Donald Trump on Tuesday prescribed fighting "fire with fire" when it comes to battling terrorism, seemingly making the case for using similarly brutal tactics as terror groups like ISIS have in the past. The GOP's presumptive nominee has been outspoken on enhanced interrogation, telling Tuesday's enthusiastic crowd once again that he doesn't think waterboarding is "tough enough" and that it's "peanuts" compared to what terrorists have done in the past.
The latest reports out of Turkey point to an increasing death toll following the terrorist attack at Istanbul's busy Ataturk Airport, with 41 deaths and more than 230 injuries. U.S. officials, of course, have condemned the attack in the strongest possible terms.
In our presidential election, however, Donald Trump wasn't satisfied with a condemnation.
The presumptive Republican nominee appears to have resisted the urge to say, "Called it!" which tends to be his go-to reaction in response to most major events. Trump did, however, manage to respond to events in Turkey in a deeply unsettling way.
Trump seemed particularly annoyed that the United States feels the need to act lawfully. "We have laws; they don't have laws," the GOP candidate said last night in Ohio, adding, "Their laws say you can do anything you want and the more vicious you are the better."
From there, Trump transitioned to emphasizing his support for barbarism. "You have to fight fire with fire," he declared. "We have to be so strong. We have to fight so viciously. And violently because we're dealing with violent people viciously."
Trump added, "Can you imagine [ISIS members] sitting around the table or wherever they're eating their dinner, talking about the Americans don't do waterboarding and yet we chop off heads? They probably think we're weak, we're stupid, we don't know what we're doing, we have no leadership. You know, you have to fight fire with fire."
In a CNN interview, Trump went on to say he intends to "change our law on, you know, the waterboarding thing" in order to "be able to fight at least on an almost equal basis."
Or put another way, the Republican presidential hopeful evidently sees value in the United States becoming more like our enemies. Donald J. Trump genuinely seems to believe torture, chest-thumping rhetoric, and posturing are the foundations of an effective national security policy.
Anything else might look "weak."
Here's the part of this that Trump struggles to understand: crises are leadership tests. When the pressure's on, would-be presidents have an opportunity to demonstrate what kind of leadership they can and would provide if elected.
In this case, Trump sees an ISIS attack on a NATO ally and his first instinct is to effectively say, "This looks like a problem torture can solve."
Postscript: In case anyone's forgotten, when the Senate Intelligence Committee examined the Bush/Cheney administration's "enhanced interrogation techniques," senators found torture was ineffective, illegal, brutal, and "provided extensive inaccurate information." Trump, in other words, has no idea what he's talking about.