Several candidates—Cruz, Carson, and earlier Jindal—made the case that the Obama administration’s political correctness gets in the way of calling the enemy by its true name of radical Islam. That’s true, but at this advanced stage of an extremely dangerous crisis, the voters deserve more. Carson even took the tack of saying we “shouldn’t broadcast” our plans, which sounded an awful lot like an excuse for not revealing that he doesn’t have a plan. Cruz offered General Martin Dempsey, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs, some well deserved criticism for saying that there is no military solution to the problem of the Islamic State, and then reminded viewers about some decent proposals he had made in the Senate regarding the threat of radicalized Americans returning from the battlefield. But he concluded with nothing but more tough, empty talk about IS fighters signing their own death warrants.
An exception to this rule, as expected, was Lindsey Graham, who took the opportunity in the second string to be specific, calling explicitly for the U.S. to be part of a coalition to go after IS on the ground in Syria. It would have been a more effective pitch if he didn’t seem so deeply uncomfortable on the stage, swaying uncomfortably from side to side, nervously checking his notes, and looking as though he had just heard about a death in the family.