I flogged my way through the second, and seemingly interminable, GOP presidential debate. As a side note, I find it exceedingly generous to call these episodes “debates.” Maybe I’m a purist, but a debate features two sides offering structured arguments in support or opposition of a question. The latest event had 11 sides, a barrel full of questions and, unless I missed something, no discernible structure. It was a forum, but a necessary one.
Donald Trump, of course, was the center of attention, and the forum displayed his vacuousness in terms of policy, especially foreign policy.
One of the better questions asked during the evening, though perhaps unartfully presented, was the first one, when moderator Jake Tapper asked candidate Carly Fiorina if she’d be comfortable with Trump’s finger on the nuclear trigger, a concern raised, quite justifiably, by Bobby Jindal. Her response, also given by Jeb Bush a few minutes later, was spot on: “That’s not for me to answer. It is for the voters of this country to answer.”
The beauty of the question, and the response, was that it managed to bore in on what really should be the central question of the presidential election. And that is simply this: Who do you trust with the responsibility of being commander-in-chief of the armed forces of this nation, which happens to include a nuclear arsenal?
In respect to Trump, the concern isn’t really that he would recklessly order a nuclear strike against a nation that insulted him — even North Korea apparently has safeguards in place to prevent that –— but whether or not he has the sufficient experience, background, temperament and policy backing to competently issue orders to American military forces in the execution of national foreign policy and the defense of American security and interests. Such decisions don’t lend themselves to the reductionism inherent in reality TV shows.
Of course, the other side has even deeper problems in this regard. The Democratic frontrunner, the Teflon Donna, Hillary Clinton, has quite ably demonstrated she can’t be trusted with this.
At best, she mishandled the Benghazi situation. In regards to the e-mail controversy, she either A) didn’t know any better, suggesting she’s not intellectually competent for the top job; or B) didn’t think that it mattered, indicating a dangerous arrogance that at least rivals Trump’s. Clinton is not a stupid woman. That suggests she simply didn’t believe that getting caught, were such an unfathomable occurrence to happen, would matter any more than she believes, as she loudly told the Senate, the events culminating in the deaths of an American ambassador and several of the nation’s best-trained servicemen really mattered.
Is that the sort of mentality we want giving orders to the Marine Corps, let alone the nation’s strategic nuclear forces? Let’s be honest now. Had Trump fumbled the Benghazi situation as badly as Mrs. Clinton did — given his experience, or lack thereof, a not inconceivable notion — can you imagine a much different answer being offered?
The other candidates went rounds on foreign policy, and, to the extent the melee allowed, offered glimpses as to how they would respond to the critical issues that will face them if elected — Putin’s Russia, ISIS, Iran’s pending nuclearization and so on — and it made for some fascinating political theater. But more importantly, it revealed key weaknesses in the most critical of areas.
Trump has repeatedly stated he will be far better versed in foreign affairs at some future point in time — i.e. when he’s the nominee. His entire foreign policy is based on the reliance of having good advisors surrounding him. But what qualifications does he possess that would suggest any inherent ability to appoint the right people to advise him on such matters? Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, strangely, said it best when he stated, “The most dangerous person in any room is the person who doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.”
The danger of Trump is not simply his ill-thought-out domestic policies — such as his absurd embrace of progressive taxation — it’s that his popularity could conceivably propel him to a position where being out of his depth will result in far more abhorrent consequences than the bankruptcy of a casino. The precarious international minefield that America finds herself in the middle of following the tutelage of Obama-Biden-Clinton, should be enough of a harbinger of how dangerous that can be.