Paris Attacks, Refugee Crisis Change Scope of the Presidential Election


Nova Meurice

Politikid Podcast brings LH reporters voice on current political issues.

Sofie Lie, Online News Editor

The presidential race, which has, up until now, been largely driven by domestic issues, has taken a dramatic shift to focus on foreign policy.  The Syrian refugee crisis, a largely untouched topic in presidential debates, is now territory that must be crossed by all presidential hopefuls following the recent attacks on Paris. Navigating this uncharted territory, however, has been difficult for some candidates.

Some presidential hopefuls, after voicing their  views on the refugee crisis, have experienced downfall in the polls, specifically Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz.  Both GOP candidates have strayed from ideologies shared by the remaining Republican candidates, that is, general skepticism regarding the intent of the refugees.  Bush and Cruz have instead adopted a belief that is more similar to their Democratic counterparts: acceptance of refugees.  But, for Bush and Cruz, this acceptance has one condition: a Christian faith.  Bush has since come under scrutiny for his reluctance to accept Muslims, and his stances were deemed “un-American” by one Washington Post Opinion Writer.  Bush later failed to respond to a question regarding the method of authenticating Christianity while making a campaign stop in South Carolina, which only highlighted the scrutiny surrounding him.

GOP candidate Ben Carson, however, might be saving Bush from complete media speculation, as Carson is receiving a fair share of his own criticisms. But Carson hasn’t prompted skepticism because of his stances; rather, it is his lack of knowledge in foreign policy that has now been cast in the limelight. Carson, a former brain surgeon and one of two GOP candidates with little political experience, is against allowing Syrian refugees into the United States, as many other Republican candidates are, but his foreign policies stand out: they are virtually nonexistent. A recent FOX News Poll reflected Carson’s lack of awareness of foreign policy, and the downfall that resulted from it. And at a time in the election process that foreign awareness is so vital, Carson’s aides are aiming to better inform him of the situation in the Middle East to strengthen his stances on foreign policy and prevent further scrutiny.

And then, of course, there is Hillary Clinton, who has arguably the greatest advantage in the realm of foreign policy. Last month, Clinton was bombarded with 12 hours of scrutiny during the Benghazi hearings. However, the hearings did little to alter her image, it was, rather, her performance at the Democratic Debate, that did.  Clinton took the stage at the debate on November 14th, a day after the attacks on Paris. The debate, which was restructured to focus on foreign policy, should’ve given Clinton the opportunity to show superiority over opponent Bernie Sanders. But it didn’t. Clinton’s stances on foreign policy were overshadowed by her use of 9/11 to justify super PAC support and connections to Wall Street.  Her comment has become a topic of inquiry, and was called “silly” by Bernie Sanders.

Soon enough, the presidential election will shift its focus back to domestic issues, and when that happens, Ben Carson can safely forget everything about foreign policy, Jeb Bush (and Ted Cruz) can avoid claims of xenophobia, and Hillary Clinton will (hopefully) be seen as more than her debate gaffe. But until then, foreign policy will dictate poll numbers.