On Wednesday, Republican Vice President Mike Pence and Democrat challenger Senator Kamala Harris engaged in a vice presidential debate that put national security in the spotlight, specifically in regards to China, Russia and Iran.
Moderator Susan Page from USA Today asked both candidates about America’s relationship with China. The American people view the U.S.’ relationship with China as contentious and unstable over a number of issues — trade agreements, China’s stealing of U.S. military and technological secrets and the Communist regime’s record on human rights, including the genocide currently being perpetrated against China’s Muslim population.
As Clarion Project covered in our newly released short documentary Cover Cash, there’s also the issue of Chinese foreign influence operations at American colleges and universities.
Welcome to #CovertCash
As the student debt crisis looms over America and colleges charge full tuition for glorified zoom sessions, 🇺🇸 Americans deserve to know what kind of influence is bought by foreign countries throwing billions 💰💰💰 at universitieshttps://t.co/9OlPsZ6Dfw
— Clarion Project (@clarionproject) September 3, 2020
While neither candidate offered a specific answer to mapping out where the U.S. and China actually stand, Harris quoted a PEW poll that indicated that leaders of U.S.-allied countries view the U.S. in a more critical light than the head of the Chinese Communist Party, Chinese President Xi Jinping.
What Harris didn’t mention was that the same poll also detailed global unfavorable views of China, which “reach historic highs in many countries.”
America’s current standing in regard to China opened up the question of American leadership on the world stage.
Harris gave over what she said was Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden’s take on foreign policy, saying, “Joe says, foreign policy — it might sound complicated, but it’s really its’s about relationship … You gotta keep your word to your friends.”
Harris then accused President Trump of “betraying our friends and embracing dictators around the world.” Harris immediately gave Russia as an example, blatantly ignoring the Obama-Biden administration’s embrace of Iran at the expense of America’s long-standing Sunni Arab allies as well as the Obama-Biden administration’s betrayal of Israel.
Harris also raised the issue of Russian election interference, specifically that the American intelligence community accused Russian of interfering with the 2016 election. She criticized Trump for his stance in 2018 for denying American intelligence and “taking the word of Putin” over U.S. intel.
Vice President Pence reclaimed a winning narrative on U.S. national security concerning the threat of ISIS and the Iranian regime. Mapping out a visual for the American people, Pence described the amount of territory captured by ISIS in the Syria and Iraq as comparable to the size of Pennsylvania — a territory President Trump took out along with top ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
“Trump destroyed the ISIS caliphate,” Pence said.
While it is true America has made huge strides in disrupting ISIS’ in the Middle East, ISIS still has a significant presence in North Africa and parts of Southeast Asia. Moreover, the ideology that fuels ISIS is also nowhere near defeated; online support for ISIS remains undaunted by the extremist group’s geographic displacement.
Pence further called out the Obama-Biden administration as being weak on foreign policy as it pertained to national security. Specifically, Pence pointed to the prior administration hesitation in taking decisive measures against terror regimes, giving the example of the administration’s failure to take timely action as recommended by the U.S. military to save American aid worker Kayla Mueller, who had been kidnapped and held by Baghdadi. (When the military did move in after the administration contemplated the operation for a month, they discovered that Mueller had been moved two days prior. She was later killed and the month-long stall most likely caused Mueller her life.)
In addition, the Obama administration airlifted a pallet with $400 million in cash to Iran, the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world. The Iran deal, which was pushed through without Congressional approval by the Obama-Biden administration, freed up $150 billion in Iranian assets held in banks around the globe due to international sanctions. This cash allowed the mullahs to greatly increased their terror and expansionist campaigns in Syria, Yemen and Iraq.
Given the distinct views each candidate has over how foreign policy should be navigated, it came as no surprise when Senator Harris’ camp (including Biden) attacked the Trump administration for the targeted assassination of Iran’s head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard’s Corp’ Quds Force, Qassem Suleimani. As Pence also pointed out, Joe Biden also opposed ‘“taking out” Osama bin Laden.
Harris retorted by attacking the Trump administration with failing to act when intelligence “news” broke that Russia paid Taliban “bounties” to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan. However, as multiple reports showed, there was no concrete evidence to support that claim. The lack of verifiable evidence was also echoed by U.S. CentCom Commander General Ken McKenzie.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper and General Mark Miller also corroborated skepticism over the Russian bounties story. As Esper told the House Armed Services Committee, “All the defense intelligence agencies have been unable to corroborate that report.”
The next presidential debate is Thursday, October 15th, during which the questions of national security as well as the extremism on the streets of America may likely be asked of the 2020 presidential candidates.