Monday, November 16, 2015

Experience Matters

Republican presidential candidates in the back of the pack behind Donald Trump and Ben Carson may finally have their best reason yet to attack the frontrunners, both of whom have never held public office. In the wake of Paris, they say, now's not the time for an untested GOP candidate without foreign policy "experience".

“Well obviously, extending, you know, our support to the French,” he said Sunday on Fox News when asked what a President Carson’s first steps would have been following the Paris terror attack. When host Chris Wallace pressed him three times on who he would call first to put together an international military coalition, Carson demurred three times before saying he would call "all of the Arab states" and "all of our traditional allies."

"I don't want to leave anybody out," Carson said.

Donald Trump, who before the attack had said his ISIS policy would be to "bomb the s--t out of them," was unusually absent, not just from the Sunday interview circuit but the discussion. He had spent the weekend shouting on Twitter in all-caps: "When will President Obama issue the words RADICAL ISLAMIC TERRORISM?" "He is just so bad! CHANGE." "We need much tougher, much smarter leadership - and we need it NOW!"

The violence in France comes at a time in the cycle when numerous 2016 operatives say voters are starting to shift from not just deciding who they like, but who they want to serve as president. Even before the attacks, for instance, a super PAC supporting John Kasich held a focus group in New Hampshire last week and reported that every attendee mentioned "experience” as important to them.

It was the first time that had happened, according to Matt David, a strategist for the Kasich super PAC.

On Sunday, Kasich, who has been almost alone in touting his congressional committee experience on the campaign trail, was rushing to get out all his specific prescriptions on Fox: arming the Kurds, putting in a no-fly zone, tying in the Saudis and Jordanians, coordinating intelligence better internationally.

"There’s so many things we need to do and, frankly, we’re behind the curve,” Kasich said.

Bush, Kasich, Rubio and Sen. Lindsey Graham were among those who spoke fluently on foreign affairs on the Sunday shows.

In other words, Republican foreign policy now consists solely of how quickly each candidate wants to get us back into a Middle Eastern invasion.  It's 2003 all over again, and the supposed "moderates" like Kasich are calling for heavily military intervention in Syria.  Suddenly, Ben Carson and Donald Trump's ignorance on global affairs might actually matter to GOP voters.

But it's just another reminder than in many ways, the Republican alternatives to Trump and Carson are even more dangerous to have in power.

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