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Madam Secretary Shows Presidential Candidates How To Fight

Democratic Presidential candidates can learn from fictional character Elizabeth McCord how the Military Industrial Complex will fight her vision of National Security for America
Madam Secretary Shows Presidential Candidates How To Fight
Image from: CBS Madam Secretary

As of January 24th 2019 nine Democrats have announced their candidacy for the 2020 Presidential race.

Right now all the candidates are putting out their messages. As Michael Brooks of The Majority Report put it, they are "cutting a lane for themselves" in the primary.  (We used to call it their core brand proposition, but that's so 2000 and late.)

Here's a on who has announced they will run and who might run.

Image from:

The Times summary has the conventional wisdom on each candidate and their signature issues.  For example: Warren, middle class under attack from big corporations and Wall Street's influence on politics;  Sanders, “Medicare for All,” and free college tuition.

But what I didn't see in any summaries or signature issues were candidates' views on National Security. This issue is critical and must be addressed because the United States spends an estimated $1.2 trillion per year on defense.  


Pentagon spending now consumes nearly 70 percent of the discretionary federal budget.

Even if we just count direct US military spending, the figures are enormous. At $610 billion in 2017, US military spending accounted for more than a third of the world total. This dwarfs the $294 billion spent by our potential adversaries—Russia spent $66 billion; China, $228 billion.

From ,  by Joe Cirincione and Guy T. Saperstein

Now is the time for democratic candidates to really get how huge the military funding is and start talking about better ways for the country to use that money.  Will Harris talk about this?  Gillibrand and Gabbard didn't. Maybe someone like Washington Governor Jay Inslee will bring it up.

What all Democratic candidates need to know is that the polling shows that  the voters would rather money go to infrastructure and social programs than policing the world. 

But of course the Military Industrial Complex won't let go of any money without a fight. Last week's Madam Secretary, , was a great illustration of how defense contractors will lie, cheat, steal, threaten and scare people into voting for weapon systems that are inadequate, aren't wanted or needed, and make us less safe.


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My favorite scene from the episode

The Madam Secretary writers, and , explain the issue and put Presidential Candidate Elizabeth McCord in the position of pointing out the problems with the whole system while the Secretary of Defense and the President explain that yes, a defense contractor can "shake them down."

Image from: Madam Secretary, CBS

My favorite line in the clip is when the secretary of defense defends the fighter jet  and the shakedown for more money by saying, "Cost overruns are a feature of defense contracts."

In the head of the group within the state department who works with the military on allocation for defense spending explains how untrammeled corporate greed distorts our foreign policy.

Show Me The Brightest Timeline

Madam Secretary shows viewers possible solutions and what the characters are up against. If Elizabeth is going to fight the Military Industrial Complex when she is President, she needs to realize she will be attacked, both behind the scenes and in public.

If President McCord cuts funds for a for the jets in a congressional district in North Dakota are going to need jobs. What can they do instead? Fluid delivery systems for commercial jets? High speed rail? Solar heating and cooling systems?


President Elizabeth McCord needs to have a vision that acknowledges the current national security budget and a way to redirect it to positive things.

Maybe she picks up the Green New Deal as the positive change she wants to make. That can include a number of projects, many of which would need money that is currently going to the Military Industrial Complex.

Real candidates can define what the Green New Deal means and what it can do. Fictional Candidate McCord can start showing the projects and programs she would create to cope with climate change. I liked the idea of a Climate Change Service Corps to deal with emergencies and a cabinet post to prepare and manage climate disasters. 

The Madam Secretary writers showed that Eisenhower predicted and understood the problem.  The interstate highway system had long straight stretches so that the military could land a bomber on them if necessary. Probably not going to happen, but it helped justify the money for the interstate under "National Security".


The Climate Race Is Like The Space Race 
Johnson split up jobs for the space program for political power. The "Space Race" against the Russians provided a "National Security" reason with a funding urgency that going to the moon for scientific and exploration purposes didn't.

We need infrastructure hardening and replacement in communities around the country right now. What can a President do to show the urgency? Maybe President McCord could rebuild the Civil Defense system pointing out our enemy is Severe Weather. Having  Severe Weather as the enemy would help address what happens with climate change. The National Guard could be the lead agency, especially with their history of managing natural disasters. That could be a transition back to their roots and back to their homes.

President McCord could SAY we must prepare cities in case they will be being hit by a nuke from Russia or North Korea. That is probably not going to happen, but it is an excuse to prepare us for being hit by the equivalent of 10,000 nuclear bombs from a hurricane. (Link  article on the power of hurricanes.)

President McCord could SAY she is worried about Terrorists bombing our nuclear power plants and chemical plants, so we need to harden them. That is possible, but a rare event, however the risk is provides the "National Security" excuse to prepare this infrastructure for the more likely events, hurricanes, floods and tornadoes.

Image from: DOE

Coastal communities need hardened seawalls, inland cities need strengthened levees. She could task agencies to design, develop and implement emergency power grids and communications systems. Remember Puerto Rico? We needed this last year. The Coast Guard and the Navy could have provided much more support to Puerto Rico, but they weren't directed to do so. That could change. Imagine using the United States Naval Construction Battalions (Seabees) to help rebuild in coastal disasters.

Image from: Photo: Erika P. Rodriguez Downed transmission tower in Puerto Rico,

President McCord could SAY we don't want hackers from China or Russia to take down our power grid and communication systems, so we must spend money creating distributed and redundant systems. That work prepares us for what really takes down our power grids and communications systems, severe weather.

The reality in America today is that all communities could benefit from better power grids and communication systems in the event of emergencies, it doesn't just have to help the "coastal elites."

In our current political situation when you say, "National Security" the money is allocated with no questions asked, no audits demanded. That should change. Until then President McCord could still use that model to get money.  She just needs to change what national security includes.

Fiction has the power to show us possible solutions to real problems. In the end President Dalton fought the defense contractor to a draw, but

I think she will.

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