The presidential campaign more and more resembles Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. The public and pundits are constantly being surprised on where the course turns next. Few would have predicted the list of candidates left standing as the parties turn towards their conventions.
Fewer still would have guessed that national security and foreign policy are topping the list of concerns as Americans get ready to pick their president. But, there is no debate—voters want to be reassured that the next president is going to keep them safe, free, and prosperous in an increasingly unsettled world.
For starters, the next occupant of the Oval Office is going to have a long to-do list. There are key and immediate challenges to protecting America’s interests in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Americans also want to be assured their borders are secure.
The next president is going to have to sharpen America’s blunt sword. According to The Heritage Foundation’s “2016 Index of U.S. Military Strength,” the state of America’s armed forces are marginal. Americans aren’t interested in more wars, but they want a military that can defend them and discourage adversaries. They want a “peace through strength president.”
What really matters in picking the next president is less the specific promises they make on the campaign trail, but the measure of their trustworthiness and ability to lead—the backbone of character, competence, and critical judgment that makes a good president.
That’s what Americans will be looking for in the months ahead.
James Jay Carafano, a leading expert in national security and foreign policy challenges, is The Heritage Foundation’s vice president for foreign and defense policy studies, E. W. Richardson fellow, and director of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies.
Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by The Daily Signal.