Roger L. Simon

Make the Reagan Library Debate an Audition for Commander-in-Chief

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Forget everything else — the economy, deteriorating race relations, who signs marriage certificates in Kentucky, even immigration (though it’s related) — what we are auditioning in the 2016 presidential race is the next commander-in-chief of the U.S. military, someone we need more urgently than at any time since World War II.

With the entire Middle East a charnel house for fanatics, hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, streaming from the Levant into Europe and soon the USA, with our country about to sign a nuclear pact with Iran that is even more disgraceful than Munich,  the incumbent, acting almost by himself, has been able to upend the Pax Americana that has preserved the global community since 1945.  Other considerations are not just secondary, they’re quaternary or quinary.

By coincidence, the second Republican candidates’ debate sponsored by CNN and Salem Radio takes place September 16, just one day before the supposed deadline for the Senate to decide on the Iran deal.  I say supposed because, as Andrew McCarthy  has noted, the deadline is as phony as the deal. The original terms of the Corker law — that all documents concerning the deal be produced to Congress within five days — was never adhered to by the administration. The review process never started legally, but everyone’s acting as if it did.  It’s all a charade with Democratic senators playing the role of loyal court eunuchs.  That party has gone from JFK’s Profiles in Courage to Profiles in Cowardice.

Moreover, no one appears to know what’s really in the deal, considering there are side agreements known only to the IAEA (the UN’s nuclear watchdog) and Iran that apparently allow the Islamic Republic to police its own military sites and guarantee the regime some protection against Israel. Our proclaimed perquisites like “anytime, anywhere inspections” and “no enrichment of uranium” appear not even to have made it into the discussion. This isn’t a deal, it’s insanity.  (Of course not to the Iranians.  They get to collect $150 billion without passing “Go” in the greatest Monopoly game of all time.  Only they’re not going to be using the money to build hotels on Boardwalk.  They’re going to use it to build missiles and kill people.)

Usually many subjects are discussed at these debates. But time’s a-wasting.  The panelists should be asking the candidates what they would do about the international situation before it deteriorates beyond recognition.

My friend Hugh Hewitt, one of the panelists for the coming debate, made a start the other day by asking Donald Trump questions about terrorism.  Although this wasn’t The Donald’s most shining hour (he doesn’t know the difference between Hamas and Hezbollah — where’s he been?), with respect, I’m not certain Hugh took the right tack.  Things are more serious than a “gotcha” test now.  I’m not sure it matters how many terrorists or ayatollahs we can name. (If that were the case, I’d run myself.  I’ve been obsessed for years and can name more, I’m willing to bet, than most candidates or State Department people.)

What matters is what the candidates would do about the global crisis, how they would address it.  To find that out, the panelists (including Jake Tapper, Dana Bash and Hugh) should take a different approach on September 16.  Treat the event more like an audition than a debate.  That is unlikely to happen, of course.  But debates with eleven people are silly in the first place.  They’re not real debates.  But auditions with larger numbers can occur.  You can drill down with each person to the extent necessary to see if they are the best one for the part, in this case commander-in-chief.  That is how auditions work.

But even if the panelists don’t approach it that way, we in the audience can.  We can examine each of the people as if we were watching that audition.  I know I will — and I will be at the Reagan Library with others from the PJ team.  But unlike Bill O’Reilly, we will NOT be “looking out for you.”  You — as good conservatives and libertarians — will be looking out for yourselves.

(Artwork created using multiple AP and Shutterstock.com images.)