Ready for the World Edition
As Democratic adviser James Carville says, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Yes, presidential elections tend to focus on -- and be determined by -- economic issues. Except in the middle of a hot war, foreign policy is secondary. But 9/11, the Islamic State group and the digitally driven interdependence of the world may change that in 2016. And foreign policy issues can always be a trap for candidates.
In 1999, when George W. Bush was first running for president, a local TV reporter in Boston asked him to name the leaders of hot spots in the news at the time: India, Pakistan, Taiwan and Chechnya. The governor of Texas at the time, and not much of a world traveler or student of history, Bush went 1 for 4. It didn’t help his image.
Sixteen years later, Hillary Clinton doesn’t have that particular Bush problem. Ms. Goody Two-shoes visited 112 countries and traveled nearly a million miles in her four years as secretary of state, and probably can still name the leaders of all 112. So as Trail to the Chief surveys the world knowledge of those in the 2016 field, we are leaving Clinton off the list because she is a professional -- and NOT, by the way, because her foreign policy background is necessarily a blessing: Her record in office is under attack by Republicans.
Here’s a list, in descending order, of who so far has been able to drop some knowledge about the world and profit politically from doing so -- and who is dangerously in the dark and getting no points.
|1||RAND PAULHe rose to prominence and is still defined by defiance of the neocon worldview. That may not get him the nomination, let alone the White House, but it has made him someone with whom everyone will have to contend.||Republican|
|2||LINDSEY GRAHAMHis claim to fame is his devotion to the neocon worldview -- the high-test stuff -- and it is the whole platform. That's it.||Republican|
|3||MARCO RUBIOBy birth and by choice, he’s set out to be a foreign policy guy. But he hasn't always stepped right: He was for immigration reform before he wasn't -- a crucial ceding of what should have been his territory.||Republican|
|4||JEB BUSHAlthough he botched the Iraq question big time, he has the pedigree of his dad (and the albatross of his brother).||Republican|
|5||BERNIE SANDERSHe was consistently against Iraq long before anyone else. He also loves Scandinavia. Perhaps he could be the Dems’ Rand Paul.||Democrat|
|6||TED CRUZCruz would make a perfect foreign minister of the Republic of Texas with Kinky Friedman as veep.||Republican|
|7||BEN CARSONCarson spent his life becoming something useful -- one of the best neurosurgeons in the world -- so he will get a pass on not being up to speed on foreign affairs for quite a while. Eventually, however, he will have to know who runs Pakistan.||Republican|
|8||MARTIN O'MALLEYHe has donor ties to the U.S. ambassador to the U.K. and an excess of Irish roots, so he would be great if war breaks out in Belfast again -- we guess?||Democrat|
|9||RICK SANTORUMWe turn the mic over to Santorum fan Jason Linkins: “He’ll be quick to spar with Rand Paul, packs a bigger wallop than Lindsey Graham and, as a Pittsburgh guy, is good at tying trade and lost jobs to foreign policy.”||Republican|
|10||MIKE HUCKABEEGoing to Israel and getting paid to lead tours there doesn't count as foreign policy experience.||Republican|
|11||SCOTT WALKEREven President Barack Obama, who generally disdains even admitting that GOP candidates exist, went out of his way to troll Walker for his lack of knowledge in this realm. Clearly, Walker just needs to ride his Harley on the Autobahn.||Republican|
|12||CHRIS CHRISTIEOh, come on now. Christie has had a difficult time just establishing diplomatic relationships with New York.||Republican|
Candidate Photos: Getty, Associated Press