Paris Attacks Should End Season Of Frivolity On Campaign Trail

Jamie Weinstein Senior Writer
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After a summer and fall of frivolity, the deadly terror attacks in Paris will hopefully usher in a season of seriousness in the presidential race.

The more time passes between major terror attacks on Western soil, the more we tend to forget that we are still a nation at war, even though so few bear the costs of it on a daily basis. Or at least, there are networks of terrorists out there who are at war with us, whether we recognize it or not.

In the wake of the Paris attacks, which preliminary reports suggest were committed by ISIS, Americans ought to demand more of their presidential contenders. “The Donald Trump Show” might be entertaining, but bizarre tirades comparing a rival to a child molester or discussing the sweating habits of an opponent seem like indulgences our country can ill afford today.

In September, conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt asked Trump a series of questions about Middle East terrorism that the Republican presidential frontrunner just could not answer. Some decried the interview as “gotcha” journalism. But when terrorists from the Middle East are butchering civilians on Western streets, should we not expect our aspiring commander in chiefs to have a basic understanding of the region? (Donald Trump Has No Idea Who America’s Greatest Enemies Are, But Carly Fiorina Does [VIDEO])

Perhaps a presidential aspirant should not have to know the name of every leader of Hamas, but how can you understand the region if you don’t know the difference between Hamas and Hezbollah, as Hewitt asked Trump? Or the difference between Hamas and Fatah? Or the difference between ISIS and al-Qaida? Or what Iran’s governing doctrine dictates?

Should not a presidential candidate be expected to have at least a rudimentary knowledge the origins of these various groups, their goals, who funds and sponsors them, and how they relate to each other? If a candidate can’t answer these questions, how can they possibly understand what is going on in the region and the threats that confront America from it?

This is not to say you have to know as much about these groups as a scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy to be a successful president. It also doesn’t mean that everyone with a basic understanding of the dynamics of the region will have the same policy solution on how to stop the Islamist terror threat. Obviously not. But if you don’t know the basics, it’s hard to imagine how you can even begin to formulate a response to the threat — or choose between various proposals your advisors formulate.

So in the coming days, in the aftermath of Friday’s terrible tragedy in Paris, let’s hope there is a flight to seriousness in the presidential race — one that will produce a lively debate over what should be done to confront and defeat the threat post by Islamist terrorism. The media should demand more of the presidential candidates, Democrat and Republican alike. Trump said last week that he knows “more about ISIS than the generals do.” He – and the other contenders — ought to be forced to prove it.

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