GOP Candidates Try to Scare the Hell Out of America

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, looks on during the Fox Business Network Republican presidential debate, Jan. 14, 2016, in North Charleston, S.C.

Chuck Burton/AP

AA Font size + Print

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, looks on during the Fox Business Network Republican presidential debate, Jan. 14, 2016, in North Charleston, S.C.

In Thursday's debate, candidates exploited the nation’s anxieties over national security and Obama.

They’re com­ing to kill you, Amer­ica.

Dirty bombs. Cy­ber­at­tacks. Elec­tro­mag­net­ic pulses.

Ir­an.

Dodd and Frank.

“Strong, power­ful young men.”

Between skir­mishes over Ted Cruz’s eli­gib­il­ity, Don­ald Trump’s leg­al au­thor­ity, Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cred­ib­il­ity, Chris Christie’s RINO­ism, Bernie Sanders’s so­cial­ism, and Barack Obama’s pat­ri­ot­ism, the GOP pres­id­en­tial field tried Thursday night to scare the hell out of Amer­ica.

Tak­ing ad­vant­age of lais­sez-faire mod­er­at­ors in their sixth de­bate, the GOP’s top sev­en pres­id­en­tial can­did­ates spouted talk­ing points that ranged from war­mon­ger­ing to weird.

Sen. Ted Cruz set the tone by duck­ing an open­ing ques­tion on the eco­nomy to de­nounce Obama for Ir­an’s seizure of 10 U.S. sail­ors who ap­par­ently breached Tehran’s ter­rit­ori­al wa­ters. The sail­ors were quickly re­leased after be­ing held at gun­point. One of the men apo­lo­gized in an Ir­a­ni­an pro­pa­ganda video.

If he is elec­ted, Cruz de­clared, no Amer­ic­an ser­vice­man would be forced to his knees, and any coun­try that tried would feel “the full force and fury of the United States.”

The crowd roared in ap­prov­al, but even his sup­port­ers should con­sider the Cruz Doc­trine: The U.S. will go to war against any na­tion that briefly de­tains U.S. mil­it­ary per­son­nel who breach that na­tion’s ter­rit­ory.

Amer­ic­ans are jus­ti­fied to be afraid. Amer­ic­an lead­ers should work to calm the pub­lic. Not these GOP pres­id­en­tial can­did­ates. They’re com­ing to scare us, Amer­ica.

New Jer­sey Gov. Chris Christie wouldn’t be out­done. He vowed that no U.S. ships would ever fall in­to the hands of “tin-pot” dic­tat­ors.

Former Flor­ida Gov. Jeb Bush de­clared that Demo­crat­ic front-run­ner Hil­lary Clin­ton “would be a na­tion­al se­cur­ity dis­aster.” He cited her role in a string of for­eign flare-ups in­clud­ing the 2012 Benghazi at­tacks and … “Dodd-Frank.”

Bush did not ex­plain why bank­ing reg­u­la­tions would make Clin­ton a lousy com­mand­er in chief.

No mat­ter, Sen. Marco Ru­bio of Flor­ida offered, Clin­ton is un­qual­i­fied to lead the U.S. mil­it­ary be­cause she “lied” to the fam­il­ies of the vic­tims of the Benghazi at­tacks about the raid’s cause. (The Wash­ing­ton Post called his cri­ti­cism a stretch. “The evid­ence for this claim is murky and open to in­ter­pret­a­tion,” Glenn Kessler wrote. “But Ru­bio really goes too far in sug­gest­ing that she told this to all of the fam­il­ies of the four who were killed in the ter­ror­ist at­tacks.”)

Then the de­bate took a turn for the truly sur­real.

Re­tired neurosur­geon Ben Car­son warned that ter­ror­ists could sim­ul­tan­eously ex­plode dirty bombs, un­leash cy­ber­at­tacks, and trig­ger an elec­tro­mag­net­ic pulse that would shut­ter the na­tion’s en­ergy grid.

No flocks of killer uni­corns?

“Can you ima­gine,” Car­son asked, “the danger that would en­sue?”

Front-run­ner Don­ald Trump re­newed his op­pos­i­tion to Muslim im­mig­ra­tion—“that could be the great Tro­jan horse”—and sug­ges­ted that his policy against Syr­i­an refugees stems from his cas­u­al ex­am­in­a­tion of tele­vi­sion foot­age. “Where are the wo­men?” he said, ap­par­ently re­fer­ring to crowds of Syr­i­an refugees, which in his eyes are dom­in­ated by “strong, power­ful young men.”

In the af­ter­math of ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Par­is and San Bern­ardino, Cali­for­nia, na­tion­al se­cur­ity has edged out the eco­nomy as the primary con­cern of many voters. Polls show Pres­id­ent Obama’s ap­prov­al rat­ing on fight­ing ter­ror­ism dropped as he struggled to strike a bal­ance between over­re­act­ing and un­der­re­act­ing.

Amer­ic­ans are jus­ti­fied to be afraid. Amer­ic­an lead­ers should work to calm the pub­lic. They should re­dir­ect anxi­et­ies to­ward sup­port of well-reasoned re­sponses that make the na­tion as safe as pos­sible without ca­reen­ing to­ward an­oth­er war over false pre­tenses.

Not this crew. Not these GOP pres­id­en­tial can­did­ates. They’re com­ing to scare us, Amer­ica.

Close [ x ] More from DefenseOne
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from DefenseOne.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

    Download
  • Military Readiness: Ensuring Readiness with Analytic Insight

    To determine military readiness, decision makers in defense organizations must develop an understanding of complex inter-relationships among readiness variables. For example, how will an anticipated change in a readiness input really impact readiness at the unit level and, equally important, how will it impact readiness outside of the unit? Learn how to form a more sophisticated and accurate understanding of readiness and make decisions in a timely and cost-effective manner.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

    Download
  • Information Operations: Retaking the High Ground

    Today's threats are fluent in rapidly evolving areas of the Internet, especially social media. Learn how military organizations can secure an advantage in this developing arena.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.