As the various candidates made the media rounds this week, there was one interview which jumped out at me. It was Carly Fiorina sitting down with Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC and taking one of the tougher questions facing every White House aspirant… if elected, what do you plan to do about ISIS? The answers we frequently get are disappointing at best – if there’s an answer given at all – but this time the reporter almost seemed shocked to have somebody lay out numerous elements of a plan in plain, clear language.
Before we get to the specifics, check out the brief video and the transcript.
Andrea Mitchell: “What would you do now against ISIS?”
Carly Fiorina: “I would do very specific things. First, instead of having a Camp David conference to talk our Arab allies into a bad deal with Iran, I would have had a Camp David conference to talk with our Arab allies about how we can support them to fight ISIS. Let me give you very specific examples. The Kurds have been asking us to arm them for three years – we still have not. The Jordanians have been asking us to provide them with bombs and material. We know King Abdullah of Jordan – I’ve known him for many years – he took the appropriate leadership steps when a Jordanian pilot was burned alive. He was here in this country asking us for bombs and material. We haven’t provided him with any of them. He’s now looking to China for that. The Egyptian president, a very brave and pious Muslim, who has said there is a cancer in the heart of Islam, has asked us to share intelligence. We are not. The Turks have asked us to help them topple Bashar al-Assad. We are not. There are a whole set of things we’ve been asked to do by our allies who know this is their fight, and we’re not doing any of them. So I would hold a Summit and talk with them about that.”
There are two things to touch on relating to this exchange. First there is the obvious matter of what the plan is. Honestly, I had some questions about it myself as I heard Fiorina explaining it. From the 10,000 foot level there’s nothing wrong here. Getting the actors in the affected region more involved on the side of the good guys (or the least bad guys that can be found in this case) is a necessity. Offering requested aide to any marginally trustworthy leaders who are willing to take sides against ISIS is a win for us. But we also can’t afford to be unrealistic in terms of just how active Jordan and Egypt will be. Their plates are rather full of terrorist badness at the moment and they’re just not going to be sending huge ranks of troops into Syria or Iraq no matter who is leading the charge. But they can still provide some help, and if we have the resources they need it’s worth looking at. As for the Turks… well, I’ve given up on them for the time being in terms of helping anyone but themselves. The Kurds, on the other hand, are ready to fight. In fact, they are already fighting, and could probably do a lot more if we supported them more completely. I think Fiorina is on the right track there.
The second element of this interview, though, could serve as the next installment of our series on This Is How You Do It. Too many candidates – particularly Hillary Clinton – fail to answer this question in a concrete fashion. They’re happy to cast blame on those who came before and run down the ideas of their competitors, but they rarely lay out any concrete steps for fear of being criticized or proven wrong later. This doesn’t do much to inspire confidence. Whether you agree with her plan or not, at least Fiorina was willing to answer the question and demonstrate that she’s been considering the crisis and is forming a plan for how to deal with it. And if you disagree with her, well… isn’t that the point of having a primary? We’re supposed to be getting all the plans out there so the voters can decide which ones sound best and toss their support to the candidates they agree with.
I’m still not signing on as a committed supporter of Carly, or any other candidate for that matter. But watching the way she deals with both the media and Hillary Clinton, I do like the cut of her jib. A few more interviews such as this from the rest of the field – or candidates on the debate stage showing the intestinal fortitude to put their specific plans forward for consideration – could make for a more productive political atmosphere. More like this please.