Thursday, November 19, 2015

by Reed Galen

Days Until Iowa Caucus: 75

Quote by A Smart Person: “Where there is no vision, there is no hope.” George Washington Carver

Welcome to the American Singularity.

Why the Singularity?

•    The presidential nominating process is one in which everything, large and small, is sucked into its gravitational maw, allowing nothing to escape its grasp as events pass through the campaign cycle’s event horizon.
•    There is no more singular political experience on the planet than electing the President of the United States.
•    The United States is still the most free, most prosperous and brightest beacon of hope to billions around the world.

Every action and reaction feeds into this black hole of press coverage, donor reactions, voter sentiment and activist opinions. Nothing goes unnoticed and nothing is forgotten. Legions of reporters, bloggers, opposition researchers, trackers, social media monitoring services, vacuum up every last syllable.

Every week we’ll take a look at the campaign as it unfolds, and how events reflect the campaigns, the issues of the day and the country at large. Have a tip, piece of advice or something to add? Email me – reed@jedburghs.com

The American Singularity - Week 35: Paris and What Lay Beyond

Candidate Alert: Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has suspended his campaign for president.

Last week’s attacks in Paris reminded many of us of the fragility of life and the lengths to which some will go in the name of their own distorted and depraved vision of eternity. ISIS is real. They are not the “JV” nor are they content with terrorizing the souls within their immediate geographic reach. Paris, Beirut, and the Russian airliner bombed two weeks ago, demonstrated a level of determination and sophistication we clearly didn’t expect. And then there is the domestic political effect of terror overseas. As with just about every issue in recent memory, politicians of both parties immediately jumped out of their corners and prepared to battle it out, heavy on ideology and demagoguery but light on practical solutions.

Leadership Matters

While I disagree with President Obama on most political issues, I typically try and view him through the prism of a sitting president. It is a job whose difficulty defies imagination and offers no days off. But President Obama’s press conference in Turkey while at the G20 Summit last weekend confused and concerned me. He was petty and petulant. Despite clear evidence that our strategy (if we can call it that) is not in fact diminishing ISIS, he defiantly stated that we would not change our tack. Perhaps most disappointing, though, was the President’s statement that it is not necessary for America to “win” or be seen as a leader. This is a dramatic shift in American foreign policy since World War I, perhaps since even Thomas Jefferson decided to take on the Barbary Pirates.

President Barack Obama meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Turkey during the G20 Summit. Courtesy Telegraph UK

President Barack Obama meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Turkey during the G20 Summit. Courtesy Telegraph UK

Obama’s public ambivalence toward America’s place in the world is a verbal admission that comes at the end of years of policy that made the president’s position clear. And while many Americans don’t believe we should be galloping back into the Middle East, it is a far cry from believing that we’re a second-rate power who’s leadership is neither needed nor desired. For at least half the country, Obama’s statements were anathema to their identity as Americans. ISIS, China, Russia, Israel, all likely sat up and took notice at the President’s comments. As we have found to our dismay, nature and politics abhor vacuums.

Technology and Terrorism’s New Frontier

Al Qaeda had a penchant for satellite and cell phones. They wrote emails to each other. They texted. Since 9/11 the technology available to terror cells has expanded immensely. Much of it is anonymous, encrypted and hard to track. Regardless of the brand name, these sorts of apps allow for individual terrorists and terrorist cells to communicate with one another, in some cases without ever pinging a cell tower to alert authorities to their presence. In fact, ISIS even laid out a handy guide for its members reminding them which messaging services are “safe” and which aren’t.

BN-LH433_WOAY58_G_20151116212607.jpg

Earlier this week, Senator Dianne Feinstein blasted Silicon Valley companies for not doing more to help fight terror organizations utilizing their technology. But there is only so much Facebook or Twitter can, should, or will do. We have hundreds of billions of dollars in sunk costs sitting in Langley, Virginia and Ft. Meade, Maryland. What if all that gear, all those experts and all those giant electronic vacuum cleaners aren’t looking in the right places? Worse, what if they can’t even hear the “chatter” so key to disrupting terror networks?

Technology has not just changed the way many of us live our lives on a daily basis. It has now dramatically transformed how these groups communicate – making it harder to find them before they develop and carry out their next attack.

The Establishment (Almost) Strikes Back

Immediately following the attacks in Paris, the political outlets of record including the New York Times, Politico and the Washington Post ran stories outlining how the Republican race for president was now irrevocably changed – assuredly to the benefit of long-time politicians and Establishment GOP candidates. Indeed, even I told a reporter that the attacks likely "injected a dose of realism" into the race. This isn’t arguing about hypothetical growth levels or one tax plan or another. Terrorism attacks focus the mind on the first, most fundamental job of government: Keeping its citizens safe.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush Gives Remarks about Rebuilding the American Military and Defeating ISIS at the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. Courtesy, US News & World Report

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush Gives Remarks about Rebuilding the American Military and Defeating ISIS at the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. Courtesy, US News & World Report

The theories about the trajectory of the race would make sense – in any year but this one. We’ve expected Donald Trump and Ben Carson to implode for months. They haven’t. And for the Establishment Republicans – Jeb Bush, John Kasich, et al, it may well provide them a boost as early-state voters begin to pay more attention. This is likely too rosy a prediction by half. First, more than 60% of Republican primary voters have made clear for months they’re looking for something new and different.

Because terrorist struck in Paris, doesn’t mean they believe that someone who has served as a senator or governor will do a better job than an outsider. Indeed, many of the voters providing the energy to the Trump and Carson and Cruz harbor more disdain for the Republican party than they do for Democrats. They expect bad behavior and bad policy from Democrats. They feel betrayed by Republicans who have been elected cycle after cycle and then go to Washington to find their place in the Machine.

I Told You So

Donald Trump has been the beneficiary of horrible events this year. Last summer he launched his campaign on the subject of immigration and the harm that some undocumented immigrants cause inside the United States. Then a man who’d been deported five times senselessly murders a young woman in San Francisco. Trump stands on the podium and bellows, “I told you so!”

Donald Trump discusses ISIS and the Syrian Refugee Crisis on CBS' Face the Nation with John Dickerson.

Donald Trump discusses ISIS and the Syrian Refugee Crisis on CBS' Face the Nation with
John Dickerson.

When President Obama begins talking about allowing Syrian refugees into the country, Trump rails. They're a Trojan Horse! We don’t know who these people are. Why would we let terrorists into the country? Then one of the Paris gunmen is found with a Syrian passport. Trump gets up again and yells, “I told you so!” And many Republican voters nod and say, “He’s right.” Donald Trump may not be the GOP nominee, but he’s far from finished.

Fathers and Sons and Mothers and Daughters

Almost to a candidate, the Republican field has stepped up to take a hard line against ISIS. We need to destroy them. We need to take the war to them. The Establishment candidates, as noted above, are hoping their sober and detailed plans for dealing with ISIS will bring voters back to them. They may be missing a key component of those they hope to impress: There is a good chance that a good number of the voters who are backing Trump or Carson or Cruz or Rubio are veterans. Or are active-duty military. Or have mothers or fathers or sons or daughters who are serving; many of who have already served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are likely more outwardly patriotic than their urban countrymen. They may also believe we need to take ISIS out ruthlessly.

A solider is reunited with his children at Fort Stewart, Georgia. Courtesy, USA Today

A solider is reunited with his children at Fort Stewart, Georgia. Courtesy, USA Today

But they also may not be inclined to believe that it needs to be their kids that go back to the Middle East to do the fighting. And here’s the point: For these conservative Republicans, it may be that the "outsiders" speak for the people that have to do the fighting. Fair or not, they may believe the Establishment candidates speak for the people for whom defeating ISIS is also a necessary task, but for whom combat and the (physical and psychological) destruction that comes with it never gets more real than the evening news.

Posted
AuthorReed Galen