BALTIMORE—Treading more lightly than he had a year ago, when unrest gripped the small Missouri city of Ferguson, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul added his voice to those of Republican presidential hopefuls weighing in on the riots in Baltimore by identifying the breakdown of morals and families.
"You know, I don't know if there is an answer from the federal government," said Paul, in a morning interview with radio host Laura Ingraham, when asked what President Barack Obama could have done to quell violence. "It obviously is a local problem, primarily. But you do have to have enough show of security, enough of show of a police force, to deter the kind of action. Once that happens, it sort of spirals out of control. It's depressing. It's sad. It's scary. I came through Baltimore on the train yesterday. I'm glad the train didn't stop."
Paul, who criticized police militarization after Ferguson and petty criminalization following the death of Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., did not evoke any of that in reacting to Baltimore. "It's something we talk about not in the immediate aftermath, but over time," Paul said. "The breakdown of the family structure, the lack of fathers, the lack of sort of a moral code in our society. This isn't just a racial thing. It goes across racial boundaries. But we do have problems in our country, and you see that we're close to the tipping point–closer to the tipping point than many thing."
Ben Carson, a potential Republican presidential candidate and retired Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon, also cited Baltimore's families, calling on them to restrain rioters and protect children.
"I urge parents, grandparents and guardians to please take control of your children and do not allow them to be exposed to the dangers of uncontrolled agitators on the streets," Carson wrote Tuesday in a post on his Facebook page.
President Obama, who gave a lengthy condemnation of the violence during a Rose Garden press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, lamented "communities where there are no father who can provide guidance to young men."
The approach of the three men contrasted with the remarks from Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who said in a Tuesday morning statement that "our government must perform its central functions and purposes: to preserve the peace, protect the people, and serve justice."
"The government exists to ensure our domestic security—whether it’s from a city riot, or the threat of a terrorist attack on our homeland," Cruz continued. "We have to restore that trust and prove to the people we can make America safe again. Every case deserves justice, and the facts surrounding Freddie Gray's death should be thoroughly and impartially investigated. But rioting and mayhem are not the answer."
—Ben Brody in Washington contributed reporting.