Parker: Who will keep us safe?
WASHINGTON – Nice, France.
Of all places.
But of course a terrorist in love with death would choose one of the world's most beautiful coastal cities to mow down innocents in a moment of celebration.
There are no words.
Over the next few days, as Republicans convene in Cleveland to celebrate another sort of pagan ritual, we'll hear the familiar words and refrains. Solidarity. We mourn with the world. We pray for the victims. We won't let terrorists ruin our way of life or take away our freedom. Won't we?
A friend calls predawn from Cleveland: "What are we going to do? No one's coming," she says.
Even before Nice, people were canceling. Seven hundred rooms for volunteers who were to double up — 1,400 people — had to be returned, she says. They're not coming.
None of the party's previous presidents is attending. Trey Gowdy, one of the most respected members of the GOP House caucus, isn't going. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the highest-ranking Republican woman in the House, is skipping it.
Not even Tim Tebow is going.
Tebow, who was part of the "winners" lineup Trump was trying to build for the convention, posted a video online saying it was just a rumor.
Amid this disorganization came chaos in Nice. As America did after 9/11, French President Francois Hollande has said, "We're at war."
And who should lead this war in the American theater I think is the question before us this convention month. Democrats meet in Philadelphia the week after the GOP grapples with internal problems, not the least of which is a consortium of delegates who want no part of a Trump nomination.
Overnight, however — with at least 84 dead in Nice, including two Americans, and more than 200 injured — the inner workings of a party at war with itself seem less compelling than the larger, existential battle we seem destined to fight. Thus, most people today are likely thinking: Who will keep us safe?
The answer may seem obvious to Trump supporters and others leaning in his direction. He's the one who promises to build a border and tighten immigration; monitor Muslims and limit their access to the U.S. He's the one who will protect citizens' right to bear arms without further limitations.
You don't need an AR-15 to mow down pedestrians along a promenade on Bastille Day, after all. But you might need one to stop the driver of the truck.
Trump has also said he wouldn't take nukes off the table should some country become excessively troublesome. He has sworn that he's the most militaristic person in the world.
These are musical notes to the rough-and-ready — those who are weary of what they view as the Obama administration's weak leadership against the Islamic State. But President Obama has done his fair share of killing. He just doesn't brag about it, in part because his use of drones isn't very popular among the collateral population.
Does Trump give one a sense of security, or does his impulsive nature give one pause about his trustworthiness in a crisis?
As for Hillary Clinton, Republicans would simply point to Benghazi and her lack of attention to repeated requests from Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens for heightened security, followed by the fiasco on the night he and three others were killed when the Obama administration seemed to be in disarray.
They would also point to her conflicting reports about what happened that night, as well as to her "extreme carelessness" with classified documents.
Are these enough to disqualify Clinton from the presidency?
The question may not be, "Who will keep us safe?" but "Who is least likely to make things worse?"
The choice is not as simple as it may seem.
Words and policies are only part of the equation. Temperament and character are paramount, as is wisdom based on experience.
In the war on terror, our arsenal isn't only bullets, bombs and drones. Fighting an idea requires greater skills than a sniper's eye. You also have to counter the ideas that attract terrorists to an absurd and deadly cause with better ones.
The slog we were warned against long ago is our reality for now and perhaps for generations. We'd best hire a commander-in-chief who also understands this — and who can rally the troops starting on Day One.
Kathleen Parker is a columnist for The Washington Post.