Republican presidential candidates kept up their fearmongering in a debate televised by the Fox Business Network on Thursday, accusing Barack Obama, the Democrat they are hoping to replace next year, of deliberately weakening America at a time of global upheaval.
From businessman Donald Trump calling for a ban on all Muslims entering the country for fear of terrorists hiding among refugees to Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, conjuring up an apocalyptic scenario in which terrorists simultaneously deploy cyberattacks and dirty nuclear weapons against America — a kind of “existential threat” Obama would not “recognize,” according to the doctor — the national-security discussion got outright ridiculous at points.
Even candidates who are supposed to be more serious (and less popular) made more than a few incredulous statements.
New Jersey’s Chris Christie disputed the president’s claim that America is safer now than when he took office in 2009. Rather, he leaves a “mess,” said Christie. The next president better make sure America’s adversaries “understand the limits of our patience.”
In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Obama dismissed as “hot air” claims that a diminished American strength is to blame for all the problems in the world.
Jeb Bush, Florida’s former governor and the brother of the last Republican president, disagreed, saying “the world has been torn asunder” during Obama’s presidency.
I have no understanding why the president thinks that everything is going well. Terrorism is on the run, China, Russia is advancing their agenda at warp speed and we pull back.
Marco Rubio, a first-term senator, would not walk back earlier claims that the self-declared Islamic State in Iraq and Syria represents a civilization threat to the United States.
He doubled down, claiming that the president “does not believe that America is a great global power.”
Barack Obama believes that America is a arrogant global power that needs to be cut down to size.
This website has argued that Rubio, despite his ill-deserved reputation as a “serious” candidate on foreign policy, is veering to extremes. With his accusations on Thursday, he has surely crossed the line.
Curiously, none of the three candidates would advocate a more robust military response to either the Islamic State or any of the threats they see around the world.
Daniel Drezner, a professor of international politics at Tufts University, argues in The Washington Post that there is a cognitive dissonance between the candidates’ claims to be more forceful than Obama and their actual policies.
Christie, for example, said he would only use military power if it is “absolutely necessary to protect American lives and protect American interests around the world. We are not the world’s policeman.”
“Christie’s implicit theory is that his mere presence in the Oval Office will be enough to deter America’s adversaries from bellicose action,” writes Drezner. The presidency of George W. Bush suggests otherwise.
While Bush ostensibly demonstrated American resolve by invading and then surging in Iraq, North Korea developed a nuclear weapons capability, Iran accelerated its nuclear program, Russia invaded Georgia, China built up its soft power across the Pacific Rim and Hugo Chávez expanded the Bolivarian bloc in Latin America.
NBC News earlier pointed out that there really aren’t many substantial differences between the president and his Republican opponents on how to fight the Islamic State (also known as ISIS).
Many are calling for more attacks from the air. Well, Americans have been launching more attacks from the air. Republicans say there need to be US special forces directing Arab/Kurdish ground forces against ISIS. Well, that’s what Obama has already proposed. Republicans believe there needs to be a Muslim face to any ground troops, so does this administration.
What the Republican candidates once again engaged in on Thursday is simply fearmongering.
We have argued that this may work with Republican primary voters who are disproportionately hawkish and mistrustful of Democrats. But it’s not going to help Republicans defeat Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, in a country that is in no mood another four years of George W. Bush’s policy.