Republicans Strategize and Engage: The National Security Debate
Tuesday night’s Republican Presidential Debate afforded the front runners – Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Bush, Carson, Christie, Fiorina, Paul, and Kasich – the opportunity to gather in Las Vegas and discuss national security. Rubio and Cruz repeatedly squared off, outlining the new directions in which they wish to take America on the national stage. Although disability was only directly mentioned once, it’s important for people with disabilities to understand foreign policy and its effect on their lives.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was the candidate to give a shoutout to the crip crowd. In response to CNN Moderator Wolf Blitzer’s question about whether terrorism-induced paralysis is the new normal in America, Christie responded: “[U]nfortunately, it’s the new normal, under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton… We have people across this country who are scared to death. Because I could tell you this – as a former federal prosecutor, if a center for the developmentally disabled in San Bernardino, California, is now a target for terrorists, that means everywhere in America is a target for these terrorists.”
Indeed, ISIS appears to hate people with disabilities with particular vigor not seen since Hitler’s Tiergarten-4 project. News sources reported that when terrorists attacked the Parisian concert hall, they executed people in the disabled section first. Just this week, ISIS ordered a fatwa for the killing of children with Down’s syndrome. I don’t know about you, but that makes me want to wipe its caliphate off the map. So I tuned into the debate to see who shared my passion.
The Republican Party, as many know, is in a state of turmoil regarding its priorities. The debate highlighted which candidates are hawks and which are doves. Doves, such as Paul – who seemed to have a lot of talking time, despite his low poll numbers – believe that the best way to fight ISIS is to stand behind constitutional freedoms. Government surveillance, he argues, gives the terrorists what they want – fundamental alteration of American freedoms. On the other hand, candidates like Trump believe those who have declared war on the American way of life are not entitled to constitutional protections and believe speech should be silenced when such speech poses a direct threat to American safety.
Of course, hawks are also in favor of putting boots on the ground to finish the job. Yet, none seemed eager to send battalions of American soldiers into the fray. Cruz stated: “Obama is launching between 15 and 30 air attacks a day. It is photo op foreign policy. We need to use overwhelming airpower. We need to be arming the Kurds. We need to be fighting and killing ISIS where they are.” Later, he mentioned that special forces should be embedded in the Middle East. Rubio responded: “ISIS is a radical Sunni group. They cannot just be defeated through air strikes. Air strikes are a key component of defeating them, but they must be defeated on the ground by a ground force. And that ground force must be primarily made up of Sunni Arabs themselves – Sunni Arabs that reject them ideologically and confront them militarily.” He added that American special operatives would be necessary to provide guidance, but added that recent cuts to the military’s budget have jeopardized America’s military prowess.
Another key component of national security is immigration policy. There, Rubio and Cruz distinguished themselves from one another. Cruz declared that he is categorically against any path to citizenship for immigrants illegally residing in the United States. Rubio said that he was open to a path to citizenship, but only after secure borders have been achieved. Suggesting that he is not yet out of the race yet, Bush pithily proposed asking Trump to fund a wall on the southern border.
Issues of national security tend to draw Americans from all walks of life together. I remember both Republicans and Democrats singing on the Capitol steps after the 9/11 attack. I hope that people with disabilities will understand that, even though disability-specific issues were not discussed, it is important to understand the nuances of each candidate’s security strategy. After all, in addition into being people with disabilities, we are also Americans.
Contact: Emily Munson