IN THE wake of last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris, one candidate has the most vivid and straightforward strategy for how the United States should respond.
“I would bomb the shit out of [ISIS],” says Donald Trump. “I’d blow up the pipes, I’d blow up the refineries . . . I’d blow up every single inch.”
One should not confuse this with a very effective or humane counterterrorism strategy, but it’s hard to question the political upside in today’s Republican Party. Indeed, it’s completely consistent with Trump’s bellicose, non-politically correct approach to campaigning that has turned him into the GOP front-runner. Every Republican wants to bomb ISIS, but only Trump says it with such vulgar gusto.
Every other Republican says we need to stop the resettlement of Syrian refugees; but only Trump is saying we need to “strongly consider” closing American mosques.
It’s small wonder that the same man who talks about deporting millions of illegal immigrants — and has ridden that position to the top of the GOP polls — is also viewed by a third of Republicans as the person best able to deal with terrorism.
Indeed, a WBUR poll taken after the Paris attacks shows that Trump’s support has risen in New Hampshire.
In the wake of Paris, a conventional Beltway view emerged that suggested Rubio or Bush because of their perceived foreign policy experience would stand to benefit from renewed attention to terrorism.
But like so much of the analysis this election cycle that view fundamentally misunderstands the political currents inside the Republican Party. It’s precisely because of Trump’s lack of experience and his ability to approach tricky public policy issues with simple, hyperaggressive solutions that explains his front-runner status.
At one point, Republican voters may have wanted a president with experience and gravitas, who is able to churn out detailed five-point plans. But this incarnation of the GOP appears to be far more attracted to the guy who wants to bomb first and ask questions later.
Perhaps by January or February these same voters will have second thoughts about turning the US military over to someone like Trump, but as of yet, that’s simply not happening.
Michael A. Cohen’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @speechboy71.