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In wake of Brussels attacks, Trump once again ditched the classic political script

Instead of condolences, he offered a bleak assessment of the state of affairs in Europe

Washington CNN  — 

Donald Trump spoke on four TV news shows Tuesday morning, delivering a characteristically blunt assessment of the state of affairs in Europe and the world in the face of radical Islamic terrorism.

His condolences for the victims of the attacks came hours later. In those initial moments, he went straight for action. He once again called for the U.S. to close its borders to foreign Muslims and to reject Syrian refugees. Trump also deplored the changing character of the city of Brussels.

“Brussels was a beautiful city, a beautiful place with zero crime and now it’s a disaster city. It’s a total disaster. We have to be very careful in the United States. We have to be very vigilant as to who we allow in this country,” Trump said on Fox News.

His later expression of sympathies, in contrast to the quick condolences of political leaders in Washington and his presidential opponents, showed him once again ditching the classic political script.

All of his presidential rivals followed the conventional approach, expressing their “thoughts and prayers” or “condolences” immediately before pivoting to calls for action against terrorism.

In the afternoon – after an inquiry from CNN – Trump tweeted his sympathies as well.

“My heart and prayers go out to all of the victims of the terrible #Brussels tragedy,” he wrote. “This madness must be stopped, and I will stop it.”

On NBC’s “Today Show” Tuesday morning, Trump reiterated the need for tougher tactics in confronting terrorism, including renewing his call to change U.S. and international law to allow waterboarding, which is considered torture under international norms.

On Twitter Tuesday morning, Trump also spurned political convention.

“Do you all remember how beautiful and safe a place Brussels was. Not anymore, it is from a different world! U.S. must be vigilant and smart!” Trump tweeted at 8:04 a.m.

He leveled criticism at President Barack Obama, who delivered remarks on the terrorist attacks in the midst of his historic trip to Cuba.

“President Obama looks and sounds so ridiculous making his speech in Cuba, especially in the shadows of Brussels. He is being treated badly!” Trump tweeted.

And the Republican front-runner, who has previously pointed to the rise in his poll numbers following the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris late last year, also expressed hope that the Brussels attacks would be a boon for him in Arizona and Utah, which vote Tuesday in the GOP primary.

“I have proven to be far more correct about terrorism than anybody- and it’s not even close. Hopefully AZ and UT will be voting for me today!” he tweeted.

Trump’s opponents, meanwhile, blended expressing their sympathies with their political takes, with some calling for tougher action in the face of a rising terrorist threat and other appealing to the need for unity.

Sen. Ted Cruz, Trump’s closest rival for the GOP nomination, wrote on social media that “our hearts break for the men and women of Brussels this morning.”

Cruz then pivoted to criticizing the Obama administration’s response to the terrorist threat and slammed Trump in a news conference Tuesday morning for calling for diminishing the U.S.’s role in the NATO alliance.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, the two Democratic contenders for the presidency, also expressed sympathies for the victims of the attacks.

Sanders tweeted, “We offer our deepest condolences to the people of Brussels and stand with our European allies to offer any necessary assistance.”

Clinton expressed her “thoughts and prayers” and vowed that the “world will not be intimidated by these vicious killers.”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich issued a statement expressing his “solidarity with the people of Belgium in the aftermath of the attacks that took place in Brussels.”

“Along with every American, I am sickened by the pictures of the carnage, by the injuries and by the loss of life,” Kasich said in his statement, which also called for the U.S. and its allies to redouble their efforts in confronting terrorism.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the attacks and with the people of Belgium,” he added.