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Attacks In Paris May Alter The American Campaign Landscape

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. The terror attacks in Paris will of course ripple around the world and through the U.S. presidential campaign. Democratic presidential candidates will debate in Des Moines tonight. Roger Simon - no relation - is chief political correspondent for Politico, and joins us on the line. Roger, thanks for being with us.

ROGER SIMON: Oh, my pleasure. Thank you, Scott.

SCOTT SIMON: The debate meant to be about the economy, specifically even income inequality. But they - they'll have to begin with the Paris attacks and foreign policy questions, won't they?

ROGER SIMON: Certainly. It is the topic of the moment. It's, you know, it's going to be the centerpiece of the debate no matter what the prior plans were because it's what all America is worried about today. And the candidates are going to have to address it.

SCOTT SIMON: Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state - does the national security question coming into play in the campaign now play to her strength and experience? Or does it open the door to opponents who - who want to trace the rise of ISIS to her administration Syria policies?

ROGER SIMON: Well, both. You know, I was trying to make a list of the impact that this attack - this terrible tragedy - would have on the American presidential race. And some of the impacts are at - at opposition to each other.

SCOTT SIMON: Yeah.

ROGER SIMON: You know, it will make Americans I think look for a more experienced candidate, one who has handled foreign affairs. And even though we're supposed to be in this wildly anti-government mood, an attack like this will push many people to believe that perhaps someone who actually understands the machinery of government has an advantage. That's the advantage for Hillary Clinton. Yet, you can also say that her policies - the U.S. policies - toward Syria have been an utter failure that have led to such attacks. Also what I think is going to be the most direct impact of this on the U.S. is a crackdown on the number of immigrants we are going to accept from the Middle East. We are just in the midst of accepting, although tiny numbers, more numbers of Syrian refugees - 10,000 this fiscal year. There have already been complaints by member of - members of Congress that we can't let these people into our country without vetting them properly. Vetting takes anywhere from 18 to 24 months. We're talking about 10,000, as I said. And there's no way we can vet 10,000 people in enough time for it to be meaningful. Germany is taking in 800,000 people. At least they were as of yesterday. There have been 4 million refugees from Syria since the fighting began. The United States is looked on still as the country that takes in the most wretched of the world who need the most protection. I don't think our Congress is going to be amenable to taking in large numbers of Syrians or others from the Mideast right now.

SCOTT SIMON: Roger, in about the 30 seconds we have left, Republicans have their disagreements on all of these issues too, don't they?

ROGER SIMON: Oh, sure. And that's going to further exacerbate the differences among Republicans, those Republicans who have made anti-immigration their - forefront of their campaign - Donald Trump for one - versus those who take a milder view - Cruz, Bush, Rubio, Kasich. And you're going to see that split harden now. Although I suspect many of the moderates are going to be pushed over into the camp of further restrictions on taking immigrants - onto - into our country. And the sort of delusional policy of - of total protection on our borders which is simply not possible.

SCOTT SIMON: Roger Simon of Politico, Thanks so much for being with us.

ROGER SIMON: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.