It seemed like the setup for a program on national security but turned out to be something darker and more encompassing:a pageant of fear, as my colleague John Cassidy has noted, directed at a vast range of opponents, from the Islamic State to Black Lives Matter to the Libyan mobs that sacked the consulate in Benghazi.
.. After a career in law enforcement, Clarke might have noted that the violent-crime rate in America has dropped by almost half during the past twenty-five years. Or that violent crime has dropped ten per cent since President Obama took office. Instead, he argued that there is reason for fear.
.. It could have been a powerful story, but it was punctuated by awkward attempts at humor about shooting terrorists (“like Whack-a-Mole”).
.. He also made a substantive observation about the nature of American power: “My message to you is very clear: Wake up, America! There is no substitute for American leadership and exceptionalism.”
.. But this was not a night for substance. This was vaudeville, updated for the war on terror. After Melania finished speaking, the crowd started to bail. By the time the highest-ranking national-security figure of the evening was given his chance to speak, he was declaiming to large patches of empty seats.