Brussels Attack

Brussels Attacks Give Cruz Another Occasion to Slam Obama for Refusing to Say 'Radical Islamic Terrorism'

The Texas senator seems to think the phrase has magical powers.

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CNN

Responding to the terrorist attacks in Brussels today, Ted Cruz once again faulted President Obama for refusing to name the enemy:

Radical Islam is at war with us. For over seven years we have had a president who refuses to acknowledge this reality. And the truth is, we can never hope to defeat this evil so long as we refuse to even name it. That ends on January 20, 2017, when I am sworn in as president. We will name our enemy—radical Islamic terrorism. And we will defeat it.

This semantic issue is dear to Cruz's heart. The Texas senator brought it up during at least six of the 12 Republican presidential debates:

August 6: "We will not defeat radical Islamic terrorism so long as we have a president unwilling to utter the words, 'radical Islamic terrorism.'"

September 16: "We will have a president willing to utter the words 'radical Islamic terrorism' [if I'm elected]."

December 15: "We're looking at a president who's engaged in this double-speak where he doesn't call radical Islamic terrorism by its name." 

January 14: "I understand why Americans are feeling frustrated and scared and angry when we have a president who refuses to acknowledge the threat we face and, even worse, who acts as an apologist for radical Islamic terrorism."

February 6: "This is a president who, in the wake of Paris, in the wake of San Bernardino, will not even use the words radical Islamic terrorism, much less focus on defeating the enemy."

March 10: "You've got to understand the nature of the threats we're facing and how you deal with them. And yes, it is true there are millions of radical Islamic terrorists who seek to kill us. We need a president, commander in chief focused on fighting them."

Obama argues (through his press secretary) that the phrase Cruz favors alienates Muslims and lends legitimacy to groups like ISIS by implying that they are acting in the name of Islam (albeit an extreme version of it). I agree that trying to avoid the phrase (or variations on it that would presumably raise the same issues, such as "violent jihadists" or "militant Muslims") is needlessly awkward. At the same time, Cruz's faith in the quasi-magical power of labels tends to obscure the details of how exactly he would "utterly and completely destroy ISIS."

What do you think: Is this a bogus issue?