As we reflect on the meaning of the massacre yesterday in Newtown, it would be worth spending a couple of minutes reading the Wall Street Journal‘s Mark Lasswell’s brilliant deconstruction of the television show Dexter and what it tells us about our culture. I reprint Lasswell’s article here in full. You can send friends a link to it here.
Mark Twitchell, a low-budget filmmaker in Edmonton, Alberta, was obsessed with Star Wars. He spent countless hours scouring the Internet, buying and selling Star Wars costumes, dolls, and other paraphernalia. As of last fall, the license plate on his red 2003 Pontiac Grand Am still read DRK JEDI. But by that time, a more current pop-culture phenomenon had also captured the twenty-nine-year-old Canadian’s affections. On his Facebook page on August 15, Twitchell’s “status update” announced: “Mark has way too much in common with Dexter Morgan.” Many young men might like to think that they have much in common with Dexter Morgan, a Miami police crime-scene investigator who is the main character on the fictional Showtime cable-television series Dexter. Over the course of three seasons that have brought the series and its lead actor, Michael C. Hall, four Golden Globe nominations, Morgan has come across as an appealing fellow who can be socially awkward but is blessed with a sardonic sense of humor that serves him well in the sharp-elbowed banter at the police station.
Like many young men, Morgan has been apprehensive about getting into a long-term romantic relationship, but by the end of season three finds himself taking the plunge into marriage after his girlfriend gets pregnant. Morgan is still quite young at heart; he’s at his most relaxed and natural with the two children that his new wife brings with her from a previous marriage.
Up in Edmonton in the fall, though, Mark Twitchell did more than merely identify with Dexter Morgan. He wrote a movie script inspired by the series and then acted it out in real life. Posing online as a woman interested in a romantic liaison, he lured thirty-eight-year-old pipeline-industry worker John Altinger to a residential garage. And then, according to police, he tortured and murdered Altinger—just the way Twitchell’s hero Dexter Morgan would, because, you see, this most agreeable television character is also a serial killer. Twitchell was charged with first-degree murder and the script was seized as evidence. He pled not guilty.
Soon after the arrest, an Edmonton homicide detective named Mark Anstey said of Twitchell: “We have a lot of information that suggests he definitely idolizes Dexter, and a lot of information that he tried to emulate him during this incident.” At the time of the arrest, Dexter writer and producer Melissa Rosenberg was promoting the teenage-vampire movie Twilight, for which she had written the screenplay, but she soon found herself fielding questions from Canadian media about Twitchell’s affinity for her show. To her credit, Rosenberg did not adopt the usual Hollywood line of soberly contending that no one has ever shown a link between simulated violence and the real thing, a contention that is the studio equivalent of tobacco-company executives in Washington putting their hands on their hearts and claiming they had no idea that cigarettes cause cancer. The Canwest News Service reported on Rosenberg receiving news of the arrest and the Dexter connection: “‘Oh, Jesus,’ she exclaimed. She saw this as a ‘worst fears’ situation—something which had worried the show’s creators from the beginning.” Rosenberg insisted, though, that the series did not “glorify” Dexter Morgan’s murders:
Every time you think you’re identifying with Dexter and rooting for him, for us it’s about turning that back on you and saying: “You may think that he’s doing good, but he’s a monster. He’s killing because he’s a monster.”
The audience might be rooting for the serial killer because it is the particular inspiration of Dexter to make the character a responsible citizen who channels his murderous impulses strictly in the service of removing bad people from the world. Rosenberg said that the show’s creators had steeled themselves for criticism when Dexter made its premiere on Showtime in 2006. “The executive producers were expecting it. They were ready for it. They thought that we were going to get slams,” Rosenberg said, but there was “not a one.”
Well, here’s a one. Rosenberg had it precisely backwards, for just when you think Morgan is a monster, the show takes pains to ingratiate him further into your good opinion. Deviancy has continued to be defined down since the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan identified the trend sixteen years ago, but Dexter represents a new low: the feel-good serial killer. The he’s-a-monster-no-he’s-not strategy of the show was apparent from the first episode, when Morgan abducts the director of a boys’ choir who moonlights as a serial killer specializing in the murder of his charges. Morgan has dug up some of the man’s victims and confronts him with the bodies—“Look or I’ll cut your eyelids right off your face”—before performing the ritual slaughter-of-the-guilty that is Morgan’s trademark. In this case, he goes to work on the man’s head with a power drill as a prelude to the butchering. “You’ll be packed into a few neatly wrapped Heftys,” Morgan patiently explains, “and my own small corner of the world will be a neater, happier place. A better place.”
As if to underscore that the world is a happier, better place thanks to Morgan’s cleansing campaign, the grisly nighttime scene immediately cuts to a glorious day on the water in Miami, with a sassy horn on the soundtrack lending a note of sexy fun as Morgan roars past us at the helm of a boat powered by twin 250-h.p. Evinrude outboard motors. The boat, in a wink to the audience, is called the Slice of Life. “My name is Dexter. Dexter Morgan,” he says by way of introduction in a voiceover, going on to explain that he doesn’t know why he kills or why he has a “hollow place” inside him. “People fake a lot of human interactions, but I feel like I fake them all. And that’s my burden, I guess.” He’s quick not to blame his foster parents: “Harry and Doris Morgan did a wonderful job of raising me. But they’re both dead now”—here he pauses for a comedic beat and then adds, with an I-know-what-you’re-thinking tone: “I didn’t kill them.”
Morgan’s voiceovers are an essential element of the show’s seduction of the viewer. Far from offering a forum where the ghastly evil of a serial killer might be revealed behind the façade of his counterfeit human interactions, Morgan’s narrated thoughts are one of the show’s pleasures: a self-deprecating quip here, a bit of biography there, plenty of mordant observations about life, and lots of cheerfully pedestrian chatter. In short, Dexter is good company. With his marriage imminent, we squirm along with him as he tries gamely to think up his contribution to the couple’s self-written wedding vows (“Once you were a dream and a prayer. Now our future is as bright as the sun glinting off the morning dew . . . ”) and we laugh when he stops abruptly and mutters: “Sounds like I’m marrying a unicorn.” We’re in the passenger seat as he makes conversation, confessing that he loves to eat while driving but regrets “not being able to employ the 10-2 hand position on the wheel. It’s a matter of public safety.” He can be chatty during his murders as well. His victims are customarily gagged and wrapped tightly in plastic, leaving Morgan free to soliloquize. In the middle of one killing during season three, when he is dispatching a man who murdered both of his wives—the guilt of Morgan’s victims is never in doubt—the David Bowie song “Changes” happens to be playing in the background. To the consternation of the whimpering man, Morgan says cheerfully: “I’ve been going through some changes myself lately. I’m getting married and have a baby on the way. Me!”
If his voiceovers and asides make us intimate with Morgan, then it is the strict “code” he observes in selecting his victims that makes us complicit. As in Darkly Dreaming Dexter, the Jeff Lindsay novel that inspired the series, Morgan kills only those who have escaped being brought to justice for murder. (Mark Twitchell apparently allowed himself more latitude: his Dexter-ish script described a killer whose victims used an online matchmaking service for husbands who want to cheat on their wives, and it seems that John Altinger was a bachelor.) How did Morgan end up a vigilante? The code was instilled by his foster father, a police officer who discovered that Morgan as a boy was torturing animals; Harry Morgan knew a nascent serial killer when he saw one. In a flashback, we see Harry urging the boy to “channel” his murderous impulses: “Use it for good.” The young Dexter eagerly agrees. “It’s OK, Dex,” Harry says. “You can’t help what happened to you. But you can make the best of it. Remember this forever: you are my son, you are not alone, and you are loved.” After this touching scene, Dad goes on to tutor the boy in the techniques of identifying the murderers walking among us, the proper method for killing them, and the best way to cover one’s tracks. Plastic sheeting, rubber mats, and duct tape are involved.
Morgan becomes so adept at not leaving evidence of his messy hobby that he also develops an expertise for assessing the work of lesser killers—a talent that serves him well in his job as a police-department blood-splatter analyst. Although Harry himself has passed away, he remains a ghostly presence in the series, advising Dexter, urging him to live up to the code, cautioning him when he seems to be getting sloppy—in other words, generally looking out for the mass murderer in a paternal manner.
At the close of the third season, one of Morgan’s potential victims turns the tables on him in a literal sort of way. Morgan, for a change, finds himself the one incapacitated on a tabletop while the killer pauses to savor the moment before tucking in. The interlude provides an opportunity for a visitation from Morgan’s tearful father, accompanied by heavenly music and a golden light.
“I’ve never seen you cry before,” Morgan tells his dad, who replies: “They’re not my tears, Dex, they’re yours.” Morgan, confused by his surging feelings, says that he desperately wants to live—his pregnant fiancée, Rita, is going to have a boy. “To raise him with Rita,” Morgan says, “to watch him grow up, protect him . . . it’s all going to be taken away”—the man waiting to kill him, after all, is idling nearby—“I want to be there for him. I’ve never wanted anything so much in my life.” Morgan looks up from the table with a new resolve: he must free himself and kill the man who would stop him from becoming a good father to his son. How could the audience not root for him? Melissa Rosenberg was right: Dexter doesn’t glorify the murders. It glorifies the murderer.
The world of Dexter is not so much a moral vacuum as a moral swamp, one in which the main character’s taste for slaughter is presented as, at worst, a character flaw in an otherwise good man. It’s all done in fun, of course, with a fillip of what the creators no doubt think of as aren’t-we-naughty transgressiveness. Early in the series, Morgan observes: “There’s something strange and disarming about looking at a homicide scene in the daylight of Miami. It makes the most grotesque killings look staged, like you’re in a new and daring section of Disney World. Dahmerland.” If there were any doubt the show itself is a weekly trip to Dahmerland, a theme park where the theme is cheerful mass murder, the doubt evaporates with a visit to the Dexter website. It’s a strange and disarming place. In addition to episode guides, video previews, and downloads (this is the place to find a blood-splatter screen saver just like Morgan’s), there is a section called Blog Buzz. The first posting displayed on a recent visit to the site said: “I found myself liking Dexter, which I didn’t think I would or could.” The blogger’s screen name is Principled Parent. Another fan says: “A nice guy who just happens to be a murderer.” The site also offers cheeky fake magazine covers featuring Dexter: a faux GQ magazine shows a debonair Morgan with the headline “In Cool Blood.” The Details parody calls him “American Homic-Idol.” People magazine: “Serial Sexy!,” with a story inside called “Lose Pounds Instantly,” accompanied by a photo of Morgan contemplating a severed foot.
The site’s pièce de résistance, though, is a video game called “Body Bag Toss.” We see Morgan out in the ocean aboard the Slice of Life, awaiting our assistance: “Help Dexter dispose of the evidence,” the directions instruct. ”The farther you throw it, the higher your score. Click once to start the bag spinning. Click again to toss.”
For Dexter fans who cross over from enjoying the playful side of serial-killer fantasy to actually emulating the nice guy who just happens to be a murderer, disposing of the evidence isn’t so easy. That’s especially true if you live in landlocked Alberta, far from the Gulf Stream that Morgan favors as an evidence-dispersion tool. Still, police in Edmonton say that Mark Twitchell managed the job. John Altinger’s remains still haven’t been found.
From Our Pages in 2009: Glorifying A Serial Killer
Must-Reads from Magazine
Are the warplane's secrets safe?
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the newest generation air platform for the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marines. Lockheed-Martin, which builds the F-35, describes it as “a 5th Generation fighter, combining advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment.” For both diplomatic reasons and to encourage sales, Lockheed-Martin subcontracted the production of many F-35 components to factories abroad. Many program partners—Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Denmark, for example—are consistent U.S. allies.
Turkey, however, is also part of the nine-nation consortium producing the plane, which gives Turkey access to the F-35’s technology. “As a program partner, Turkish industries are eligible to become suppliers to the global F-35 fleet for the life of the program. In total, F-35 industrial opportunities for Turkish companies are expected to reach $12 billion,” the warplane’s website explained. “Turkey plans to purchase 100 of the F-35A Conventional Takeoff and Landing variant. Its unsurpassed technological systems and unique stealth capabilities ensure that the F-35 will be the future of Turkish national security for decades to come.”
But is the F-35 safe with Turkey? In recent years, the Turkish government has leaked highly-classified information to America’s adversaries in fits of diplomatic pique. Back in 2013, for example, Turkey leaked to the Iranians the identities of Israeli spies in Iran. Danny Yatom, former head of the Mossad, told USA Today that the incident would damage U.S. intelligence efforts, “because we will be much more reluctant to work via Turkey because they will fear information is leaking to Iran… We feel information achieved [by Israel] through Turkey went not only to Israel but also to the United States.”
On July 19, the Pentagon criticized Turkey’s state-controlled news agency for exposing ten covert U.S. bases in Syria in a way that can enable both the Islamic State and Iranian-backed forces to target Americans. Bloomberg reported that the leak also detailed aid routes and equipment stored at each base.
Both these incidents raise serious questions about whether Turkey can be trusted with the F-35, especially given Turkey’s growing military and diplomatic ties to Russia, and the wayward NATO state’s recent cooperation with China as well. The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense is rightly concerned about the security implications of a plan to service its F-35s in Turkey, but such concern should only be the tip of the iceberg.
Should Turkey even receive F-35s and, to the extent the program relies on Turkish factories, is it time to stand up quickly a Plan B? To do otherwise might squander the billions of dollars already spent on the program, risk increasing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ability to blackmail the West, and potentially land America’s latest military technology on Kremlin desks.
Too many martyrs make a movement.
If the GOP is to be converted into a vehicle for politicians who evince Donald Trump’s brand of pragmatic center-right populism, Trump will have to demonstrate his brand of politics can deliver victories for people other than himself. Presidential pen strokes help to achieve that, as do judicial appointments. Nothing is so permanent, though, as sweeping legislative change. On that score, the newly Trumpian Republican Party is coming up short. If the passive process of transformational legislative success fails to compel anti-Trump holdouts in the GOP to give up the ghost, there is always arm-twisting. It seems the Republican National Committee is happy to play enforcer.
The RNC’s nascent effort to stifle anti-Trump apostasy by making examples of high-profile heretics has claimed its first victim: New Jersey’s Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno. The Republican is running to replace the nation’s least popular governor, Chris Christie, and the effort has been a struggle. Trailing badly in the polls and facing the headwinds associated with trying to succeed an unpopular outgoing GOP governor in a blue state, Guadagno needs all the help she can get. That help won’t be coming from the RNC. According to NJ Advance Media, the committee’s objection to helping Guadagno isn’t the imprudence of throwing good money after bad. It’s that she was mean to President Trump in 2016, and she must be punished.
“[The president] is unhappy with anyone who neglected him in his hour of need,” said a source billed as an RNC insider. The specific complaint arises from an October 8 tweet from the lieutenant governor said that “no apology can excuse” Trump’s “reprehensible” conduct on the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape. “Christie was not as stalwart as some people in the party, but at least he didn’t go against him the way she did,” the insider added.
This source’s version of events was supported by former two-term New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman. “She went down there, and the (Republican National) Committee was reluctant to back the campaign in the way one would have expected,” she said. “The implication was, ‘Well you were not a Trump supporter in the primary, and so don’t expect much money.'”
This is almost certainly a pretext. Republicans are facing stiff competition and an unfavorable political environment in November’s gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey. In 2017-2018, 27 GOP-held seats are up for grabs, nine of which are in some jeopardy of falling to Democrats. Republicans are going to have to husband their resources and triage their officeholders. That’s a forgivable, if demoralizing, condition. Declaring Guadagno to have offended the leader and to be cut off from the font of Republican goodwill is not only unjustifiable, it’s terribly foolish.
If Republican women are to be punished for saying that Trump’s comments about sexually assaulting unsuspecting females were unacceptable, there are going to be a lot fewer Republican women. Moreover, the RNC has invited the perception that there is a double standard at play here. A slew of Republicans called on Trump to drop out of the race after that tape, but the RNC is unlikely to withhold support for Senators Rob Portman or John Thune when they need it. Among those calling on Trump to drop out was his own chief of staff, Reince Priebus—a fact the president reportedly won’t let Priebus forget.
Cults of personality can be bullied into existence, but they rarely outlast the personality around whom they form unless that personality can claim some lasting achievements. In lieu of any compelling rationale, the effort to remake the GOP in Trump’s image by force will only create dissidents. The ideological conservatives who once dominated the Republican Party are unlikely to make peace with the ascendant populist faction at gunpoint. And the RNC is not solely to blame for this boneheaded move. Even if the notion that Guadagno is being punished for disloyalty is a pretense, it is a response to a clear set of incentives promoted by this White House.
Maybe the most intriguing question of the present political age is whether or not conservatives in the GOP will come to terms with a man they once saw as a usurper. A heavy hand will only catalyze resistance, and Trump needs his own party as much or more than they need him. Guadagno’s gubernatorial bid is on no firmer ground today than it was yesterday, but the Republican candidate’s allies can now legitimately claim persecution at the hands of personality cultists. Too many martyrs make a movement. The White House and the Republican National Committee should tread lightly.
Podcast: Conservatism in shackles while O.J. goes free?
On the second of this week’s podcasts, I ask Abe Greenwald and Noah Rothman whether the health-care debacle this week is simply a reflection of the same pressures on the conservative coalition Donald Trump saw and conquered by running for president last year—and what it will mean for him and them that he has provided no rallying point for Republican politicians. And then we discuss OJ Simpson. Give a listen.
Don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes.
Hyperbole yields cynicism, not the other way around.
Newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron surprised almost everyone when he invited President Donald Trump to celebrate Bastille Day with him in Paris, especially after the two leaders’ awkward first meeting in Brussels in May. After all, between now and then, Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Change Agreement, and Macron has become perhaps the most vocal critic of Trump among European leaders.
In hindsight, Macron’s reason for embracing Trump might have been to get the president to reverse course on the Paris agreement. From the Associated Press:
French President Emmanuel Macron says his glamorous Paris charm offensive on Donald Trump was carefully calculated — and may have changed the U.S. president’s mind about climate change…. On their main point of contention — Trump’s withdrawal from the landmark Paris climate agreement — Macron is quoted as saying that “Donald Trump listened to me. He understood the reason for my position, notably the link between climate change and terrorism.”
According to Macron, climate change causes droughts and migration, which exacerbates crises as populations fight over shrinking resources. If Macron really believes that, France and Europe are in for some tough times.
First, droughts are a frequent, cyclical occurrence in the Middle East, the Sahel, and the Horn of Africa. The difference between drought and famine is the former is a natural occurrence and the latter is man-made, usually caused by poor governance. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the Horn of Africa, where the same drought might kill a few dozens of Ethiopians but wipe out tens of thousands of Somalis.
Second, the common factor in the wars raging in the Middle East today is neither climate change nor extreme weather, but brutal dictatorship, radical ideologies, and the militias supported by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Yemen could be a breadbasket. Its terraced fields rising up thousands of feet in the mountains grow almost every fruit imaginable. Yemen also catches the tail end of the monsoon. If Yemenis planted exportable crops like coffee rather than the mild drug qat, which does not bring in hard currency, they might be fairly prosperous.
It is not climate change that denied the Syrian public basic freedoms and liberty for decades, nor was it climate change that dropped barrel bombs on civilian neighborhoods, tortured and killed 13-year-old Hamza Ali al-Khateeb, or used chemical weapons. For that matter, when it comes to radicalization, the problem is Syria was less climate and more decades of Saudi-and Qatari-funded indoctrination and Turkish assistance to foreign fighters.
Regardless of all this, another obvious factor nullifies Macron’s thesis: When drought occurs in regions outside the Middle East, the result is seldom suicide bombing.
Terrorism does not have a one-size-fits-all explanation but, generally speaking, when it comes to Islamist terrorism, ideology plays a key role. Most terrorists are educated, middle class, and relatively privileged. Islamic State caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, for example, has a Ph.D. Many of the 9/11 hijackers were educated. In the Gaza Strip, Hamas recruits inside schools. Simply put, there is no linkage between climate change and terrorism.
Not only would Trump be foolish to buy Macron’s argument, but environmentalists who believe climate change puts the Earth in immediate peril should be outraged. It is hyperbole. Moreover, it is the casual invocation of climate change as a catch-all cause for every other issue that breeds the cynicism that leads so many to become so dismissive of everything climate activists say. Macron may look down up Trump as an ignorant bore, but Macron’s own logic suggests he is also living in a world where facts and reality don’t matter.
Quid pro quo?
Until now, the notion that Donald Trump was providing Russia and Vladimir Putin with concessions at the expense of U.S. interests was poorly supported. That all changed on Wednesday afternoon when the Washington Post revealed that Donald Trump ordered his national security advisor and CIA director to scrap a program that provided covert aid to anti-Assad rebels in Syria.
The president made that decision on July 7, within 24 hours of his first face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The sources who spoke to the Washington Post accurately characterize it as a reflection of “Trump’s interest in finding ways to work with Russia.” That is a fool’s errand but, more important, this move demonstrates that the United States is willing to cede ground to adversaries and bad actors as long as they are persistent enough.
I endeavored to demonstrate as thoroughly as I could why American interests in Syria and those of Russia not only do not align but often conflict violently. The president appears convinced, like his predecessor, that his personal political interests are better served by allowing Moscow to be the power broker in Syria—even if that makes America and its allies less safe.
Moscow has made it a priority to execute airstrikes on American and British covert facilities in Syria, and Donald Trump has just rewarded those air strikes on U.S. targets. Trump has sacrificed the goodwill he garnered from Sunni-dominated Middle Eastern governments when he executed strikes on Assad’s assets and, as recently as June, the U.S. downed a Syrian warplane for attacking anti-ISIS rebels laying siege to the Islamic State capital of Raqqa.
America will continue to provide support to indigenous anti-ISIS rebels, despite the fact that those forces are often under assault from both Russian and Syrian forces. It should be noted, however, that the CIA suspended aid to Free Syrian Army elements when it came under attack from Islamist in February. The agency said it didn’t want cash and weapons falling into Islamist hands, but this move exposes that claim as a mere pretext.
This concession to Russia is significant not just because it removes some pressure on Moscow’s vassal in Damascus. It sends a series of signals to the world’s bad actors, who will inevitably react.
The phasing out of aid for anti-Assad rebels (presumably the indigenous Sunni-dominated factions) gives Russia and Syria the only thing they’ve ever wanted: the ability to frame the conflict in Syria as one between the regime and a handful of radicals and pariahs. A cessation of aid will squeeze the remaining moderate, secular rebel factions in Syria and compel them to seek whatever assistance they can—even at the risk of augmenting the ranks of Islamist insurgents. How that advances America’s interests is entirely unclear.
This move will only further embolden not just Russia and Syria but their mutual ally, the Islamic Republic of Iran. It will convince the region’s Sunni actors that the United States is not on their side—a matter of increasing urgency in Iraq. The insurgency in Syria is unlikely to end so long as regional fighters have a means of getting into the country. America will simply sacrifice its leverage over those groups.
This move will confirm, finally, that the use of weapons of mass destruction in the battlefield is survivable. A truly resolute American administration might fire off a handful of Tomahawk missiles at an abandoned airfield, but regime change is not in the offing. That will only beget other bad actors who will test the parameters of America’s willingness to defend the international norms prohibiting the use of WMDs. Because American servicemen and women are stationed around the world in unstable theaters, the likelihood that they will one day be fighting on chemical battlefields just became a lot more likely.
American covert involvement in Syria also filled a vacuum that the Obama administration allowed to expand in 2011 and 2012. “One big potential risk of shutting down the CIA program is that the United States may lose its ability to block other countries, such as Turkey and Persian Gulf allies, from funneling more sophisticated weapons—including man-portable air-defense systems, or MANPADS—to anti-Assad rebels, including more radical groups,” the Washington Post speculated. Ironically, American withdrawal from the anti-Assad effort could actually fuel the fire, but in a way that we can neither control nor effectively influence. We’ve seen that movie before. We know how it ends.
And all of this is for what? To garner goodwill with the bloody regime in Damascus? To court Moscow or Tehran? There is nothing to gain from cozying up to these regimes that is not offset by the sacrifice of American national interests and moral authority associated with rapprochement. For all of the Trump administration’s criticisms of Barack Obama’s policy with regard to those regimes, this decision suggests he’s willing to double down on Obama’s mistakes.