Cruz in saying, "I would close our borders." Trump also dusted off his suggestion to use waterboarding and more extreme torture methods to gain intelligence. In his many public comments, Trump has vacillated between aggressive interventionism and isolationism.

The day before the attacks, Trump said he would scale back the United States' commitment to NATO, our front-line deterrent to terrorism in Europe and the Middle East.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich's immediate response was to call on President Obama to abandon his diplomatic security mission to Cuba and Argentina and return to Washington.

Later, Kasich took pains to weave together his security proposals with the preservation of democratic values. Referring to the Brussels attacks, Kasich said, "I think we have an opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade," by bringing about a greater unity between Muslim and Western nations in the war against ISIS, and he firmly rejected patrols of Muslim neighborhoods.

Sen. Bernie Sanders said the attacks provided a platform to launch "an extraordinary" effort "to put together a coalition in the region to destroy ISIS." Yet Obama put together a coalition when ISIS first emerged and has been working to expand and increase its effectiveness.

Candidates are trying to appear tough, but voters need details - or concrete steps that will guide our thinking in how to destroy ISIS.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said security must be improved and that "we've got to be absolutely strong and smart and steady in how we respond." She called for an acceleration - a surge - in intelligence gathering.

Clinton rejected closing our borders or surveilling Muslim Americans in their communities. She advocated a "smart" approach. "We've got to defeat them online," she later said in Everett, Washington. "That is where they radicalize, and that's where they propagandize."

These are important responses to consider when choosing the next commander-in-chief, because this is far from over.

© 2016 Universal

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