Ted Cruz broke with rival Republican presidential contender Donald Trump on Friday, saying the idea of a database to track Muslim Americans is unconstitutional.
“I’m a big fan of Donald Trump’s but I’m not a fan of government registries of American citizens,” Cruz told reporters in Iowa.
Cruz has remained on friendly terms with Trump throughout the summer, steering clear of the sniping that has characterized the real-estate mogul’s interactions with other candidates. Many have speculated that Cruz is hoping to attract the Trump’s supporters in the event his campaign collapses. But the database disagreement could mark the beginning of a new phase in their relationship as the Iowa caucuses approach.
Trump was asked on Thursday if there should be a “database” of all Muslims in the country. “There should be a lot of systems. Beyond databases,” he replied. “I mean, we should have a lot of systems. And today you can do it.”
Cruz, who looks for ways to compliment Trump even when they disagree, didn’t hesitate to criticize that idea in terms that would appeal both to Muslims and the evangelical Christians who could decide the Iowa caucuses. “The First Amendment protects religious liberty,” Cruz said. “[And] I’ve spent the past several decades defending religious liberty.”
Trump later seemed to recognize some political danger, distancing himself from the proposal in a tweet Friday afternoon:
I didn't suggest a database-a reporter did. We must defeat Islamic terrorism & have surveillance, including a watch list, to protect America
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 20, 2015
Even if the issue fades, Cruz’s relationship with Trump could easily turn sour. “If he catches on, I guess we’ll have to go to war,” Trump told CNBC on Monday.
— Joel Gehrke is a political reporter for National Review.