Seriousness, after Paris

The horrific mass killings in Paris reminded us that this is a time for serious people.

In a series of tweet-rants about Muslim immigrants in America, Ann Coulter tweeted that Friday night, “Donald Trump was elected President.”  Actually, quite the contrary may be true: Friday night may have badly undermined the Trump campaign for President.  The Paris attacks proved that now, more than ever, the American President must be serious, engaged, intelligent, thoughtful, and decisive.  He or she must understand how the Constitution both empowers and restrains action by the federal government. He or she must be capable of and willing to employ overwhelming force, but also capable of and willing to recognize the nuance and complexity of military and foreign affairs, beyond the use of military force.  None of that describes Donald Trump.  This is a time for serious people, and Trump is not even close.

Anyone can travel around the country saying that we should “bomb the shit” out of ISIL.  Even if that is necessary, that, without more, is not a long-term strategy for handling the ISIL threat or for grappling with the complex situation that ISIL and its accomplices, or that other terror groups, have created.  The ISIL threat has created a mix of military, diplomatic, humanitarian, and law enforcement problems, and the next President must be prepared to think through all of them.  And the next President will not defeat ISIL nor create a more stable international system just by watching the Sunday shows.

Donald Trump has demonstrated time and again that he is not the man for this job, notwithstanding his bluster about bombing ISIL and his admitted affinity for getting his foreign affairs information from the Sunday shows.  Last week he advocated (without a hint of shame or irony) “humane” mass deportation, and cited – with approval, folks – the Eisenhower Administration’s “Operation Wetback” (forgive the offensive label, that’s actually what it was called).  Later in the week, he engaged in a bizarre, meandering, unhinged rant about Ben Carson.  With his last week in mind, the American people should be increasingly concerned about Trump’s understanding of constitutional government and his mental and psychological preparedness for the stresses and complexities of the presidency.  Just when it looked like Trump was starting to emerge as a sober, cool, and affable candidate, he suddenly descended back into madness.  That is not the temperament America needs in the person who must fight ISIL and enhance the prospects for peace and stability around the globe.

Folks like Ann Coulter will likely tell you that the only people who like Donald Trump are voters, and that’s who matters most.  But that is always true of demagogues.  Indeed, it is why demagogues are so dangerous in politics.  Polls may tell you that Donald Trump is popular, particularly as compared to candidate X or candidate Y.  But polls will not, and cannot, tell you that Trump is the right person to actually be the President.  And I doubt that most voters actually believe that he is.

None of this is to say that President Obama has been serious enough about ISIL up to this point; he has not been.  But the antidote does not have to be Donald Trump.  If you want a more muscular approach to ISIL and to American foreign policy, but without all the crazy, there are better options.  This is, after all, a time for serious people.



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