The Race to Respond: Political Candidates Address Brussels

The political landscape has changed drastically within the past few days after the terrorist attack in Brussels on (when). After bombs at the Brussels Airport and the subway shook the city and resulted in 31 deaths, an international crisis and response began unfolding. In the United States, presidential candidates sought to promote strength or solidarity in statements that served additional purposes of garnering voters’ support and downgrading their opponents.

Worse and Worse 

trumpDonald Trump continued to assert stricter regulations on immigration from countries abroad or from Muslim individuals, reaffirming his policy on just strengthening border control in all aspects and failing to offer any more solutions or alternatives. He stated that the situation was only getting “worse and worse” and that the U.S. could no longer “allow these people to come into the country.” While the statement runs consistently with the narrative he has formed until this point, it raises concerns if he has any more ideas if a different strategy is needed as terrorism continues to escalate.

Ted Cruz has increasingly matched a tough stance on border control and dealing with Islamic extremism, going as far as to suggest patrolling and monitoring Muslim neighborhoods in the U.S. Cruz is trying to narrow the gap between himself and Trump by revamping his rhetorical strategy to include stronger verbal stances on the issues that Trump receives support on due to his own aggressive diction. This statement after the Brussels attack was immediately condemned by Democrats, and Hillary Clinton addressed it as a violation of Muslim Americans’ rights and privacy.

Solidarity in Division Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 2.58.25 PM

Hillary Clinton issued a statement focusing on solidarity with our European allies, as well as within the United States. While her experience as Secretary of State can be undermined by events like Benghazi and her email scandal, she continues to assert herself through her language as the candidate with the most qualification for dealing with these issues, stating that these “attacks will only strengthen our resolve to stand together as allies and defeat terrorism and radical jihadism around the world.” She stands out from the crowd by using language that sounds like not only she is already the definitive Democratic candidate, but perhaps even the President (especially as he was absent while in Cuba).

Analyzing these rhetorical responses to the terrorist attack in Brussels helps paint the broader picture of how these candidates are trying to assert strong sentiments in order to attract voters. However, though this event is being used as a talking point for candidates’ stances on national security, it also reaffirms the importance of electing a president that can handle this escalation of terroristic activity.

How “Islamophobia” will change the narrative of the 2016 Presidential Campaign

brussels_terrorLeading up to the tragic events that took place in Brussels on the morning of March 22, 2016, national security issues had been placed on the back burner of most campaigns. It wasn’t the main attraction in any of the debates and when it was mentioned Candidates typically produced a vague statement such as Donald Trump’s, “Paris Happened” remark, because the issue did not follow their rhetorical strategies at the time. Now that Brussels has “happened” and the campaigns head to Arizona, the time for political discourse regarding terrorism has never been more urgent.

Donald Trumps Rhetorical Appeal to Fear

Many voters, who may not believe in Trump’s campaign or agree with his brash approach to life, support his stance on national security. The narrative has now changed from that of a bucket election to that of a pyramid design. Constituents are more concerned with one issue that they consider to be so important that they are willing to forgive a candidates position on other issues. This terror attack will only enhance Donald Trump’s ability to capitalize on the fears of undecided voters. He has perfectly set up the narrative of his campaign to convince voters that terrorism exists as a function of the Obama Administration, while his plan to build a wall will “fix everything”.

“Hate Donald Trump all you like, but at least he seems to recognize the magnitude of the threat and at least he has firm proposals for how to try to defeat it” – Piers Morgan

How will this affect the general election campaign?

What if Donald Trump does win the Republican nomination for President? Will his coalition of supporters stand a chance against those voters who are concerned about his sanity in regards to national security? The majority of the American public seems to either be in favor of Donald Trump or very much against him, including a Super PAC within his own party with the sole purpose of funding campaigns against him.

When it comes to national security, Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic Nominee, is the most qualified for the job on paper as she has the most experience. Serving as the Secretary of State under the Obama Administration, Hillary Clinton sat in on the ordering of the killing of Osama Bin Laden and many other national security briefings. She will use this experience rhetorically to comparatively illustrate the differences between her experience and Donald Trump’s lack there of.

Coincidence, I think not

The media plays a significant role in today’s political climate. Unlike campaigns in the past, contemporary media holds the power to immediately influence the masses. Recent media coverage of violence in Trump rallies mirrors media coverage of terrorism. The rhetoric surrounding both the violence of political rallies and terrorism serve to benefit solely the media.

USA Today headline of the 9/11 attack on the United States.

The Media Wins

The media highlights certain aspects of an event to attract a large viewer base and to increase popularity. During the 2016 campaign, both CNN and FOX broke viewership records. It is important to note that both CNN and FOX capitalized on highlighting Trump’s unpredictable antics. Moreover, the media’s coverage surrounding terrorism highlights the use of strong words such as: attack, war, terror, and destroy. Similarly, media coverage accentuates certain language in Trump rallies such as: stupid, kill, fat pig, and shutdown. In essence, strong words and rhetoric attract viewership. However, at the end of the day only the media benefits. The masses are left with fear driven ideologies that drive thought patterns while the media celebrates record-breaking numbers.

A supporter of Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump scuffles with a protestor during a rally in Richmond.
A supporter of Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump scuffles with a protestor during a rally in Richmond.

The Future of Media

The role of media in the current political climate will remain pertinent as the race for the presidency continues. The similarities between media coverage of terrorism and Trump’s political rallies serves to benefit only the media at the expense of the American voters. However, the question arises: How else does media coverage influence todays’ political climate? Does the current state of the media’s role in politics negatively affect the voters’ perception on terrorism in politics?

Modern Terror Threats to the United States

Iran – the biggest threat to our National Security?

With so many different groups that threaten to our national security, it is hard to decide which is the biggest. With ISIS continuing its attack on the free world, and countries like Iran and North Korea ramping up their military power, there are so many different factors that the next commander-in-chief needs to worry about. Iran’s recent and suspicious testing of their missiles has raised a lot of eyebrows, especially with the GOP candidates, as to just how big the nuclear threat is.

Since Obama’s Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known informally as the Iran Nuclear Deal, was put into place in 6a00d8341d417153ef01b7c7af50b1970b-800wiJuly of 2015, members of the Republican Party have voiced a lot of opposition. GOP candidate Ted Cruz shared his strong opposition on Iran and the threat of their nuclear stockpile, despite agreeing to a deal, with BallotPedia bluntly stating “If you vote for me, under no circumstances will Iran be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. And if the Ayatollah doesn’t understand that, we may have to help introduce him to his 72 virgins.” Cruz continued with his strong rhetoric regarding Iran and their nuclear arms by saying, “If I am elected president, on the very first day in office, I will rip to shreds this catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal.”

Donald Trump shared his opposition for the Iran Deal with his normal criticizing rhetoric saying, “It was amateur hour for those charged with striking this deal with Iran, demonstrating to the world, yet again, the total incompetence of our president and politicians.” Trump has expressed that it was such a bad deal, that it almost seems as if there was something behind the scenes going on to influence this deal.

Why Iran’s nuclear capabilities are so threatening

The threat of Iran breaking the rules of the Iran Deal and developing their nuclear arms is a multi-dimensional threat. Not only is it a threat in that they could launch those missiles at the US, but there is also the threat that they supply other organizations like ISIS with those nuclear weapons. According to, “Iran is one of the world’s leading state sponsors of terrorism through its financial andGorrellArt10.06.14 operational support for groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas, and others. Iran could potentially share its nuclear technology and know-how with extremist groups hostile to the United States and the West.”

With the backing of a nuclear powerhouse such as Iran, ISIS becomes a much bigger deal than it is currently in the United States. The threat against our national security would reach heights that we haven’t seen since the attacks on 9/11. For that reason, the recent missile testing in Iran is something that the United States government should not be taking lightly at all.
With the election coming up, the rhetoric surrounding these threats to our national security should start to heat up and be a much more highly debated topic. Our next commander-in-chief will have a lot to think about when it comes to how we deal with the threat of Iran and ISIS.

Deal or No Deal: Iran Pushing the Limits

Less than a year after the Iran nuclear deal finally solidified, missiles have been launched by Iran in what they have deemed a defensive test. Other powers in the region, Israel primarily, have called out the missile launch as a violation of the nuclear deal and a definitive call to action for the U.N. Security Council and the United States.

This event not only creates an international issue between many different players in the U.N. and in the region, but it jeopardizes the credibility of a nuclear deal that is already widely opposed by a large faction in U.S. Congress. It creates a more fragile rhetorical situation for those who pushed the deal passionately to its existence, and it also creates a situation that Republicans can assert a loud verbal attack in the coming months to attempt to repeal the deal.


In response to the missile launch, Vice President Joe Biden attempted to diplomatically settle the issue and ease Israel’s concern, saying during his trip to Jerusalem that “we are united in the belief that a nuclear-armed Iran is an absolutely unacceptable threat to Israel, the region and the United States.”

While not directly linked to the more pressing matters—hello, ISIS—regarding terrorism at the moment, the Iran nuclear deal has been a very divisive issue in the presidential election, especially in the Republican debates. Republican candidates vary on the condemnation scale for the deal, but it is uniformly abhorred in the Republican party. Comparatively, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders do not disagree on the subject either, with both candidates supporting the deal.

The nuclear deal will be even more hotly discussed when debates between the Republican and Democrat presidential candidates begin in the general election stage. When one side enthusiastically supports the deal and the other vehemently opposes it, it will be become a recurring critical point in rhetorical strategies for garnering support from voters.


Presidential candidate Ted Cruz has said that “this deal is a really problematic deal, and it reflects a pattern we’ve seen in the Obama administration of negotiating with terrorists and making deals and trades that endanger U.S. safety and security.”

Alternately, candidate Hillary Clinton said the deal was lesser of two evils; that the U.S. had the option to “move forward on a path to diplomacy or turn down more dangerous path leading to a far less certain and riskier future.”

In anyone’s point of view, however, these recent events will make the justification of this deal more convoluted and become a larger player in the presidential election to come.

Policy Recap: National Security

With a smaller GOP field and the conventions nearing, lets take a step back and revisit the Candidates stances on prominent issues facing the nation.

Donald Trump:


Donald Trumps Website doesn’t provide any available information regarding his policy positions on national security. Characteristic of Trump’s campaign, his website instead features a list of six policy positions that offer a short, vague blurb about his “stances” on issues he finds important. What is important to Donald Trump? Anything that will win over the most votes for his campaign. He claims to not be a politician, yet he effectively employs enthymemes in every aspect of his campaign.

John Kasich:

Governor Kasich’s website includes eleven subsections to his issues tab, including a section on national security. The page is titled, Making America Safer and Defeating ISIS, this appeals to his conservative establishment supporters who believe in strong national security policies and are extremely fearful of ISIS. Kasich’s “Comprehensive Outline for American Security in a Chaotic World,” is quite extensive and provides clear examples of his experience regarding national security policy. He also provides visitors of his website with a list of members involved in his “National Security Advisory Group.” This page is an extension of the rhetorical approach he has taken in the debates; playing the policy advocate and suggesting fair play.

Ted Cruz

Similar to Governor Kasich and following traditional party norms, Senator Cruz provides an outline for defending the nation in addition to eight other conservative policy concern pages. He illustrates his plan very simply in a six-step graphic:

His plan is a traditional, vague, explanation of what is already obvious about national security, however, it says the right thing to the right people, the conservative right.

Hillary Clinton:

Secretary Clinton’s list of issues is quite extensive, following the democratic party cliché of supporting big government. With 29 subsections outlying her stances on different issues, it becomes more difficult for the voter to understand what issues are most important to her agenda. Her outline, despite its numerous company features a comprehensive explanation of her experience as Secretary of State. Although, like many of her opponents, most of her outline states the obvious when it comes to national security, claiming we must defeat ISIS because they provide a major threat to our safety but not going into any depth of plans and implementation.

 “I believe the future holds far more opportunities than threats if we exercise creative and confident leadership that enables us to shape global events rather than be shaped by them.” – Hillary Clinton 

 Bernie Sanders

With 26 policy issues linked on his website, it becomes tedious to sort through all of them, as two of his subsections could have been combined to cover all national security questions. Instead he provides two tabs, one titled “War and Peace” and the other titled “War should be the last option: why I support the Iran Deal”. Like Secretary Clinton, it provides a disadvantage for the voter by inhibiting their ability to understand the core issues of their campaign in a simple read-over. The advantage, however, is that the reader quickly understands his position regarding starting a war.

Campaign Themes

One overwhelming issue among national security outlines for the candidates was their opinion of the Iran deal. In addition, most websites, including Donald Trump’s, featured a section on helping the nations veterans. Most webpages, however, looked very similar and left the reader with little understanding of what their true stance on national security is, making it harder for the undecided voter to make an educated choice based on who shares their ideals.


Terrorism’s Effect on Voters

The most recent debates in Michigan and Florida featured debate topics that concern our nation in terms of terrorism and national security. The GOP candidate’s stances on these topics range with respect to their campaign and personal opinion as they attempt to sway the public’s opinion. However, the rhetoric that GOP candidates use concerning terrorism acts as a persuasive tactic gain voters through the use pathos.

Republican Candidates at the Fox GOP Debate in Detroit, Michigan on March 3, 2016.
Republican Candidates at the Fox GOP Debate in Detroit, Michigan on March 3, 2016.

Terrorism and Imagery

Imagery surrounding the word “Terrorism” sparks vivid memories in the heart of the American voters. When considering terrorism, some of the first pictures that comes to mind are from: 9/11, the war on terror, or the recent bombings (Paris & Boston). While these images are extremely awful, they spark feelings that can also drive the motivations of the American voter. Powerful images such as these have a profound effect on emotions and unconsciously affect a voters’ decision. The most common emotional response to terrorism is anger.

Emotions, GOP Candidates, and Voters

Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio capitalize on the emotion of anger to persuade voters. The recent debates in Michigan and Florida show that GOP candidates simply mention the word ‘terrorism’ in the midst of a rebuttal to present rhetoric that sympathizes with the angry voters. Moreover, the rhetoric that GOP candidates use is characterized by accusatory, firm language which has an emotionally charging effect on the audience. Arguably, Donald Trump has best utilized the rhetoric of terrorism to incite the emotion of anger in a manner that gains votes.

How else does terrorism persuade an audience? How could the current GOP candidates make best use of the topic of terrorism to gain votes?



Frontrunner’s stances on terrorism

National Security and Terrorism in the 2016 Election

Some of the most animated and heated exchanges in during this presidential election have been related to the topics of national security and terrorism. With attacks popping up all over the world, the American people want to know how they will be protected and kept safe from such threats. says, “National security and terror-related issues will likely remain atop Americans’ list of concerns into 2016 and through the presidential election season, especially if there are other high-profile attacks.” For that reason, these two topics hold much more importance than they have in past elections.

The candidate who communicates their stance on national security and terrorism in the best, most powerful way will gain the most support of voters. Each frontrunner from their respective parties has taken a firm stance on how they wish to communicate their views on fighting terrorism and protecting this country. Donald Trump has been adamant in his war-like approach, while Hillary Clinton has taken a much more diplomatic approach.

The Opposition of Views on Terrorism Between Party Frontrunners

Just like every other political issue, Democrats and Republicans disagree on how to handle national security and the threat of terrorism. While the threat of ISIS is increasing substantially, especially after attacks in San Bernardino, CA and Paris, this topic has been focused on throughout the election. The two frontrunners both agree that something must be done to keep Americans safe, and feel strongly about how to handle this group – only their views are on different endUnknowns of the spectrum.

GOP frontrunner Donald Trump has been on record saying that his, “strategy to defeat ISIS is a simple one: ‘bomb the sh*t” out o
f them or ‘blast the hell out of them’” according to CBS News. He thinks that in order to get rid of the ISIS threat, The United States needs to ‘wipe them off the planet’. Trump’s approach to the threat of terrorism has been blunt and to the point, even going as far as saying he would like to have family members of ISIS killed as well.

In contrast, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton feels as though taking out ISIS is not the responsibility of only the United States. According to the same CBS News article Hillary doesn’t, “think that the United States has the bulk of the responsibility. I really put that on Assad and on the Iraqis and on the region itself.” While we have a responsibility to help out and do our part, she believes ISIS is a threat to the entire world, not just America.

 It is apparent that each candidate wants to take steps that will further protect the American people. The rhetorical strategy that they use to convey their ideas has been much different, gaining different levels of support. I think that Donald Trump has been the most successful, rhetorically, in communicating how he wants to deal with terror groups such as ISIS. There has been a lot of support of his tactics to seek out these terror groups, and how he plans on taking them down.
Once we reach the general election, it will be interesting to see if either of the candidates change their stance or their strategy of how to keep the United States safe from terror attacks. But for now, this still remains one of the most highly debated topics.









Terrorism/National Security Driving the 2016 Campaign

The Role of Terrorism in the 2016 Presidential Election

Terrorism and national security are the number one issues for the 2016 presidential election, with terrorism being of most importance to the Republican Party. Terrorism has been on the forefront of America’s mind ever since 9/11, and the attacks that continue to occur on our land show how terrorism is a major concern for the voters. Which then of course ensures national security for the voters to be a major topic for this particular political campaign season. Ever since 9/11, America has been concerned with terrorist groups and attacks, strong national security, with the exception to freedom of privacy. With the rise of ISIS attacking their own and threatening others, the terrorist attacks in Paris, the increase of attacks in America like the Boston Marathon and the more recent shootings in San Bernardino, California, the issues of terrorism and national security could be what determines the outcome of this years Presidential election.

Happening Now

Due to the San Bernardino massive shooting that took 14 innocent lives, detectives wish to view content on one of the shooter’s, Syed Rizwan Farook, locked Apple iPhone 5c. Apple vs. FBI is now an ongoing court case where FBI wants the help of Apple to access the locked devices content because they believe there is significant evidence within the phone. Apple declined FBI’s overreached request because they believe this threatens the privacy of their costumers. Multiple public figures like Mark Cuban, Facebook, and Twitter support Apple’s decision noting this wouldn’t be a one-time request, and Apple is doing the right thing by protecting their consumers. However, GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump, who strongly supports national security, decided to use this issue as another outlet for ensuring the voters of the importance of national security. He offered his standpoint from his Twitter account posting a tweet (via iPhone) calling for a boycott of Apple products. Trump is rallying “security over all.” Would allowing the FBI access to Apple’s (or any other company) costumer’s locked phone, based on the idea the phone’s content could assist in a investigation, be considered an invasion of privacy to the voters?

Houston GOP Debate

The Republican GOP Debate in Houston last Thursday barely covered policy issues of terrorism or national security. Instead of debating each others standpoints, Rubio took the stage this time and attacked Trump religiously leaving zero room for the other candidates to leave an impression.

What’s Next?

Republican forefront candidate Donald Trump has bluntly and aggressively engraved his view on war on terror, terrorism, and national security within the voters and the polls are showing so. Regardless of how he performs in a debate, his supporters have not swayed. The Republican Party needs to take into consideration Donald Trump is their only future (for a Republican President to win) because of his strong standpoints on policies like terrorism and national security that continue to lead to more supporters.

Houston Debate Falls Short on Terrorism

Although domestic issues such as immigration and the economy have largely dominated the debate conversations during this Republican presidential campaign, the issue of terrorism and how the president of the United States should handle forces like ISIS has been a constant concern for Republican voters and ranks high on the list of issues that influence who voters choose as a presidential candidate.

What’s the Issue Again? 


In the recent Republican debate in Houston, candidates discussed the administration’s handling of Libya, exposing various opinions on the matter between Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and Marco Rubio. Trump was at risk in this matter due to past interviews showing a divergence with what he was currently telling voters in the debate, a point that Cruz was happily willing to point out while directing voters to his website to see the proof. Trump responded with statements that when read in a transcript later on, made little actual sense and was filled with enthymemes he relied on voters to fill in. When asked for a specific answer, Trump deflected by calling Rubio “a choke artist” and Cruz “a liar”—answer on Israel is still pending.

The Lesser Evil?


Marco Rubio spoke eloquently on the matter, as per usual, and defended his vote for John Kerry as Sec. of State by saying, “every day John Kerry wasn’t appointed was another day Hillary Clinton was still in charge of the State Department. And she was absolutely horrible.” While the debates do not typically give the time or opportunity to answer these tough questions fully or comprehensively, they still allow voters to see how well candidates handle being asked while surrounded by competitors trying to undermine them. Some handle the rhetorical situation better than others, some rely on deflecting character attacks. Overall, the type of answer seems to matter little to voters who already have their mind set.