The Note: Democrats turn to foreign policy

The Democratic primary campaign is turning to matters abroad.

May 28, 2019, 6:01 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

The water's edge isn't what it used to be. And a campaign that's mostly been about domestic issues is getting some foreign-policy flavor.

The Democratic primary campaign is turning to matters abroad as President Donald Trump faces a range of fresh challenges.

With the president returning from his Japan trip on Tuesday, after a Memorial Day weekend during which he insulted former Vice President Joe Biden and seemed to side with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, more candidates are likely to engage.

"I can tell you that Joe Biden was a disaster," the president said Monday in Tokyo, after tweeting that he agreed with Kim about Biden's IQ.

Biden hasn't responded yet. But it's worth noting that two candidates who served in the military -- South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton -- have suggested in recent days that the president faked a disability to avoid service in Vietnam.

More substantively, the breadth of foreign-policy concerns -- Iran, North Korea, China and trade -- represent new opportunities for candidates looking to showcase ideas and credentials.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

The experience and authority veterans bring to foreign-policy conversations packs a punch.

As seen in Buttigieg's interview on ABC's "This Week" with co-anchor Martha Raddatz on Sunday, candidates who served in the military can criticize the commander-in-chief in a profoundly different way than others. Buttigieg accused the president of an "assault on the honor of this country" during Vietnam and "a slander against veterans" with his recent comments about war criminals.

There is strong evidence Democrats with military experience helped fuel the Democratic Party's takeover of the House of Representatives in 2018. While there are still more Republican veterans in Congress, the Democratic Party saw a large uptick in the number of veterans running on their side and winning.

PHOTO:Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., introduces himself as a presidential candidate as he goes to shake hands with Gerard St. Pierre during a campaign event held at Liberty House in Manchester, N.H., April 23, 2019.
Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., introduces himself as a presidential candidate as he goes to shake hands with Gerard St. Pierre during a campaign event held at Liberty House in Manchester, N.H., April 23, 2019.
Cheryl Senter/AP

Moulton has focused considerable time and energy in his career into recruiting veterans to run, and another presidential candidate, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who still serves as a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard, has been outspoken about how two deployments to the Middle East shaped her foreign policy ideas. Over the holiday weekend, she released an emotional video where she helped send off her former unit for another deployment.

And in the one outstanding race from last fall, in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District, Democrats could add one more veteran to their ranks. That race will be decided in November after a ballot scandal on the Republican side resulted in a redo.

The TIP with Kendall Karson

The U.S. Army sought to celebrate veterans' service when it asked on Twitter, "How has serving impacted you?" But the question this weekend generated a series of heartbreaking tales of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and suicide.

It showed a darker side of service in a harrowing thread about trauma. Some victims of war, who've sacrificed generations in service, described a military culture devoid of emotional support in ABC News' "Start Here" podcast.

"We aren't shown that it's OK to feel," one Gold Star father told ABC News' Aaron Katersky. "We're told it's OK to be angry but that it's not OK to be sad or to have tears or to feel many different expressions."

PHOTO: Pete Buttigieg speaks with ABC News' Martha Raddatz on an episode of "This Week," May 24, 2019.
Pete Buttigieg speaks with ABC News' Martha Raddatz on an episode of "This Week," May 24, 2019.
ABC News

As Vice President Mike Pence told West Point graduates on Saturday that "it is a virtual certainty" they will fight on a battlefield, a 2020 candidate who's seen combat is making his move this week to lead on the issue.

Moulton, a Marine Corps veteran, embarks on his "Veterans Mental Health Tour" across the early-voting states of South Carolina and Nevada, bringing a plan to confront mental health among U.S. troops to the forefront of the 2020 primary.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC's "Start Here" podcast. Tuesday morning's episode features ABC News White House correspondent Tara Palmeri, who checks in from Tokyo after President Donald Trump’s state visit. Then ABC News’ Julia Macfarlane brings us up to speed on the European parliamentary elections and the future of Brexit following Prime Minister Theresa May’s resignation announcement. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • President Donald Trump has no public events scheduled.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., attends two town hall meetings in Concord and Mammoth, New Hampshire, before he heads to Manchester for a campaign rally at 7 p.m.
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden heads to Houston for an American Federation of Teachers town hall.
  • Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., campaigns in South Carolina and participates an MSNBC town hall in Spartanburg, South Carolina, at 10 p.m.
  • Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., visits schools to meet with students and parents to discuss career and technical education in Manchester, New Hampshire.
  • Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., makes several stops in Nevada, focusing on his recently released Gun Violence Prevention plan and Reproductive Rights proposal.
  • Montana Gov. Steve Bullock hosts meet-and-greets in Iowa.
  • Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive it every weekday.

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