Leslie Loftis’s America Watch: Clinton or Trump – we turn our backs on the world

Last week, I discussed the domestic effects of the probable Trump loss. This week I will cover the foreign policy implications. First, yes, a loss is still likely. The reopening of the FBI investigation will not move the polls enough but more on that at the end.

The global effects were set when Trump became the presumptive nominee. Foreign policy might have gotten attention if Senators Rubio or Cruz had won the nomination. On the Democrats side, presidential hopeful and early dropout Jim Webb was the last gasp of the Kennedy Democrats. But a Trump v. Clinton race was always going to be an America First contest.

America is in an isolationist mood. We've got two oceans protecting us and our sense of duty to the world was all but destroyed back in the George W. Bush years when the media amplified America bashing. For almost a decade we heard little more than we destroyed all we touched and the world wanted us to get out and go home. We obliged.

To outsiders it might seem that the lack of foreign policy discussions in this election is an accidental omission. It is no accident. As a practical matter, policy in general is missing from the presidential election. News is about ratings, therefore, dirty laundry and sex bring the clicks and the dollars.

But there is also an idealistic objection. We have returned to a narrow view of national interest. A few pundits and heart wrenching pictures of war violence aside, the public is not interested in humanitarian wars, either. Those conflicts require remaining indefinitely to keep the peace or attempted nation building, and we have lost the desire for nation building. Elect one Nobel Laureate poseur and it is all undone.

Sometimes all the options are bad” is representative of the attitude among those who actually think about foreign policy. Some are working to restore our sense of responsibility, duty, or honour — take your pick of rationale — but that will be a long build and one not likely to get much air unless or until the US suffers another attack on home soil. (And no, apparently embassy soil doesn’t count.)

Our mood drove Bernie Sanders popularity on the left, and makes up much of the Trump appeal on the right.

The man’s slogan is Make America Great Again. It’s not an outward thinking campaign. Ann Coulter illustrated this well in the final debate, when the moderator was asking about Syria. “Can we get back to America?” Coulter tweeted. (It could have been one of hundreds of RT’s of a February primary debate tweet. Regardless, the sentiment is long running and stable.) A Trump foreign policy wants to pull up the drawbridges and bomb anything that might approach the walls.

A President Hillary Clinton will continue the habit of Democrats in the White House: stealthy and shallow expansion. Like JFK’s dispatch of military advisers to Vietnam that grew into that war after a disastrous meeting with the Soviet leader, Obama has us entangled in 5 quiet conflicts. These are actions of advisers and no fly zones, “doing just enough to lose slowly.”

Clinton would continue the Obama status quo she helped craft. And like her husband before her, she might bomb something to divert from domestic scandals, but political concerns will dominate her direction of the military.

The unspoken message to our allies: you are on your own. (And a whisper to our special relationship partner: that 2010 defence review was a terrible idea. The Foxes and Coughlins had it right. )

The October surprise 

Contrary to all the horserace headlines after the latest Clinton email news, October surprises don’t actually move polls much. Late October surprises come after millions have already voted. (Early voting is a scourge.) Clinton is now less likely to get her landslide, but Trump is still the underdog.

A Brexit-type surprise would still require a systemic polling failure. While that’s possible, the public seems to assume that a polling error would benefit the underdog. Maybe it is a psychological tic to avoid considering a mistake in favour of the leader. The easiest error in this race: have the polls accurately accounted for Trump’s collapse among women and Hispanics? I don’t think they have.

To add another twist, I don’t think the media has the right October surprise. Clinton’s email scandal is already part of voters’ analysis. Anyone who cares already knows she has lied about deleting emails. That isn’t news. If the emails contained proof of some malfeasance other than deletions, that would be an October surprise.

Leslie Loftis

  • Colkitto03

    Maybe the really big October surprise here is the million of envelopes that have been sent out containing really significant Obamacare hikes.
    Unfortunately for Hillary many of the worse hit are in battleground states.

    • Exactly. It’s getting relatively little coverage, but its the one people are talking about. And it’s personal. If Trump wins, it’ll be the Obamacare surprise that did it.

      • And I just noticed this piece lost the last two paragraphs for length. FB to twitter. Will tag you in a sec.

        • Colkitto03

          read it, spot on!

      • Colkitto03

        Its like a gift from God for him, of course it would have benefited any Republican nominee. It does make you think that if there had been another candidate with none of the sex stories, but with the Obamacare and E-mail scandals? It would have been a walkover. Someone like Kasich could have been looking at 350 electoral points.

        • Earthenware

          They would have found something on any R candidate. Look at all the fuss over Romney’s “47%” uncontroversial statement in 2012.

        • Any of the others–any–would have handed her a hat.

  • WFC
  • TheStoneMan

    “and the world wanted us to get out and go home. We obliged.” Really?

    What about Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, sub-Saharan Africa, the military bases around Europe, the Baltic, South Korea… Need I go on.

    You’re right – the world is fed up with America and its double speak. Look at Syria. Its fighting on both sides at the same time! It is against Isis but pro Saudi Arabia. How do you square that circle?

    • Note the bit about stealthy Democrats. JFK really set that trend.

    • yep, even Trumps comments about leaving NATO struck a chord with many. The rest are simply quasi-wars, less than we fought against France back in the 1790s. Their profitable, I suspect to some of the Cronies.

      Leslie below is exactly correct. Most of our people are fed up with the America bashing and have been since about 2005.

  • Tricia

    It’s definitely like Brexit. The people of the USA will speak. Voting for Trump is a protest vote against the establishment stitch up. Good luck USA.

  • therealguyfaux ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    In much the same way that Leicester City FC confounded all the experts and won the Premier League, on the heels of which, #Brexit, herewith, another seemingly unlikely event– the US now has the Chicago Cubs as baseball champions. Not a small few have been starting to draw comparisons between the “shy-UKIP” vote (as it were) which brought about one unexpected result and a possible “shy-Trump” vote that has been unexpressed. But for anyone to say “If Chicago Cubs can be 2016 champions, ANYTHING can happen and upset the apple cart!” would be glib in the extreme, but yet, Donald Trump even BEING the nominee was anything-can-happen enough, so we can somewhat see their point.

  • Preemptive comment on breaking news. (Last night, during the World Series final. As if anyone was watching news then.)
    Possible indictments against the Clinton Foundation in the works. (Fox, so grain of salt.) This will make a lot of noise, but even this wouldn’t change much. The polls would tighten, but all caveats above apply. Unless and until the purported “avalanche of evidence” comes out with evidence of pay to play, it isn’t new news. Not that it isn’t bad, but there isn’t enough time for the story to unfold before most of the country votes. Remember, early voting has been high for 2 weeks now. (Pennsylvania, bless them, allows for voters to change their votes. Insanity.) If there is something in the emails, then we are more likely to see a Nixon pattern in which the scandal doesn’t bloom until after the election. Note for the future, Obama can pardon Clinton, but that wouldn’t prevent impeachment charges.
    The real October surprise is the Obamacare plan cancellations and hikes. (See @disqus_9NVY3P3QI7:disqus comment below.)

    • Earthenware

      Leslie, can you help with some procedural questions please?

      If Obama pardons her, can he only pardon her for things with which she is charged at the time of the pardon or can he can he immunise her from future charges with a sort of “pardon ad infinitum”?

      If she is elected (I still think she won’t be), would she be able to pardon herself? Or would it be more likely that she would just tell her AG to reject any recommendations for charges from the FBI?

      In the event that the rumours about what the NYPD found on Weiner’s laptop are true, could Obama still pardon her? Is there a limit to the severity of the charges for which he may issue a pardon?

      • Out and about with wonky connection. So a cheat: http://www.heritage.org/constitution#!/articles/2/essays/89/pardon-power

        It won’t load for me at moment, so short answers in case. Only works on federal criminal acts already committed. Impeachment not included by Const language. No prohibition against pardoning self, but that unlikely to stand. Nixon considered and rejected.

        • Another Nixon comparison. The pardon poisoned Ford’s presidency, would this carry over to Hillary’s if Obama did? I don’t know, but it’s pretty much ruined, I suspect, in any case, even the Democrats don’t seem very enthused, kind of going through the motions. Health news (likely Wikileaks) would look to me like the most likely to really change things. I too agree it’s going to take more than the email, and time is getting very short. I want to believe in shy Trump voters, but well, I was very wrong in 2012.

          There’s something like 20 states (or so I read) where one can change their early vote. Early voting benefits only the campaigns – it needs to end.

          • Is it 20? Goodness. What a logistical nightmare!

          • Well, today I read eight, and the deadline has passed in four of those, and at least some it’s only applicable to absentee ballot. Hard to see how you change your mind (officially) if you’re absent! In any case, it’s a idiotic idea that needs to end.

    • Colkitto03

      You are right. The possible indictments may suppress her vote, and enthuse his, but I don’t think it is a decisive thing with what time there is left.

  • Matt

    What bothers me is the unprecedented campaigning by Obama? It’s unheard of in modern times and is worrying.

    Is it realy fair and democratic for the outgoing president to spend 2-3 days a week attempting a coronation?

    US journalists have raised eyebrows, has anyone here or are they too busy campaigning as well?

    • Colkitto03

      I think Obama will desperately be trying to build a firewall between himself and Hillary. if Trump wins, maintaining that firewall becomes a lot more difficult. better for him that she wins and then fails (or is indicted) over the next year.

  • weirdvisions

    Hillary gave the US electorate Project Grope and yesterday, despite her best efforts to smear Trump, he began pulling ahead in the polls. Today we get burned churches, grafitti and Project KKK.

    I smell desperation.

  • Jolly Roger

    The USA’s ‘special relationship partner’? Isn’t that Saudi Arabia?

  • Both candidates are an embarrassment to the country, as is the two-party system that has turned the American people into a beach ball to be kicked from right to left.