Last night’s CNN Republican presidential debate at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas was billed as a serious discussion on foreign policy and national security. It was only fitting after the San Bernardino and Paris terrorist attacks that have made Americans increasingly fearful about their security and distrustful of President Obama’s leadership.
A NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released the day before the Vegas debate showed that 40% of Americans say national security and terrorism are the top priority for the government. That’s up almost 20 points from when the question was asked back in April.
71% of Americans say shootings and random acts of violence are now a permanent part of American life. President Obama’s approval rating is at the lowest it has been in a year. Incredibly, seven-in-ten Americans believe the country is off track and headed in the wrong direction.
Each candidate tried to offer their national security and foreign policy credentials in their own unique way. Trump was Trump. He’ll build a wall and America’s enemies will fear him and respect America again. More bluster than substance as usual but can we really expect anything more from the bombastic real estate developer?
Governor Kasich still hasn’t gotten the message — that being an 18-year member of the foreign relations and armed services committees while in Congress — is not a benefit in this presidential cycle when Republican primary voters are looking for an outsider.
Carly Fiorina talked about her world travels as CEO of Hewlett Packard and the many world leaders she has met during those travels. Dr. Carson discussed his recent travels to the Middle East and it sounded like he’s been boning up more on foreign policy and national security even though he’s still unconvincing that he has a strong enough grasp of the two issues.
Governor Christie reminded the audience he was appointed U.S. attorney just one day before the World Trade center attacks and that he has experience investigating and prosecuting terrorists. Christie also tugged at heart strings when he recounted it was several hours after the attacks before he knew if his wife, who worked near the trade center, was safe and out of harm’s way.
Jeb stressed his campaign theme of “experienced leadership,” and the fact his father and brother were once president and that he has endorsements from retired generals and admirals. Sen. Paul further pushed his isolationist – or as his supporters like to call it – “non-interventionist” foreign policy.
Senator Paul in my opinion disqualified himself from serious consideration for the nomination after he took a page out of President Obama’s tunnel vision playbook and declared our national debt as our greatest national security threat. I agree our national debt is a serious problem that needs to be urgently addressed but it’s not our greatest national security threat; radical Islamic terrorism is our greatest national security threat, Senator.
Senators Cruz and Rubio, the two candidates advancing most rapidly in the polls, gave us a “glaze your eyes over” – as Chris Christie remarked – insider and wonkish back on forth on senate bills each one supported or didn’t support. These two clearly have the momentum thus far.
Last night’s debate was the last one for the year and the last debate before Iowans caucus on February 1st. During the holiday break in campaigning, a number of the candidates on the under card and main stage debates, should re-evaluate their presidential ambitions so the field can narrow and allow serious candidates to move to the forefront.
I received a fundraising email last night from the Democratic National Committee and it contained this excerpt:
“[Not] one of them provided a serious plan for keeping our country safe. Instead, they spent almost four hours discussing the agenda that their front runner, Donald Trump, has set for the Republican Party. Everything from where to bomb, which refugees to ban, and how big a wall we should build.”
Trump is a distraction whose antics are given cover by the chaotic Republican field of 14 candidates. The country, under President Obama’s leadership, has seen the weakest recovery in history after a recession with 94 million people still out of work. We currently have the lowest labor participation rate since the second-worst Democratic president, Jimmy Carter. It’s an old cliché and we hear it every election cycle, but it’s more true now than any time in our recent history. This is probably the most important election of our lifetime.
We face terrorism threats from abroad and domestically. Americans, especially our youth, are starting to believe the American dream is dead and that America has seen her better days. I firmly believe she hasn’t but we need a real leader, with real plans to offer real solutions to the American people. The current front runner, Donald Trump, is just not doing that.
Photo by DonkeyHotey
Christopher Arps is a managing partner with NLB Enterprises LLC, a digital media and political consulting firm based in St. Louis, Missouri. NLB Enterprises has gained extensive expertise in utilizing the blogosphere and the new media to gain influence and favorable earned media for their diverse array of clients.
Mr. Arps' political experience includes St. Louis Field Representative for U.S. Senator Jim Talent of Missouri. Campaign manager for the 2006 Sherman Parker for Congress Campaign, and an appointed aide to both the St. Louis County Council and the St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners.