Start a Homeland Security degree at American Military University.
By Glynn Cosker
Managing Editor, In Homeland Security
In this episode of the new AMU Disaster Crew podcast, I chat with foreign policy expert John Ubaldi about how the outcome of the November U.S. presidential election will affect the country’s foreign policies including relationships with major world powers like China, Russia, and Iran. Listen to hear more about domestic policy changes including shifts in the nation’s energy policies, different strategies for economic recovery caused by COVID-19, why it’s so important to reduce the national debt, and more.
Glynn Cosker: Hello, and welcome to AMU Disaster Crew, I’m Glynn Cosker, your host and managing editor of EDM Digest and In Homeland Security, two of American Military University’s news sites. This podcast brings you regular commentary and discussion about emergency and disaster management, Homeland security, counter-terrorism, intelligence, and other related topics. We also delve into foreign policy because it can have a major effect on what goes on here at home. And we’re going to talk about that today on the podcast. Joining me is John Ubaldi. John is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps with three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan to his name. He is a frequent political commentator on various news outlets, and he is the author of the New Business Brigade Veteran’s Dynamic Impact on U.S. Business. John, how are you?
John Ubaldi: Hey, I’m doing pretty good. How are you doing, Glynn?
Glynn Cosker: I am hanging in there. It’s been a fun year so far.
John Ubaldi: Yeah, I think 2020 has been one of the most interesting years on record.
Glynn Cosker: In more ways than one. And it’s also an election year, believe it or not. In fact, the election’s just a few months away, which seems mind-boggling. But with everything going on in the country, in the world, right now, it’s shaping up to be one of the most important elections in decades. Certainly in a generation or more. The nation right now is in the midst of a domestic national nightmare in a way, there were so many things at play that are not so good and are going to definitely affect the outcome of the election in November. So today we’re going to take a look at the election and the issues of domestic policy and how they relate to foreign policy.
So John, of course, former Vice President Joe Biden is the presumptive Democratic nominee and the man whose presidency, should he be elected, would be in stark contrast to President Trump’s, especially when it comes to how each of those individuals see the world. Their world view is very different. Why don’t you tell us how each candidate’s world view is different? Or maybe there are some similarities you can find, but probably mostly different and how their view might impact domestic policy?
John Ubaldi: Both candidates, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, have different world views. President Trump came into office and he campaigned and he’s ran his administration of putting America first, questioning some of our longtime global alliances, especially with NATO. What some of our issues are in the Middle East. Vice President Joe Biden, if he gets elected, will have a dramatically different foreign policy view. He goes back to Barack Obama’s foreign policy where we engage with the world, but we take more of a step back and let some of the other world countries take the lead. And a lot of these things impact domestic policy, which most people really don’t see or follow. And since the end of the Cold War, only one presidential election had any issues regarding foreign affairs as the primary issue. And that was the 2004 election between John Kerry and then-President George Bush.
Glynn Cosker: Right, because of course of the ongoing situation in Iraq. But what do you see this time around being major factors? Obviously we have to talk about COVID-19 and what the president is doing about it right now. And how do you think a person like Joe Biden would come in and do things differently?
John Ubaldi: That’s an interesting case because Joe Biden was interviewed on Joy Behar, which I believe was on MSNBC and Karl Rove, who was the domestic advisor to George W. Bush wrote an article in The Wall Street Journal. And when Joy Behar asked him, “What would you do differently, with regard to COVID?” And everything that he had mentioned, President Trump is doing that or has done that. So I’m not really sure at this point, what he would do differently. It’s just more schematic, not really changing policy, but just he says it and that makes it a little bit different. So I’m not sure what he would do differently if he became President.
Glynn Cosker: Let’s switch gears, former Vice President Joe Biden recently unveiled his energy policy, which has a price tag of around $2 trillion. So why don’t you give us the lowdown on this energy policy and tell us how it might impact his foreign policy?
John Ubaldi: Now, this has a dramatic shift between President Trump and Joe Biden. President Trump, when he came into office was very critical of the Paris Climate Agreement that was signed by most of the world’s nations in 2015. And it commits the United States to reducing greenhouse gases. President Trump believed that that was a one-sided deal. It was poorly put together. So he pulled us out of that. Joe Biden comes in, and almost all the democratic candidates who were running for president pushed a “We’re going to get back into the Paris Climate Agreement. We are going to go to more renewable energy.” Which means sun and solar and wind. And when he unveiled this last week, his plan was $2 trillion. He would spend that in four years, which he would take the United States away from fossil fuel. That’s coal, oil and natural gas and focus more on the renewable energy aspects.
But where this impacts domestically is, it’s very costly to go through just wind and solar. Other countries around the world, notably Australia, many countries in the European Union, especially Denmark and Germany went the renewable energy route. They use more renewable energy. The problem is the cost is so prohibitive. In California, the state I grew up in, they’re pushing more renewables, but they pay four times the cost of electricity than any other state. I think the number two leading state for the gas tax. And it really has an impact on the lower-income communities because they bear the brunt because they drive more, especially depending on where you live. Like I lived for a while in Sacramento, in the Central Valley, which is very warm. So you need electricity, you need more air conditioning. So it’s very costly and this would end a lot of jobs. And from a foreign policy standpoint, the United States is now one of the leading exporters of energy.
And a few years ago, back in 2014, 2015, the United States paid about $106 a barrel for oil. Now we’re down to $40 a barrel. But we’re more energy-independent, and we’ve transitioned away from coal, which is one of the dirtiest of all the fossil fuels and went to natural gas. And because we went to natural gas, our energy cost was dropped and so was our greenhouse gases. But on a foreign policy standpoint, if we remove natural gas from our energy inventory, that would be a win for Russia because the two leading countries outside of the United States in natural gas production is Russia and Iran. Hardly friends of the United States. And right now Russia and Germany are putting together a natural gas pipeline called North Stream One and Two. And one of the companies that’s going to be running it is a Russian energy company that has ties to Putin. So if we go this direction, we’re really giving more money to Russian oligarchs and obviously Vladimir Putin, which does affect us on a foreign policy standpoint, but also employment opportunities here in the United States.
Glynn Cosker: Yeah, indeed. And so what you’re saying is then that would be a major impact on U.S. jobs if Biden was elected and rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement?
John Ubaldi: If you use Germany, as an example. Germany uses far more renewable energy than the United States does, but they also pay four times as much for energy and to offset the renewables. Because renewables with wind and solar are very intermediate. So you got to have something to supplement that. So their coal production has gone up and they’re using natural gas from Russia. So if you go back into the United States, look at California, they’re pushing more and more renewable, but then it’s costly for their average consumer. And then for wind and solar farms, there was a county which is the largest county in the United States, San Bernardino. They rejected any more solar farms because it takes up a lot of land. And then the technology is not quite there as everybody thinks it is because when you have renewables, you need the huge battery packs and that takes zinc. And that takes lithium. And that has to be mined. And especially zinc has a problematic history of causing leaks, getting into the groundwater. And if you do that on a massive level, it’s going to cause some problems.
Glynn Cosker: Absolutely. And of course, what we’re talking about right now is climate change. And that is going to be a huge policy decision-maker, a huge subject of conversation leading up to the election in November.
Obviously there’s so much more stuff going on in the world and in the country, it’s just making this election cycle very strange. And I’ve studied a lot of elections over the years and I’m kind of an election nerd. And I can’t remember anything similar to this. Having said all of that, there is an election and it’s going to be an important one because of many factors, obviously not just COVID-19, but also the economy which was affected by COVID-19.
There was a major, obviously nightmarish scenario that played out in early March with the economy, once COVID-19 became here to stay in a way. But it has rebounded, so it’s starting to recover. The economic shutdown is starting to start up again, but you got to say that what happened this year was a major blow for President Trump because a lot of experts thought that he could just ride the much improved economic numbers to re-election. COVID-19 came in, it’s a game-changer. So John, how do you think the economy is going to impact the election this year?
John Ubaldi: Well, the economy is going to have a great impact. And just like you said, this is a very strange election. In previous elections, there was a difference between the two parties, Republicans and Democrats. But this time it’s going to be different. This one is almost going to be, which direction do you want the economy to go? Because the Democratic Party has moved further left than it ever had before. Almost like George McGovern in 1972. So it’s almost going to be embraced a progressive economic plan followed by Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. Because they’re working hand in hand together, or do you embrace the free-market capitalist version of Donald Trump? And that’s where the American people are going to have to make that decision come November the third.
Glynn Cosker: I agree. It’s going to be a very interesting election in more ways than one. And it’s something that we’ve never had to face before. This kind of thing is unprecedented.
John Ubaldi: But with that, Glynn, a lot of the issues like, Joe Biden this week came out with his economic plan and it’s talking about a much larger government, much larger government involvement in the economy. He wants to spend almost eight to $10 trillion and he wants to definitely raise taxes, corporate tax, and a lot of other taxes that go up. He’s been heavily influenced by Bernie Sanders because he had to appeal to that left base of his, that’s where the energy is for the Democratic Party. So by doing that, how does that impact corporate America? Do they start moving their resources abroad like some of their revenues, some of their funding, some of their corporate offices abroad? How does that impact small businesses? Because small businesses make up about 60% of all jobs in America. And they really took a beating during this economic shutdown. So these are things that have to be looked at.
Then you’re talking about healthcare, a public option, which is going to cost about $800 billion. You want to add some other things and then you want to forgive student loan debt up to $125,000. And the one thing that either side isn’t talking about is our national debt, which is about $26 trillion right now. How does that all impact that as we move forward? And the thing is with the national debt, it’s manageable now because inflation’s low and interests are low. Once interest rates start to rise, and they always do, that means the interest on the debt rises. I think we pay about 300 million, around there, interest on the debt. But if it goes up a couple of percentage points, that means it goes up on the debt, we’ve got to finance that debt.
Glynn Cosker: Speaking of that, do you see the national debt as a major threat to national security?
John Ubaldi: I do for this simple reason is, the one place that you everybody looks at is the Department of Defense. Because that’s discretionary spending. It’s like having your cable bill, you can wipe that out. The other stuff, the non-discretionary spending like social security, Medicare, Medicaid, that has to be done by law. It’s going to impact the Pentagon because just recently, I think yesterday, the progressive elements in the Senate tried to take out about $75 to a $100 billion dollars out of the Pentagon. They failed, they got 24 senators to jump on board, but they didn’t make it. But what would happen come November? Let’s say the Democrats win the executive branch, the Senate and the House, a little more inclined to taking that money and spending it on domestic programs. Because if we cut back on defense, look what Russia, China and Iran did, we have a history of that during the Obama administrations. When we pulled back from overseas, that emboldened Russia, China and Iran.
Glynn Cosker: Let’s talk about Russia, China and Iran. How do you see them changing their rhetoric if Biden is elected?
John Ubaldi: President Xi hasn’t come out, but he’s kind of looking at, he would like to see somebody, not Trump. Because Trump has been more confrontational. And if you go by the past history of Biden, he was very accommodating toward China. Especially before President XI became president of China. He was more conciliatory, we can work together and I think they would like that. And Russia, the same way, they would have more of a free hand in the Middle East. They moved into Syria, they moved into Crimea. They moved into the Eastern part of Ukraine. And what would happen if Russia decides to go into the Baltic States, which are three-membered NATO countries? By the NATO rules, attack on one is an attack on all. How would we handle that?
Glynn Cosker: That’s a good question. And then, of course, Iran, I would imagine that a President Biden would reinstate the Iran Nuclear Deal. Would you agree with that?
John Ubaldi: He said he would do that. But the question that he hasn’t said is, does that mean you would lift the sanctions that have been crippling Iran? Because going back to the first questions you asked, once energy prices plummeted, that affected the Russian and the Iranian economy in a great way because they’re tied heavily to their energy sector. So would he allow the sanctions to be lifted? Because that’s what happened when the Iran nuclear deal, all sanctions were lifted and Europe and Russia and other countries flooded in to do business. Now they don’t, because the Trump administration said you do business in Iran, you will not do business in United States. So we’re a $23 trillion economy to a $300 billion economy. Which one would you pick?
Glynn Cosker: So who do you think is going to win the election, John?
John Ubaldi: Right now, it looks like Biden. If it was held right now. And Victor Davis Hanson, who is an academic, military history at the Hoover Institute, he said that it’s going to come down to this. It’s not going to come down to Trump vs Biden. It’s going to come down to who wants chaos and who wants opportunities or the rule of law. So I think it’s going to come down to these independent voters. Do they hate Donald Trump that much because of his mannerisms? Even some of the stuff he says, it just makes my skin crawl. But do you hate him that much, that you’re willing to vote for Joe Biden and that progressive ideology? That’s where it’s going to come down to.
Glynn Cosker: Well, I think it’s the same every four years, the winner of Florida wins the election. It’s definitely a bellwether state and we’ll know early on who it goes to. And if it’s a significant win for either candidate in Florida or Ohio, which is also a bellwether state, then it’s lights out, we’ll know right away. If it’s close in those two, then we might have another 2000 election.
John Ubaldi: The only thing is, I hope one candidate, whether Trump or Biden, takes it right away. And the reason I say that I just don’t want to see the country get torn apart by a close election like we had in 2000. Because then you get lawyers involved. And then from a national standpoint, how does it look to the rest of the world? Where the symbol of democracy has a very chaotic election? And then you got Iran, China and Russia would just exploit that, like say, see democracy doesn’t work. Our authoritative way is the way to go.
Glynn Cosker: I agree. And I will go out on a limb here, and I think it will be a landslide for one of them, but I don’t know which! This has been AMU Disaster Crew. Today I was joined by John Ubaldi. John, it is always a pleasure to speak to you, sir.
John Ubaldi: Thank you, Glynn, for having me on the program and look forward to coming back.
Glynn Cosker: Thank you and join in next time for another episode of AMU Disaster Crew.