Final Presidential Debate Needs To Discuss Afghanistan, Military Readiness

On Wednesday night, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the Democratic and Republican nominees for president, respectively, will debate each other for the final time before the November election. With so much of this political cycle focusing on he-said, she-said accusations, outrageous comments, previous failings, personality quirks and a clash of deeply unpopular candidates loathed by important elements in their own parties, it would be refreshing and helpful if Clinton and Trump, assisted by a thoughtful moderator, focused on issues.

Two issues that desperately need more attention this election cycle are the future of the United State’s role in Afghanistan and the future of American military readiness. Donald Trump’s proclamation that he will “build a military that’s gonna be much stronger than it is right now. It’s gonna be so strong, nobody’s gonna mess with us,” and Clinton’s assertion that we “cannot lose our military edge, and that means giving the Pentagon the stable, predictable funding it needs to make smart investments” both fall short of specifics.

While both candidates appear to agree, at least on a big picture level, that the nation needs to increase military spending, what they are not talking about is readiness, which involves funding, but doesn’t necessarily relate to the acquisition of new weapons systems or the addition of new military personnel. Readiness is a lot about maintaining the current force and its capabilities and, where necessary, growing it to make sure force size is aligned with national security priorities.

Such a conversation goes well beyond throwing money at the military so it can be “so strong” and it involves a conversation about what exactly “smart investments” are.

Additionally, a topic that has general escape scrutiny this election cycle is the future of Afghanistan. The threat of ISIS, immediate and dangerous, has grabbed its share of headlines for good reason, but the Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan threatens to undo much of the hard work of U.S. forces who have been fighting there for the last 15 years.

According to a Washington Post story over the weekend, one U.S. advisor in Afghanistan described the U.S. presence there, with its restrictive rules of engagement and extremely limited personnel, saying, “We’re like a Band-Aid on a bullet wound.” A national security expert told the paper that the U.S. strategy is “just enough to lose slowly,” hardly a winning plan.

One person who is talking about readiness and Afghanistan is Jim Banks, an Indiana state senator and Congressional candidate who appears poised to win in Indiana’s 3rd District. Banks, a Navy Reserve officer with a recent deployment to Afghanistan, wrote in a recent editorial that Congress needs to work on providing regular funding for the military so readiness can become less dependent on short term political fights and more focused on long-term needs.

“The current model of Congress passing short-term spending bills at the eleventh hour means the Department of Defense often is unable to effectively compete in pricing for contracts or suppliers, which wastes tax dollars,” Banks wrote.

He also pointed out that military readiness is something the next Congress will need to take seriously:

“In the midst of the most complex threat environment our country has faced in over a generation, today the U.S. military is in a readiness crisis that threatens our ability to confront and deter adversaries and address the challenges we face. Our armed forces are smaller, less prepared and less equipped than at any point over the last several decades.”

If these topics merit attention from a Congressional candidate, let’s hope they receive attention at the final presidential debate.

Banks Looks to Close the Deal in Northeast Indiana

Rarely has Indiana been the national political ground zero that it has now become in the week before its May 3rd primary. It isn’t terribly unusual for Democratic presidential candidates to be dueling it out this late in the season; Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both heavily invested in Indiana in 2008. But on the Republican side the presidential primary is usually wrapped up by now. Not so this year, and a hotly contested U.S. Senate primary on the Republican side mixed in with some key U.S. House primaries – including northeast Indiana’s 3rd Congressional District – make for a busy time in the Hoosier state.

Jim Banks, a conservative state senator and Afghan War veteran, appears poised to seal the deal in IN-03 after months of hard work establishing a grassroots and fundraising base of support that is now kicking it into high gear. Banks earned the endorsement of national conservatives like Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) and Erick Erickson, and groups like the Club for Growth, House Freedom Fund PAC and the Madison Project are backing him.

Ranked as the most conservative member of the Indiana Senate, Banks is skillfully using his conservative voting record to his advantage in an anti-incumbent year. It helps that his job as a state senator is part time, and his work in the private sector and as a Navy Reserve officer help bolster his non-establishment credentials.

An early April poll reported on by Roll Call shows Banks leading the 5-way race, but agricultural businessmen Kip Tom, a newcomer to the political scene, is self-funding his campaign and pouring a lot of money into negative ads attacking Banks. Tom’s main beef with his opponent is that Banks is – allegedly – a career politician.

The charge could be a potent one if it wasn’t for a few factors. First, as mentioned, Banks works nearly full time in the private sector and serves in the Navy Reserve. The Indiana state legislature is part time meaning House and Senate members don’t work year round and have to have non-political jobs to make a living.

Second, Tom, a businessman, has repeatedly lied about his resume, claiming he had degrees that he really didn’t have. His misrepresentations extended beyond his own business websites to news media reports and even an official biography that appeared on one state university website. Tom has since scrubbed his own websites of the lie.

Third, Tom and his farms have collected $3.3 million in federal taxpayer subsidies. Of the five candidates in the race, none of have benefited from federal government largess like Tom, making his case as an outsider a tough one to argue.

Club for Growth is currently airing a TV ad in the district that hammers Tom for his “insider” connections.

FactCheck.org claims the ad is inaccurate, but actually admits in a lengthy write-up that every point made by Club for Growth is valid. So much for checking the facts.

While it is possible momentum could suddenly shift in these final days, Banks does appear to be on the right trajectory to win.

A side effect of the contests in IN-03 and IN-09 and the Senate primary is that voter turnout on the Republican side will likely be fairly strong across the state. Indiana’s primary requires voters to declare which party’s ballot they want to use, eliminating the problems that come with “open” primaries where Democrats and Republicans can vote in each other’s races. That’s good news for Ted Cruz, who needs to win Indiana ahead of a big fight in delegate-rich California.

Kip Tom (IN-03) Lied About Academic Record

A Republican congressional candidate in Indiana’s conservative 3rd Congressional District has a history of misrepresenting his academic record. Kip Tom, a corporate farmer who has collected millions in federal farm subsidies, is running to replace conservative Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R) who is running for an open U.S. Senate seat. The other credible candidate in the IN-03 GOP primary is state Sen. Jim Banks, a highly conservative member of the state legislature and Navy Reserve officer who returned from Afghanistan just last year.

Until recently, Tom claimed that he held an associate’s degree in agricultural economics from Texas A&M. He has made his long career in corporate farming the centerpiece of his campaign, arguing that his resume and business experience set him apart from other candidates in the race. Numerous biographies, including until recently his own LinkedIn page, tout the degree from Texas A&M. “Tom has an associate’s degree from Texas A&M in agrcultural [sic] economics,” reads his bio on Farmers Feeding the World, where he serves as a board member.

His official biography on his corporate website notes “Courses of Study include: Associate Degree in Agriculture Management, Texas A&M” and that same biography with that same line also appears on the official website of Purdue University.

But now Tom is changing his tune. While a news story from early in the campaign said Tom “earned an associate degree in agricultural economics from Texas A&M University,” Tom’s campaign website makes no mention of the degree and instead references a management certificate the businessman obtained from Texas A&M.

More damaging, though, is the fact that Tom’s LinkedIn page, which once cited his associate’s degree, now calls the exact same degree a “certificate.” His page originally listed “Associate’s Degree Agriculture Management, Texas A&M” but now calls that program “Certificate of Agriculture Management, Texas A&M.”

Lying about his resume didn’t harm his chances of collecting nearly $3.3 million in federal welfare, but it may well harm Kip Tom’s ability to convince voters that they should sent him to Washington. After all, as Kip Tom says in his own ad, Washington politicians “these days. . . throw a lot of it [manure] around.” It starts with false statements made on the campaign trail.

Kip Tom’s old LinkedIn page:

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Jim Banks for Congress

I supported Marlin Stutzman in Indiana’s 3rd Congressional District when Marlin ran the first time. He won and is moving up to the Indiana Senate race. That leaves the 3rd district vacant and I hope you will join me in supporting Jim Banks for Congress.

Jim currently chairs the Veterans Committee in the Indiana State Senate and is very familiar with the federal government’s treatment of our veterans. More importantly, Jim is a solid fiscal conservative and the Club For Growth has thrown its weight behind Jim.

Jim served in the Navy in Afghanistan, including taking a leave of absence from the Indiana State Senate and his day job to deploy. His day job is as a commercial real estate broker.

He is and wife have three daughters and I think he’ll be a good social and fiscal conservative fit in Congress. I hope you’ll join me in supporting Jim with your prayers and, if you can, your donations. Getting good people to Congress takes money and we should not be so focused on the Presidency that we lose sight of Congress and the need for good people in our federal legislative body.

Support Jim Banks today.

Senate Conservatives Fund Engages in Three House Races

This is a pretty big deal, particularly given the Senate Conservatives Fund’s winning record of getting people elected. They are going to engage in House races.

One of the House races is Jim Duncan in North Carolina’s second congressional district. I endorsed Jim on Day 1 of The Resurgent and his race continues to pick up support.

That’s not all.

SCF is endorsing Jim Banks (IN-3) and Mary Thomas (FL-2). I have been looking at those races and I am going to have to look some more. If SCF is endorsing them, it means they have a strong chance of winning and are solidly conservative.

In the statement from Ken Cuccinelli, he says

“These candidates are all principled conservative leaders who have strong grassroots support. We need them in the U.S. House to reinforce the efforts of our conservative allies. They will stand up to the big spenders in both parties and work to defend the principles of freedom that make our nation great. We are proud to support Jim Banks, Mary Thomas, and Jim Duncan.”

Works for me.

Senate Conservatives Fund has a page set up where you can fund each of these candidates.