- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The fourth and final debate tonight between the Republican and Democratic tickets is supposed to focus exclusively on domestic policy issues.

It is in the nature of today’s wartime America, however, that myriad challenges we face know no borders. The next president’s approach to three “domestic” problems will do much to shape the nation’s future.

Consequently, before Americans vote, they need to know where President Bush and Sen. John Kerry stand. And the last debate is perhaps the best remaining vehicle for clarifying the choice we face.

• Immigration: In the past, both Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry have pandered to radical Latino groups by offering one variation or another on amnesty for illegal aliens. The two campaigns have, however, lately confronted a hard political reality: Such positions may or may not garner substantial votes from these agitators. But they risk alienating large numbers of American voters who intuitively understand that rewarding those who violate our laws only encourages more to do so.

These concerns are only heightened by mounting evidence that among those illegally transiting our porous borders are potential terrorists — often aided by the same “coyotes” who systematically enable work-seeking and drug-running illegal aliens to get into this country. This grim prospect recently prompted the House of Representatives to include several important immigration-related provisions in its version of the intelligence reform legislation.

Such political realities have caused both campaigns to lower the profile of their immigration planks. We nonetheless need to know before Nov. 2 if the candidates support or oppose the House-backed efforts to make it easier to document and deport illegal aliens and other immigration reforms needed for homeland security and law-abiding economic activity.

• Predatory Chinese trade practices: Communist China is emerging as what is euphemistically called a “strategic peer competitor” to the United States. It is doing so, in no small measure, thanks on one hand to what amounts to a fascistic form of capitalism managed, directed or at least coordinated by the regime in Beijing and its favored “princelings.” The other major contributor is the gigabillions of foreign investment and trade earnings flowing to China due to the artificially low value of its currency, uncompetitive wage rates and export subsidies.

Apart from the challenger’s demagogic complaint about “outsourcing” jobs, neither campaign has addressed the domestic economic and strategic implications associated with the systematic take-down of the U.S. industrial base, often involving its literal relocation to China. The U.S. is becoming increasingly dependent on China for manufactured goods, for financing its debt, for transit through the Panama Canal and for strategic minerals. (While no one is looking, a Chinese state-owned company is trying to buy one of the most important suppliers of such minerals, Noranda Inc. of Canada). China makes no secret of its desire to supplant the United States in Asia — and beyond. Therefore, this growing U.S. dependency is a public policy issue, domestic as well as foreign, of the first order. We need to know where the candidates stand.

• Muslim outreach: Arguably, one of the most critical decisions facing the next president will be how to counteract the ascendancy within Muslim communities — in the United States and abroad — of radical, intolerant and anti-American jihadists, commonly called Islamists.

The issue is receiving considerable attention at the moment in the swing state of Florida. There, a Bush protege, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez, is battling former Florida State University President Betty Castor for retiring Sen. Bob Graham’s seat. The two candidates are hammering each other over Sami al-Arian, who was one of the nation’s most prominent Muslim “activists” prior to his arrest on dozens of charges of ties to terrorism.

Betty Castor is rightly accused of running interference for al-Arian when he was a professor at her university, helping him hide his jihadist proselytizing and organizing behind the cloak of academic freedom. Mr. Martinez denies his opponent’s accusations he was involved in enlisting the controversial al-Arian as part of the Bush 2000 campaign’s Florida operation.

It is, unfortunately, unclear if either of these campaigns — or their presidential counterparts — has learned the real lesson: The best organized, most disciplined and most visible self-described Muslim-American “leaders” tend to be Islamists, or at least their sympathizers. Mr. Kerry has been endorsed by one such group, the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

Whether acknowledged or not, the domestic as well as national security agenda will be shaped by whether and how candidates for all public offices try to reach out to and empower our natural allies in the war against Islamofascism — genuinely moderate Muslims — while eschewing those who are not.

These are hardly the only issues a domestic-oriented presidential debate should address. It would be a serious mistake, however, if questions posed to the candidates ignored these future-shaping factors on the grounds that such topics as health care, education and Social Security are deemed the exclusive grist for the last debate’s domestic policy mill.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is the president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.

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