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Attack in France jolts U.S. presidential race

In the wake of an attack that killed 84 people, Donald Trump and Newt Gingrich competed to see who could respond to the violence in the most ridiculous way.
Ambulances line up near the scene of the attack in the French resort city of Nice, southern France, July 15, 2016. (Photo by Claude Paris/AP)
Ambulances line up near the scene of the attack in the French resort city of Nice, southern France, July 15, 2016.
As of this morning, the death toll in Nice, France stands at 84 people, following an attack in which an unidentified driver mowed down dozens of revelers enjoying the country's Bastille Day celebrations.
Four thousand miles away, as the Washington Post reported, news of the attack had a significant impact on the U.S. presidential race.

In a stunning move late Thursday, Donald Trump said he was scrapping his plans to announce a running mate because of the terrorist attack in southern France, following a day of strong signals that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence was the likely choice. Throughout the day, aides to Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, were preparing to formally announce Pence as the vice-presidential candidate at a news conference in New York on Friday morning. But by early evening, Trump said that he had yet to make a "final, final decision" between Pence and two other candidates, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.).

Even for a candidate known for his mercurial ways, Trump surprised many last night with his comments. For example, when the presumptive Republican nominee postponed his introduction of Pence as his running mate, it raised concerns that Trump was signaling to terrorists that they can help dictate events in the United States.
There was also something of a mixed message: the GOP candidate delayed his vice-presidential announcement in the name of propriety, but Trump nevertheless headlined a fundraiser last night and made multiple Fox News appearances.
And during those television interviews, Trump called for a declaration of war, though he may not fully understand what that means; and Trump called for a NATO offensive against terrorists, though he doesn't think NATO should exist. On Twitter, Trump added, in response to the deadly attack, "When will we learn?" He hasn't made any effort to explain what it is, exactly, he wants us to learn that we don't already know.
In the wake of the latest terrorist crisis, Trump continues to raise questions about his basic competence and ability to function well under pressure.
That said, compared to Newt Gingrich, Donald J. Trump is practically a learned statesman.

Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House who had been muted as a potential Trump running mate, took his GOP colleague's proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. a step further in an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity. "Every person here who is of a Muslim background" should be tested to determine whether he or she believes in Shariah, a legal code based on the Quran and other Islamic scriptures. If they do, he said, they should be deported -- even if they're U.S. citizens. Gingrich added that anyone who simply visits any website "favoring ISIS or al Qaeda or other terrorist groups" should be guilty of a felony, "and they should go to jail."

Not to put too fine a point on this, but Gingrich's approach isn't just patently unconstitutional, it's bonkers. There is no scenario in which the United States government can identify a religious minority group and start applying loyalty tests. There is no scenario in which the United States government can start monitoring the browsing habits of Americans based on whether or not Newt Gingrich approves of their faith. There is no scenario in which the United States government can charge Americans with a felony for visiting a website.
And then, of course, there's the practical matter. Under Gingrich's vision, government officials would ask every Muslim person in the country -- individually -- whether they believe in Shariah law. If they say yes, Gingrich wants them deported, which is probably why they'd respond, "No."
If Gingrich actually believes his own nonsense, last night was an alarming display. If, however, Gingrich hoped to exploit the violence in Nice to make a last-ditch effort to become Trump's running mate, spewing bizarre garbage with the expectation that Trump would be impressed, last night should be disqualifying.