Marco Rubio and Scott Walker, both mired in single digits in recent polling, will try to gain traction on foreign policy in dueling speeches Friday. Both will accuse the Obama administration of weakness in the face of threats, but they'll focus on different parts of the world to do it.
Rubio's target is China, a hot topic in the wake of that nation's market collapse. At 11:30 am, he'll again accuse Obama of being a modern-day Neville Chamberlain, bent on appeasing an enemy. His remarks are previewed in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal:
President Obama has continued to appease China’s leaders despite their mounting aggression. In addition to his insufficient responses to economic and national-security concerns, he has ignored the Chinese government’s mass roundups of human-rights advocates, oppression of religious minorities, detention of political dissidents, ever-tightening controls on the Internet, and numerous other human-rights violations. He has hoped that being more friendly with China will make it more responsible. It hasn’t worked.
But the specifics of Rubio's plan for dealing with China are strikingly similar to what the administration has done or wants to do:
- Increase US defense spending by reversing sequestration for the Pentagon and adding an unspecified amount. Obama would also like to reverse sequestration for defense programs, but only if that's also done for domestic programs.
- Implement the Trans-Pacific Partnership that Obama is negotiating.
- Instruct US diplomats to raise human rights in conversations with Chinese counterparts, impose visa bans on Chinese officials who violate human rights standards, and encourage access to information for Chinese citizens. The Obama administration, which was less vocal about human rights in China early in its tenure and which struck a visa deal with Beijing a few years ago, has become much more openly critical of the human rights situation there over time.
Rubio's op-ed acknowledges the role China plays in the American economy but does little to demonstrate a deep understanding of that relationship or explain how he would alter it.
Walker's team gave a tease of his speech late Thursday night, and Walker will say that he has a plan for keeping Americans safe from "the threats of radical Islamic terrorism." We'll have to wait until his speech at the Citadel at 12:15 pm to get the details of that plan. But the message is simple: Obama and Hillary Clinton don't appreciate the threats of ISIS and Iran.
Confronted by these two forms of evil, President Obama and Hillary Clinton seem to believe they can sit on the sidelines, hoping Iran will defeat ISIS for them. They fail to realize that, in the prevailing anarchy, the two sides feed off of each other, growing stronger at the expense of our Sunni and Shia allies trapped in the middle.
Over the last seven years, we have seen far too much of this delusion and wishful thinking. To believe that a stable and lasting Middle East can be built by working with Iran, any more than by working with ISIS, isn’t statesmanship. It’s pure fantasy.
Bottom line: These candidates are competing with each other for small fractions of the Republican electorate, and they're doing it on a topic — foreign policy — that is less likely to be the focal point of the 2016 election than jobs and the economy.
Here are 9 more things to know to start the day.
1) Clinton used the "T" word to describe GOP views on women's health
This is one of those lines of attack that will be remembered throughout the campaign because of how charged it is. Clinton's team says she didn't call Republican candidates terrorists, but it's pretty clear she drew a parallel between the GOP presidential candidates' views on women's health and those of terrorist organizations at an event in Ohio Thursday.
Marco Rubio brags about wanting to deny victims of rape and incest access to health care, to an abortion. Jeb Bush says Planned Parenthood shouldn’t get a penny. Your governor right here in Ohio banned state funding for some rape crisis centers because they sometimes refer women to other health facilities that do provide abortions. I would like these Republican candidates to look a mom in the eye who caught her breast cancer early because she was able to get a screening for cancer or the teenager who didn’t get pregnant because she had access to contraception or anyone who’s ever been protected by an HIV test. Now, extreme views about women, we expect that from some of the terrorist groups. We expect that from people who don’t want to live in the modern world. But it’s a little hard to take coming from Republicans who want to be the president of the United States, yet they espouse out-of-date and out-of-touch policies. They are dead wrong for 21st century America. We’re going forward, we’re not going back.
2) Democratic insiders think Biden won't run...
Every so often, Politico takes the temperature of leading political insiders in Iowa and New Hampshire to get a feel for how things look in the early caucus and primary states. Today's topic: Will Joe Biden run?
3) ...but Clinton isn't taking any chances
Clinton and her allies may say that it's Biden's decision to make and that they would welcome him into the race, but their actions suggest they'd like to make that decision for him and keep him on the outside, according to Ken Thomas and Lisa Lerer of the Associated Press:
Donors who have publicly expressed support for a Biden run have been contacted by the Clinton team, according to donors and Democratic strategists who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the private conversations. Even Clinton herself has made a few calls, they said, to express her disappointment.
While Clinton and her team speak warmly of Biden in public, they have taken steps to show their dominance over the party's establishment and President Barack Obama's political infrastructure in hopes of quietly discouraging the vice president from entering the race.
4) Trump may sign pledge to back Republican nominee
Jason Horowitz of the New York Times writes on a narrow matter with huge implications for Donald Trump's relationship with the Republican Party. Trump is considering signing a pledge the South Carolina GOP requires for participation in the state's primary: Under it, Trump would promise to support the eventual Republican nominee.
"Mr. Trump, the only one of 10 Republican candidates in a Fox News debate this month who refused to rule out a third-party bid, said that he expected his showing in polls to "go up 10 or 15 percent" if he signs the pledge. He added that if he did sign but lost the nomination, he would not run as an independent, a concern among many Republicans.
5) Brothers in arms: Trump and Cruz
Trump will join hands with Republican nomination rival Ted Cruz at a rally opposing the nuclear nonproliferation deal with Iran on September 9 at the Capitol. Here are the Hill's Julian Hattem and Kristina Wong:
Trump, the clear front-runner in the GOP primary, has refrained from launching his harshest barbs at Cruz, and the Texas senator has likewise declined to join in the attacks against Trump that have become common among many of their Republican rivals. Instead, Cruz has said he is "grateful" for Trump’s focus on immigration despite the controversial nature of his comments.
6) There's something happening here
Peggy Noonan, the columnist and former Reagan speechwriter, observes tectonic shifts under the American political landscape that have brought The Donald to the high ground in the GOP race. Here's a snippet of her column in the Wall Street Journal:
One is the deepening estrangement between the elites and the non-elites in America. This is the area in which Trumpism flourishes. ...
Second, Mr. Trump’s support is not limited to Republicans, not by any means.
Third, the traditional mediating or guiding institutions within the Republican universe—its establishment, respected voices in conservative media, sober-minded state party officials—have little to no impact on Mr. Trump’s rise.
7) There's one very anti-establishment political figure who isn't ready to endorse Trump: David Duke
Daily Beast's Gideon Resnick talked to the former Ku Klux Klansman and Louisiana gubernatorial candidate about Trump, and finds they're not quite sympatico:
Contrary to previous reports, the former Ku Klux Klan leader was adamant in a conversation with The Daily Beast that he has yet to throw his support behind Donald Trump for president, despite calling the billionaire "the best of the lot" on his radio program.
Duke, who first asked whether I was Jewish to assess my level of objectivity before answering my questions, said he thinks Trump’s vow to address the cause of illegal immigration is vital to the country’s survival but wonders whether he is trustworthy, especially given his support of Israel.
8) The one man getting specific on gun control after Virginia shootings
The Republican candidates weren't going to call for new gun control measures after the murders of two journalists in Virginia this week. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has been an advocate for certain gun rights for much of his career, and Hillary Clinton, who generally favors stricter gun control laws, has kept her response to a general call for tightening restrictions on firearms. Her campaign did not respond to a request for a list of specific proposals she endorses. But Martin O'Malley, the former Maryland governor, says he would take his record as a gun control advocate in Annapolis to the White House. Here's what he wrote in an email to supporters Thursday:
If elected President, I will fight for the same kind of legislation I got passed in Maryland: a national assault weapons ban; stricter background checks with databases that are actually connected and open for law enforcement to share information; efforts to reduce straw-buying, like fingerprint requirements.
9) Maybe tone matters
Bloomberg's Melinda Henneberger writes that Clinton's response to the shootings showed an authenticity she's struggled to convey on the campaign trail:
What she said was not so different from what President Obama has said on any number of occasions. To simply focus on her words, though—that "I believe we are smart enough, we are compassionate enough" to find a way to protect the Second Amendment while also lowering the body count of the status quo—doesn’t begin to do the moment justice. Because it really wasn’t what she said, but how she said it, with what came across as honest heartbreak.