We have often stressed how critical national security is to Christian conservatives and therefore how important it will be in the GOP presidential primaries in 2016. More proof of that comes in an op-ed by three prominent Christian conservative leaders.
Joel C. Rosenberg, a former senior adviser on two U.S. presidential campaigns, Penny Nance, CEO and President of Concerned Women for America, and Ralph Reed, the founder and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, write in the Christian Post: “Abroad, Americans see respect for our country evaporating. Our enemies don’t fear us. Our friends don’t trust us. Americans are deeply concerned about the rising threats from Russia, China and Radical Islam, as well as a porous — and dangerous — southern border. With a shrinking military and a weak and indecisive president in the White House, Americans see our enemies moving aggressively into a vacuum of Washington’s own making, putting our own security and that of our friends and allies in grave danger.”
It is noteworthy that two of their seven criteria for picking a president concern foreign policy:
NATIONAL SECURITY — Does the candidate have demonstrated wisdom and proven experience on defense and foreign policy issues? What does he or she believe constitutes America’s most vital national interests, those essential to protect and defend? Does he or she truly believe in a policy of “Peace Through Strength” and have a credible plan to rebuild the military, and a plan to protect our borders and national sovereignty? Does he or she have a solid team of qualified, seasoned advisors, especially on matters related to the defense, the Middle East, Russia, Asia, and energy? . . .
ISRAEL AND RADICAL ISLAM — Does the candidate have a clear and coherent view of U.S. vital interests in the Middle East, including a demonstrated, consistent, long-standing support for Israel and a solid understanding of why Israel matters to the U.S.? Does the candidate have a clear understanding of the urgency of the threats posed by Iran, ISIS, and Radical Islam more broadly, and a serious approach towards dealing with such threats? Does he or she have proven wisdom and experience in dealing with the Middle East issues, or is the candidate too new to the foreign policy arena?
The wording for the last criteria is telling and bears emphasis. They don’t want someone who has suddenly come up with an acceptable position on Israel in time for the presidential race. They want someone with “demonstrated, consistent, long-standing support for Israel.” It is not enough to understand threats; a viable candidate must have a “serious approach” to addressing them (no, for example, we don’t win over dictators by trade or incur goodwill by shutting down Gitmo) and “proven wisdom and experience” on the Middle East. A candidate “too new” to foreign policy need not apply.
Let me translate that into some specific terms (my words, not theirs):
If you have bounced around on whether the Islamic State is a serious threat or not, you’re in trouble with these people.
If you want to cut the military or can’t decide if we need more spending on defense, you are going to face a skeptical crowd.
If you think we can live with a nuclear Iran, forget about it.
Are you a Johnny-come-lately in the army of pro-Israel Americans? You’re in for a rough ride.
If you want to dismantle proven anti-terror tools, you better have a really good reason.
If you haven’t cracked a briefing book by now, let alone held a national security position, you will likely flop.
And if you have yet to assemble a sophisticated national security team it may be too late.
The trio is smart, I think, to set forth these criteria. There is no one road to becoming an effective commander in chief, although some executive experience is a big help. (Ronald Reagan was a governor. Dwight D. Eisenhower was a general. George H.W. Bush was an ambassador, CIA director and vice president.) But what matters is the candidate’s depth of understanding, consistency of thought,world view and experience.
Leaders in the value voters community like Rosenberg, Nance and Reed are serious in their foreign policy views and will be exacting in their examination of candidates. No one is going to coast by on talking points or charm.