Americans witnessed the Democratic Party on display last week with scant attention paid to national security and foreign policy. Though some in the media focused their attention on the shouting during the moment of silence for law enforcement, and the backs being turned on Gen. John Allen, the real story is what was said and not said concerning international affairs. If America’s pastime is still baseball, we witnessed a Pete Rose-level lie, a George McBride-style (.218 lifetime batting average) at bat, and a foul as grim as the curse of the Billy Goat.
The lie: the 2016 Democratic platform reads in part like a Reaganesque manifesto. It advocates bold American leadership, strength and military primacy. In a statement so audacious in its falsehood, the platform claims, “We cannot walk away from our position of global leadership and allow other countries to make decisions about our lives, jobs, and safety.” Thus, the architects of leading from behind now wish the American people to suddenly believe that they favor a principled and robust use of American power. One hesitates to discuss Nazi propaganda techniques, but if there ever was a big lie this election season, here it is. The laundry list of fabrications is immense: claiming Democrats defeated terrorism, pushed for reform in Cuba before normalization, supported both a strong defense budget and keeping faith with veterans, and were proactive in international relations.
The platform is bolder when talking about the future: implying that what is stopping ISIS’ defeat is the Authorization of the Use of Military Force, promising to end Bashar Assad’s rule of Syria and forge a secure future for Afghanistan, pledging military action if Iran attempts a nuclear breakout and to stand up to Russian aggression, and claiming that both NATO and Israel are vital to the United States.
This would all be an outstanding blueprint for foreign policy if anything remotely resembled this during the Bill Clinton era with Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright as secretary of State, or the Obama years when Hillary ran State. If Bill Clinton took a holiday from history, Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton turned the holiday into a rout.
The strike: If the lie was the platform, the strike was Mr. Obama’s speech. There was no mention of Israel, Russia or Ukraine. Some may think the oratory was well done, but the president made almost no attempt to address the grave national security threats the country faces. He could not list a single major foreign policy accomplishment that related to Mrs. Clinton except that they “pounded [ISIS] without mercy,” killed Osama bin Laden, brought troops home, and opened up Cuba. The first is untrue, the second is due to President George W. Bush, and the remaining two are a disaster — swing, batter, batter, swing.
The foul: Hillary’s time to shine illustrated the vacuum in the area that the platform contends is her great strength. She claimed the experience of steady leadership and a strategy to defeat ISIS — a strategy that does not deviate one notch from Mr. Obama’s. She could not point to a single accomplishment in her one role as an executive, and that executive position was in foreign policy. The emerging achievement is her advocacy of the Iran deal, which is the only context when Israel is mentioned, and nothing said about Ukraine. The foul ball is an attempt to dress up the worst tenure as secretary of State in possibly a century.
If the best attempt by the Democrats is to steal the foreign policy of Ronald Reagan and cynically claim it is their own — aside from it being an act of Mephistophelian magnitude — is a breach of the public trust on a colossal scale.
• Lamont Colucci, a former diplomat with the U.S. Department of State, is an associate professor of politics and government at Ripon College.