CBS DEMOCRATIC DEBATE: Foreign Policy Suddenly Got A Lot More Important

I won’t lie, I had totally forgotten there was going to be a Democratic debate on Saturday.  In my mind, the biggest story of the weekend would be Ronda “Rowdy” Rousey being fed a new victim at UFC 193 and I was looking forward to a first-round victory via manslaughter.  That never happened, which came as a complete and utter shock to me and everyone else in the world with the possible exception of Holly Holm, who as the world’s best female boxer likely realized long before the rest of us that even a monster is vulnerable to being punched in the fucking face two-dozen times.  Shoulda touched those gloves, Ronda!

But Holm sending Rousey to the hospital to have her lip stitched back together obviously wasn’t the biggest news of the weekend, and neither was the CBS Democratic Debate.  It was Friday night when I first started hearing about trouble in Paris; a friend living there suddenly “checked in as safe” via Facebook and before I knew it I was seeing reports of a terror attack that left over a hundred dead, a number that seemed impossibly high (but later proved, sadly, to be true).  I realized with a shock that a young lady with whom I’m very close is currently vacationing in Paris and living near the Père Lachaise Cemetery, located barely a kilometer away from where the madness had occurred.  She was unhurt, thankfully, but it reminded me of a lesson I thought I had learned long ago back when I was waiting tables at the world’s worst Macaroni Grill. 

One afternoon I took a smoke break out back where we keep all the wood for the wood-burning pizza oven, and when I finished my Newport I tossed it casually over my shoulder, barely noticing out of the corner of my eye that the butt had landed on a garbage sack.  “Eh, what’re the odds?” I thought to myself.  Sure, we used giant reams of white paper for tablecloths, and that paper tablecloth was always balled up and dumped in the garbage after clearing a table, which meant that at least one-third of any given garbage sack was comprised of paper that had been soaked in grease and oil, but since I’d already walked back inside it appeared the decision had been made to ignore it.  Oh well!  Cut to ten minutes later when I noticed a burning smell in the back hallway and went outside to investigate, opening the safety door to discover nothing but great leaping flames and thick, choking black smoke.  I quickly shut the door and turned away.  Maybe…maybe that was a hallucination.  Oh god, oh Jesus god, I prayed, please let that just be some residual effect of whatever filthy chemicals I had pumped into myself the night before.  That happens, right?  So I opened the door again and discovered that it wasn’t an illusion, that I really did just set the damn restaurant on fire. 

The brighter among you may see a similarity to this story and that of the Daesh cutthroats that attacked Paris over the weekend.  Back in 2004 someone threw a cigarette butt onto a pile of what was essentially greasy paper and rags sitting next to a great goddamn pile of wood, saying “eh, what’s the worst that could happen” without actually thinking of what could happen.  More on that later.

In the hours after the attack, when no one had a lot of information but a lot of wild guesses, I was glued to the television when I saw not one but two foreign intelligence experts claim that ISIS was likely not behind the attack, that it displayed far more organization and experience than anyone was currently crediting ISIS with.  A more likely suspect was Al Qaeda. 

“But what if it is ISIS?” the reporter asked. 

“Then that would be very bad news, because it would mean we’ve all seriously underestimated their capabilities,” the expert answered soberly.  Later, when ISIS claimed responsibility and everyone took their word for it, I imagine a record number of people suddenly and simultaneously did the Simpsons collar-pull bit. 

collar pull


Other than the topic?  Not a great deal, honestly.  I think the candidates knew that unless something really exciting happened, like O’Malley whipping out a pistol and firing blindly into the audience or Sanders ignoring all questions and using the entirety of his speaking time to describe in minute detail the unique features and capabilities of the SR-71’s Pratt & Whitney J58 turbo/ramjet engines, there wasn’t going to be a great deal of coverage.  Islamic madmen had apparently just shot up Paris, again.  Over a hundred dead this time, with bombs going off at a stadium in which sat the goddamn president of France.  Who gives a shit about O’Malley’s restructuring of the tax plan now?  Still, my condition is such that if I don’t report on the debates I’ll get bizarre headaches and nosebleeds that thus far no doctor has been able to explain. 

clinton sanders

Bernie Sanders once again stuck very closely to his stump-speech points, which I admit are good points, great points even, but they’re wearing thin at the elbows.  I want to hear something new from him.  His talk of a political revolution is growing stale, which is a sentence that seems insane when you say it out loud because it references a conversation the nation desperately needs to have with itself.  Free tuition at state universities, Medicare expanded to cover every living American soul in the country, paid maternity leave for working mothers, campaign finance reform — these are all wonderful things, things that a mighty and just nation should be able to provide for its citizens, and the sole criticism that his opponents are able to use is “well, who’s gonna pay for all that, socialist?” 

Which is a philosophical criticism, but an economic one as well.  Personally, I’m not great with money.  I worship Hermes, the patron of thieves, and there is very little moral objection in my religion to simply taking money from whoever happens to have a lot of it, either with or without their consent.  The philosophy of economics is an interesting subject that, to date, I’ve had neither the time nor inclination to look into, so judging the merits of a plan based on its economic qualities is not something I’m equipped to do.  This may sound like I’m giving Bernie Sanders a pretty big pass on what could be the most fundamental flaw in his entire campaign, and for all I know, I could be doing just that.  I hope not.  I want to hear him talk in detail about it.  Maybe he’s got a detailed plan and he’s waiting for the right time to roll it out.  I looked at his Agenda for America, but it doesn’t really explain how, in terms of process, it is going to function. 

The upside is that his message has been resonating very strongly with democratic voters, which means Hillary has had to reach to the left and start making a lot of promises that run along similar lines.  She’s had a lot to say lately about things like paternity leave and healthcare, and while politicians and their promises have been the source of wry jokes for centuries, she’s beginning to make it a bigger and bigger part of her campaign, which will make it more and more difficult for people to forget that she made those promises. 

What I had hoped to see, what I think Clinton was dreading, was for someone to really get on her ass about voting for the invasion of Iraq.  I thought this weekend would’ve been the perfect opportunity for Sanders — for anyone, really — to shove that back in her face but Sanders passed on it, opting instead to merely call the invasion the biggest foreign policy blunder in the history of the country.  O’Malley agreed, because he’s basically killing time by reminding people he’s still able to fog a mirror with his breath.  You know, just in case Clinton’s human mask splits open on camera to reveal a green, scaly visage and the Establishment still doesn’t feel like endorsing Sanders. 

clinton, lizard

The author of that Washington Post article had an interesting point in which he notes:

What we can say is that, polls do suggest that most Americans view the Iraq war as a mistake. Last year, for example, the polling company YouGov asked what was the biggest mistake in American history. The Iraq and Vietnam wars came in tied at third place, each with 8 percent of the vote. The only mistakes that placed higher were the treatment of Native Americans (with 12 percent) and slavery (with 30 percent) — mistakes that might now be considered domestic issues, though in the past had considerable elements of foreign policy.

Even though Sanders’ comment was widely reported, you can’t really call it “news” if most of the country agrees with him.  And why shouldn’t they?  It was, by every available metric, a colossal failure that played no small role in the events leading up to our current situation.  I heard a lot of people this past weekend wax dramatically about the horror of having to live every day in fear of violence erupting around you, by which they meant living in fucking Paris.  “Can you imagine the sort of fear they must be feeling?” they say, eyes watering with tears at the thought of those unfortunate Parisians.  Well, I’ve got a pretty powerful imagination, so yeah I’m able to imagine that.  You know who doesn’t have to imagine that?  Anyone living in Iraq when the US invaded, turned it into a fucked-to-death ruin, and then took off.  Those poor bastards don’t have to imagine it because they lived through that precise nightmare for close to a decade, and some of them ran off to join ISIS because of it.  Whoever voted for that invasion bears some of the responsibility for what happened afterwards.  I’m looking right at Hillary Clinton and I want an explanation.  Actually, strike that; I don’t need an explanation.  I know why she voted for the invasion.  I just want her to admit, on camera, in front of everybody, why she voted for the invasion of Iraq. 


She calls that vote a mistake now because to do otherwise would be extremely foolish.  It was plainly and unequivocally an enormous mistake.  But she wasn’t saying that in her 2008 campaign.  Instead she merely claimed ignorance of what Bush would do after getting into Iraq, which I do not believe for one single heartbeat.  Of course she knew.  She just didn’t give a shit.  But today the world is in a different place than it was in 2008 and she doesn’t have the luxury of pretending her vote was anything other than a mistake.  I’m not a big fan of Salon, but the very title of this article made me holler in agreement and it deserves to be written in bold letters:

Hillary Clinton is on the wrong side of everything: Stop telling me I have to vote for her

Later, when I started to actually read the piece, I realized it was written by none other than that fuckwit H.A. Goodman, the same lazy faux-intellectual that occasionally writes for HuffPost and doesn’t seem to understand how either polls or debates work.  Still, the title is a sentiment I can get behind, even if it ignores some pertinent political realities.  Which it certainly does.  It could be that I just really, really don’t want to have to vote for her.  But if the alternative is Ted Cruz or Jeb Bush, the choice is pretty easy: bore a hole into hell and convince the ruler of that dark realm to finally claim the earth as his own.  But seriously, I’d vote for Hillary Clinton in that situation, because even though she’s slow to evolve on things that anyone who isn’t a opportunistic jackal would have settled long ago, she’s being dragged into the 21st century along with the rest of us and could probably manage to do at least one thing right. 

I mean, let’s go back to 2008, when Obama claimed that he opposed gay marriage.  Remember that?  He even straight-up said, right in the middle of a debate with Mitt Romney, that he had no plans at all to legalize gay marriage.  Now, of course, he claims he was just bullshitting us to get the black church vote, which may or may not be true.  The point is, the country was ready to move forward on that and Obama wasn’t about to try and stop it, and it ended up happening.  Great.  Good job, us.  So when Hillary seems leery of a pretty easy choice like the legalization of marijuana, it may just be her trying not to completely alienate voters of a certain mindset.  She may, six years into her term, do a 180 and say “Of course I wanted to legalize it, I just couldn’t say that during the election!”  Yeah, just like you had to vote for the invasion of Iraq, right?  


Some imply that it was the manner in which we left that really lead to the rise of ISIS, and others just say it outright, thus laying the lion’s share of the blame at Obama’s feet even though he was following George W. Bush’s exit plan of “get the fuck out by 2011.”  There was a provision in that plan, not well developed either at the time it was made or any time after that, to possibly leave a residual force in the hopes of helping keep the country from devolving into chaos and bloodshed and madness, but negotiations with then-president of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki broke down.  Let’s not kid ourselves — leaving a residual US force there would have, at the least, slowed down the disintegration of that area.  It wouldn’t have prevented it completely, but now, looking at Syria and Libya and what used to be Iraq, it’s hard not to say “anything would be better than this.”  Hell, even Trump knows that.  He said as much in an interview with Jake Tapper, who, I swear to god, seemed excited that he’d maybe got a chance to be part of a “Donald Trump Says Something Stupid and Outrageous!” moment. Except that what Trump said isn’t stupid or outrageous, and nobody is treating it as such.  “What about the human rights abuses [under Saddam Hussein]?” Tapper asked.  Are you fucking kidding me?  What in the holy hell do you think is happening now except ten times worse, you loony piece of shit?  Fuck you for making me defend something Donald Trump said. 

Trump, of course, later uses the GOP playbook to put the blame on Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, using the same strategy Jeb Bush employed in Reno, outlined in the preceding paragraph.  That’s not an easy explanation to sell, though, unless you’re selling it to someone who already believes it.  If the invasion is the worst foreign policy blunder in US history, you can’t then blame the consequences on anyone except the venal liars and profiteers that lead us into it, and the craven, shameless, short-sighted assholes that followed right along, which includes Hillary Clinton.  Trying to blame Obama is basically saying “this is your fault for not cleaning up the enormous burning pile of shit and human misery we caused!” Although sometimes I think the American electorate is so goddamn stupid that they may just rub their chins and think, “huh, maybe he’s right.” 


Shit.  Okay, well, in my one of my previous articles someone had posted a video in the comments section of scene from an episode of Family Guy in which Lois runs for office.  Check it out: You beautiful bastards might be better at this than me!

The next GOP debate, hosted by CNN/Salem Radio, is scheduled for December 15, followed by the Democratic debate on December 19, hosted by ABC news.  Tuna Ghost has an entire month to recuperate before watching them, for which he is very thankful.  



Tuna Ghost lives in Tokyo and has been a contributor to Japan Times and Kansai Scene.Follow him on twitter (@Tuna_Ghost) to read about US politics, the underground Tokyo metal scene, and which brands of 7-11 wine will make you fight like a homeless werewolf prostitute.