Israel Reconfigures the Political Landscape of the U.S. Presidential Election
In the wake of the Hamas massacre on October 7, the focus of the U.S. presidential election has shifted to the critical issue of national security. This significant development has the potential to reshape the landscape of presidential candidates.
Previously, foreign policy debates on the Republican side primarily revolved around issues like China, Ukraine, and border security. However, the tragic events involving Hamas, including the killing of civilians and the taking of hostages, possibly including Americans, have propelled global security concerns to the forefront of the presidential agenda.
President Joe Biden’s visit to the Israeli war zone and his resolute commitment to the U.S. ally underscored the gravity of the situation.
The support for Rep. Jim Jordan as House Speaker became closely tied to the imperative to pass aid bills for Israel and Ukraine.
Furthermore, former President Donald Trump, who initially posted divisive statements regarding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and expressed admiration for Hezbollah, later redirected attention to his foreign policy accomplishments.
Following a single weekend in October, the national security agenda has become crowded with crises: an existential threat to Israel, Iran’s exploitation of turmoil in the Middle East, the future of Taiwan, and Russia’s conflict with Ukraine on the borders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Meanwhile, the U.S. southern border remains a persistent challenge.
This situation raises two critical questions:
- Which presidential candidate is equipped for and qualified to address this new challenge?
- Which political party is willing to allocate the necessary resources to enable the United States to confront these challenges effectively?
The answer to the second question seems clear. While the Democratic foreign policy establishment is not as far left as the party’s dominant wing, the Democrats’ priorities in terms of domestic spending no longer emphasize a robust national defense. A Democratic president with control of one congressional chamber is likely to maintain flat or even reduced defense spending in real terms, which presents risks in the current security environment.
The United States has fallen below the required level of readiness in multiple areas, including weapons systems, troop levels, naval and aerial assets, training rotations, and the aging nuclear deterrent. Adversaries are no longer contemplating their strategies; they are actively seeking to exploit U.S. security vulnerabilities, given the situation in the Middle East.
It’s a well-worn cliché, but the United States indeed requires strong leadership in its next president, and the recent events in the Middle East have injected new energy into the Republican presidential contest.
Regarding the Democratic side, their legal actions against former President Trump initially appeared to favor him in the nomination race. However, it’s uncertain whether Mr. Trump is the right person to lead the country through the upcoming challenges. While he established a credible foreign policy, his inconsistency and recent comments about Israel have raised concerns.
The candidates who may benefit from the Israeli crisis and its broader implications are Nikki Haley and Mike Pence, both of whom possess credible foreign policy experience.
The global political landscape has undergone significant changes during this campaign. The next U.S. president should be able to articulate the nation’s national security requirements in detail, including the necessary trade-offs, such as addressing long-term entitlement spending.
Nikki Haley has demonstrated her ability to do so, and if former Vice President Pence wishes to leverage his experience and advocate for a Reaganite foreign policy, the time is opportune.
A recent ABC/Ipsos poll, conducted after the Hamas massacre, indicated that only 41% of the public supported Mr. Biden’s handling of the crisis, reflecting a loss of confidence in his competence. The impact of this crisis on President Biden’s standing remains to be seen.
In times of national security crises, leadership requires experience, focus, and stamina. Former chess champion Garry Kasparov even suggested the idea of President Biden ceding the Democratic nomination to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, a retired four-star Army general. While this might be improbable, as of October 7, it would present a challenge for Republicans. There is still time for GOP voters to assess the qualities required in a president for the current and foreseeable future.