Panic Room Politics on Syria and Terrorism?

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By Mark Green

There's a new false equivalence -- "Sure, GOP's gone overboard in anti-Muslim rhetoric, but Obama's tone is too defensive." Reagan and Cooke actually reach consensus how to combine "both sides" and what this scare will mean for 2016. Answer: No October surprise, but October inevitability when GOP yells that: "The X are coming!" (fill in blank).

On Military after Paris. Who has the better argument? Obama saying our military could clear out ISIS, but then they'd reconstitute unless populations took up the fight, or the U.S. occupied Syria/Iraq, or Chris Christie attacks the President as a "joke" who created a problem he now can't solve it?

Ron Reagan agrees that our armed forces and armaments can defeat some 30,000 ISIS fighters "but then?" Surely we've learned lessons from our two decade-long occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Charles CW Cooke says "joke" overstates it, but "it's indisputable that Obama's reluctance and inaction led us to this place." He acknowledges that invading Iraq was a mistake (and presumably disbanding the army creating a pool of armed, unemployed men to join ISIS) but "that's what Obama inherited when he became president and irrelevant now."

Again, what about Obama's long-term concerns, including that our greater presence will serve as a recruitment tool for jihadists? Charles concludes that we're haggling over details, and that sometimes you have to "respond in the short-term and then work it out." Ron agrees that it'd be hard for any President and our political system to resist calls for an escalated effort... especially if there are attacks within a country with a John Wayne warrior image.

Host: Speaking biologically, will testosterone + amygdala overwhelm a reasoning brain? For all the jingoistic rhetoric from GOP contenders, the two sides may be evolving toward an Obama-plus strategy of yet more bombing and "special forces," with more pressure on allies, including NATO and Arab Nations to send troops to join Kurdish fighters.

But Americans nostalgic for army on army battles with soldiers in different colored uniform will have to adjust to asymmetrical warfare where one side spends trillions on arms while the other spends hundreds in suicide vests. And every time a Marco Rubio calls this a "clash of civilizations" playing into ISIS's East-West framework equating the two, he presumably gets a few more GOP votes, but also appears to be a "useful idiot" that could backfire in a general election... or not.

On Refugees after Paris. What to do with 11 million Syrian political refugees, some of whom theoretically could have embedded terrorists?

Charles concedes overblown Republican rhetoric against Muslims, for a Muslim Registry, for admission by religion, comparisons to rabid dogs and (of course) Nazis. But "if there's a lack of good leadership, bad leadership will take its place," which blames Obama for a House bill insanely requiring the heads of three intelligence agencies, each individually approve every single refugee.
Again, there's a rough consensus -- Ron and Charles agree that, with France itself continuing to admit 30,000 Syrian refugees (and Germany hundreds of thousands), surely we can't just shut the door ,but should admit our share after a careful vetting process (which appears to exist now).

Also, since millions stay in the U.S. as tourists and students under a liberal visa program, that too could be improved.

Host: 10,000 Jews were turned away in the 1920s because of public opinion fearing they included criminal elements -- and with the fathers of two Cuban-American Senators being admitted to the U.S. despite fleeing from turmoil and communism -- this recent spurt of xenophobia will abate...or not.

On Presidential Politics after Paris. The Paris-ISIS crisis complicates things for two name candidates connected to recent presidents. We three agree that it's a problem that reminds everyone why a Bush 45 may not be a great idea after Bush 43, and that Obama's problems could rub off on his Secretary of State. But does this situation net-net help Hillary Clinton, who's unarguably versed and experienced on such matters? Maybe not, says Charles, because "Americans often reward new candidates who haven't made a host of mistakes, like Rubio."

Ron counters by noting that such a life-death issue as terrorism may not benefit someone who looks like everyone's callow son-in-law. (Host: not mine!) Answer: We'll only know at the first Marco-Hillary debate, if there is one.

There's also agreement that the ISIS crisis could help the blustery Trump with his tough-guy appeal to a fourth of a third of Americans (i.e., his share in polls of the 30 percent of country that's Republican). Charles lets go: "He's a moron and a fascist who won't be the nominee." He continues that while Americans can't figure out the exact right policy on the Middle East, "they do want clarity, they want a president telling everyone that we're the good guys who will defeat the bad guys."

Host: From killing OBL to approving thousands of bombs against ISIS targets to numerous speeches, Obama has certainly conveyed his resolve against this threat. Looks like he'll have to do it again every time the GOP calls him weak, feckless etc.

But let me note that this was the first time the F-word has been used on BSN in nearly five years and, predictably, it was by a conservative about a Republican. But with both Joe Conason in his articles/tweets and Charles CW Cooke agreeing that Trump displays fascist tendencies, it appears that The Donald will not continue getting a free ride with his Putin-like bellicosity.

On Bush 41 on Bush 43. There's non-partisan admiration for Bush 41 for telling his biographer that Cheney/Rumsfeld were "hard asses" who ill-served his son but that 'the president was ultimately responsible because the buck stops at his desk." The obligations of history here prevailed over he obligations of blood.

Ron, too, knows something about father-son relations and Oval Offices. He notes that when commenting on President Reagan, he always admires him personally -- "I've never known a finer man -- even as I disagree with some of his policies."