By Casey Luciusclucius

As I read the news on Monday, October 10, I was struck by how far our presidential campaign has strayed from what really matters and how that represents a truly dangerous threat to U.S. national security interests.

The American news media and Twitterverse couldn’t get enough of the disconcerting slugfest that took place between presidential candidates in St. Louis the night before. Imagine what foreign audiences thought of the contest between finalists for what Condoleezza Rice called “the highest office in the greatest democracy on earth.”

Even as people around the world were certainly watching us, we can be equally sure that Americans were not looking outwards at what was happening elsewhere. Consider the following:

Much has been made about alleged Russian government-sponsored hackers generating headline-grabbing leaks of confidential documents. If true, I would argue that they aren’t as much trying to influence our election as they are fueling the media and Internet beast with more and better distractions for the candidates and public. A diverted America is a weakened America. That means more freedom for Russia, China, Iran and others to advance their strategic geopolitical interests free from worry about consequences from the United States.

The Obama administration, passive by inclination and now decreasing in relevance due to its lame duck status, does not appear to have the clarity or drive to assert American national interests. The two presidential candidates are not presenting much in the way of deterrence since neither has begun a serious dialogue about how their presidency will engage with the world and protect vital American interests.

Like a ring of fire representing risk to American interests, the daily news cycle of world events, largely ignored in the United States, are cinders emanating from an unstable volcano of dangers from every corner of the world. There will be no let-up in pressure, and in fact, history tells us that instability only accelerates.

It is time for the American public to pull our eyes away from the circus act being played out as an election campaign and begin, amongst ourselves, a serious discussion about American interests and how to protect them. If our leaders won’t do it, we must.

In Senate and House races across the country, let’s demand that the candidates outline their vision for American national interests and how America should prepare and execute its national security strategy. We have fewer than 30 days to decide who will represent ‘We the People’ in Congress.

Ignore the distractions. Let’s focus on what is going on around the world, and let’s work together to protect our national interests. The time is now.

Casey Lucius, who served as a former Professor of National Security at the Naval War College and ran an intelligence unit on The USS Stennis in the Persian Gulf during her seven years on active duty in the Navy, is a candidate for Congress in California District 20.