Sunday, November 15, 2015


In The New York Times, Jonathan Martin tries to anticipate what's going to happen in the presidential race as a result of the Paris attacks. He and his interviewees basically get everything wrong:
... The assault on Paris has thrust national security to the heart of the presidential race, forcing candidates to scramble and possibly prompting voters to reconsider their flirtations with unconventional candidates and to take a more sober measure of who is prepared to serve as commander in chief.
I jumped to the story's second paragraph, but the second paragraph already has the story's first mistake. Republican voters aren't going "to reconsider their flirtations with unconventional candidates and to take a more sober measure of who is prepared to serve as commander in chief." What just happened in Paris wasn't a shock to GOP voters -- they already despised brown-skinned foreigners and have been waiting for more stateside terrorism throughout President Obama's term. They've long believed that Europe is turning into "Eurabia"; they don't believe there should be any more Muslim immigration whatsoever to any Western country, and many of them believe the wacky theory that illegal immigration from Mexico is a conduit for Islamist terrorism. And they've made Donald Trump and Ben Carson their top two choices. Why would Paris change anything?

(This isn't an issue for Democrats because their top two contenders have plenty of government experience -- yes, even the supposedly "unconventional" Bernie Sanders.)
Until now, the campaign, when it did not descend into insult comedy on Twitter or become mired in biographical disputes, was focused on a subtler sort of threat to the country’s way of life: economic and racial inequality, for Democrats, and a less-defined fury about a loss of America’s identity, for Republicans.
Yes, and for Republican voters, what defines the "loss of America's identity" is the presence in America of people who aren't native born and/or white and/or Christian. So Paris wasn't a game changer for the GOP. It just reflected, for GOP voters, what they believe is happening to America already.

(In the Democratic race, many voters will find it reassuring that Hillary Clinton has foreign policy experience and is sometimes hawkish -- but those voters were probably already on her side. Still other voters will find it reassuring that Bernie Sanders is not a hawk -- but those voters were probably already on his side. Not much is going to change.)
... Republicans, whose primary is far more volatile, may now ask whether candidates like Mr. Carson, who claimed at one point that China was becoming involved in Syria, and Donald J. Trump, who suggested the battle against the Islamic State could be left to Russia, are wise choices in a world where Western capitals can be made into killing fields.
I seriously doubt it. See above.
“Voters are very dubious about our ability to remake the world, but they’re very serious about us defending ourselves,” said Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker. “They have a very low tolerance for being frightened.”
Actually, the American public has a very high tolerance for being frightened. See the entire George W. Bush presidency; see also previous Republican presidents' ability to persuade us that an existential threat to America was posed by Manuel Noriega, Nicaragua's Sandinistas, and the government of Grenada.
... What is almost certain is that the demands on the candidates will grow more exacting.
Nope. Donald Trump will not get specific. Neither will Ben Carson. It won't matter.
... while Mr. Carson, the retired neurosurgeon, has struggled with policy before, his inability to answer a straightforward question three times on “Fox News Sunday” about whom he would first call to put together a military alliance to confront the Islamic State appeared more consequential than it might have before Paris.
We've been telling ourselves for months that bizarre utterances by the two clowns at the top of the Republican polls are sure to be "consequential," by which we mean that Republican voters will finally realize that the two of them are unqualified loose cannons who narcissistically tell themselves that they're capable of serving as president when it's obviously not true. In fact, nothing of this sort penetrates. If anything, the wilder and more unhinged the campaign utterance by either of the two clowns, the bigger the poll bump.
... As the shock of the Friday attacks wore off, many of the hard-liners in the Republican field were moving to focus on blocking Syrian refugees from coming to America. “To bring them here under these circumstances is a suspension of intellect,” Mr. Carson declared Sunday.

The day before, at a rally in Beaumont, Tex., Mr. Trump was just as blunt, claiming without any evidence that President Obama wanted to take in 250,000 Syrian refugees. “You’d have to be insane,” he said.
Perfect. That's all you have to say as far as Republican voters are concerned -- Muslims suck! Wall them out! Vote for me!
... “I think that when you look at the dimensions of this tragedy, most Republican voters will not be satisfied with ‘We’ll bomb the S out of them,’” said Senator John McCain of Arizona, referring to Mr. Trump’s more pungent vow last week.
I think that's exactly what Republicans have wanted to hear from a president or presidential candidate for years, in precisely those words.
Mr. Ridge said: “Bombast doesn’t cut it. Inexperience doesn’t cut it. Those who have a record of governance and demonstrated leadership capabilities -- their stock is going to rise.”
Yeah, that's what the "Trump's poll rise is just like Herman Cain's" crowd has been saying since July. We're still waiting.
... “It does give an advantage to serious candidates,” Mr. Gingrich said. “Because this is an opportunity for them to emphasize their experience and give the kinds of speeches and explanations of this threat that will prompt people to say, ‘Hey, they know what they’re talking about.’”
This year, Republican voters hate experience. To Republican voters, if you've been in the arena, clearly you've failed, because liberalism and Islam still haven't been nuked off the face of the earth.
... “If in fact it becomes more clear that a critical aspect was a refugee problem, and the issue blends, that could play into somebody like Trump’s hands,” said Paul Maslin, a Democratic pollster. “Because then it gets to a larger narrative that the West has to shut down its borders -- and then you’re playing with fire.”
Okay, that's the only more or less accurate quote in the article. The only thing wrong with what Maslin says is that that narrative is already in place -- it's what Republican voters believe now, and they believed it even before Paris. Playing with fire? They have no problem with that. They've been doing that for months. And there's no reason to believe they'll stop.


Tom said...

Excellent critique, thanks.

Victor said...

Now, the base doesn't just want to have red meat thrown its way.

It wants dripping and oozing Halal meat - on a platter with Christ's picture on it.

swkellogg said...

The thought of Reince Priebus marinating in a kiddie pool of unstaunchable flop sweat is just too schadenfreude-licious!