Impact of Brussels attacks on 2016 presidential race

Reaction from the 'Special Report' All-Star panel


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," March 22, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: It is primary Election Day out west. We're back with the panel about how the terrorist attacks in Brussels potentially effect this election. KT, your thoughts?

KT MCFARLAND, FOX NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think that it does affect this election as much as it affects the general election because the three Republican candidates, they think they are really different but they are not that different. The bigger election issue, though, is Hillary Clinton. She owns the Libya war. She owns the Iraq war and ISIS, the premature withdrawal. And so you can point to a lot of the problems in the Middle East are hers, and that is the ball and chain around her neck.

Now, the other election that matters is the one in June, and that's the British vote, the referendum, do they withdraw from Europe? They are looking at this situation saying we need to secure our borders, and if Britain does vote to get out of Europe, it will be a domino effect. Other countries will follow suit. The European Union could collapse within two years.

BAIER: One of these attacks happened just a couple blocks from the EU headquarters in Brussels, so it was definitely pointed. Tucker, what about Donald Trump on night like this? We saw previous attacks, it seemed like he got a boost.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: Of course. And knowledge has nothing to do with it. Who knows more about foreign policy than John Kerry? Nobody. What did he do in the wake of Paris? He sent James Taylor to play guitar. Who knows less?
Donald Trump probably. Who is going to protect you? Trump.

Look, the refuge thing is huge. No one wants to admit it. Hillary Clinton on television a couple of months ago said she wanted 65,000 Syrian refugees moved to the United States. Simple question, why is that good for us? If there is, explain what it is. What's America's interest in doing so? No one could explain it. Instead they call Trump a Nazi. Trump just said flat out no, it's bad for us. Most people agree with him. That's the bottom line. So I'm not saying this should be the way it is. I'm just saying it seems really clear when you take two steps back, stuff like this helps Trump because he seems stronger than everyone else.

BAIER: Ted Cruz today, Steve, had a statement about this. He said "We need to immediately halt the flow of refugees from countries with significant Al Qaeda or ISIS presence. We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized."
And it seemed like they had to clarify later in the day.

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes, and it still I don't think is clear what he meant by the second part of that. But on the first part, I think that's a much smarter prescription for what ails us than a blanket ban on Muslims as Trump once proposed.

But I think Tucker is exactly right. I think there's little question that this benefits Donald Trump because the core of his candidacy is strength.
And if you look back to the Paris attacks, on the day of the Paris attacks he was at 24.8 in the Real Clear Politics national average. Three weeks later he was 30.8. Three weeks after that he was almost at 37. You can't draw one-to-one causal relationship between those things, but it definitely didn't hurt him. I would argue that it helped him.

BAIER: All right, there was one factor that a couple candidates jumped on, and that was his comments on NATO to the The Washington Post saying that the U.S. needs to kind of pull back a little bit and spend less on NATO, and obviously after this attack other candidates were saying we need to increase our support of NATO.

JUAN WILLIAMS, THE HILL: To my mind, the question that you asked KT is, the answer is not that it's the general election. It's in this Republican primary, lkike going into Arizona tonight and Utah and going forward. Cruz is trying to distinguish himself from Trump in saying we do need to support NATO, not withdraw from Europe given the problems there. And the second point is that most Republicans would agree with Tucker in terms of banning Muslims coming into the country in terms of mass deportation. But that's not most Americans. That's the Republican primary audience.

CARLSON: Really? Because 61 percent of Americans say immigration is destroying the country. That's kind of a majority.

BAIER: National security and terrorism, it's already been high, but does it overtake an issue in this campaign?

MCFARLAND: As the overwhelming issue, yes. And we are one mass casualty attack before it becomes the overwhelming majority issue on which everybody, Republican or Democrat, cast their vote.

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