The announced topics for Monday night's presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (America’s Direction, Achieving Prosperity and Securing America) sound bland.
In the light of Ahmad Khan Rahami and his pressure-cooker bomb in New York City and the St. Cloud, Minn. stabber who shouted Allahu Akbar, Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal thinks the evening will turn into a debate about terror:
On whether Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Trump is better able to deal with the mass-murder compulsions of Islamic terrorists, opinion polls before Saturday essentially said Hillary is ahead by a point or two. You might expect that on so grave an issue, a former secretary of state and two-term U.S. senator would be ahead by more than a nose of someone she describes as totally unfit to be on the same stage with her.
But he is, and they’re tied, so the American people must be seeing something the conventional media wisdom can’t or won’t on terrorism.
A recurring campaign theme of this column has been that the celebrifying of our presidential candidates obscures the reality that we are not just electing one famous person. We will be voting into power an entire political party, which has consequences for the country’s political direction no matter what these candidates say or promise.
By that measure, there is a reason not to turn over the job of fighting global terrorism to the Democrats: They don’t want it.
The Democrats prefer to regard acts of terror as legal matters, while the Republicans regard them as hostile acts against the nation.
The Democrats refuse to use the term "Islamic terrorism" and one in a 2005 hearing on the Patriot Act called Guantanamo “the gulag of our times.” Vice presidential nominee Mike Pence, then a Republican congressman, called the comparison to a Soviet prison “anti-historical, irresponsible and the type of rhetoric that endangers American lives.” But the hesitance continues on the part of the Democrats:
Presumably, if instead we were being attacked by Martians, [President Obama and Clinton would] say any criticism of Martians was only alienating us from all the people on Mars. The problem is we aren’t getting killed by Martians or Peruvians or Finns but by men and women yelling “Allahu akbar!” That narrows the surveillance challenge, or should.
Virtually all Democratic politicians refuse to make this crucial distinction. For November’s voters, it should be a distinction with an important and vital difference.
In saying that Monday night's debate will be on terror, Henninger gives the moderator (Lester Holt of NBC) more credit than I do at this point. Let's hope my skepticism is wrong.
But I am seeing two possible paths for Holt: avoiding being too explicit about terror (securing America's future is plenty vague) and thus helping Mrs. Clinton, or getting down in the weeds of policy and thus trying to show that Mr. Trump is inadequate.
Trump will probably bring up whatever he wants to, however, and you can tell that the Clinton team is worried because they are already claiming that moderators tend to go easy on Trump because he is so ill-informed. The Trump team should be just as worried: Monday night will be the most important night of the campaign
Prove me wrong, Mr. Holt.