“Trump Makes Neoconservatives Look Good”: Trump Has No Understanding Of The World And The Role We Play
Donald Trump’s foreign policy was poorly received by neoconservatives, as is obvious if you look at the reaction at the Washington Post. Pro-Iraq War editorial board chief Fred Hiatt said that Trump’s vision was incoherent, inconsistent, and incomprehensible. Columnist Charles Krauthammer described the speech as incoherent, inconsistent, and jumbled. While the Post’s resident columnist/blogger Jennifer Rubin expressed concern that, based on Trump’s language, he might be a malleable mouthpiece of anti-Semites.
If neoconservatives come pretty close to being always wrong, the Post’s reaction might be considered the highest form of praise. Unfortunately, most of their criticisms are accurate. This is particularly true when they go after Trump for his looseness with the facts, his contradictory and mutually exclusive messages, and his praise of unpredictability.
For example, Fred Hiatt nailed Trump for insisting that we “abandon defense commitments to allies because of the allegedly weakened state of the U.S. economy” at the same time that he criticizes President Obama for not being a steadfast friend to our allies. Krauthammer wondered how Trump could criticize Obama for letting Iran become a regional power and promise to bring stability to the Middle East without having any commitment to keep a presence there or to take any risks or to make any expenditures.
If there is any remaining doubt about how neoconservatives view Trump’s foreign policy ideas, Sen. Lindsey Graham removed them:
Sen. Lindsey Graham tore into Donald Trump’s speech on foreign policy, calling it “unnerving,” “pathetic” and “scary.”
The South Carolina Republican former presidential candidate told WABC Radio on Wednesday that the speech was “nonsensical” and showed that Trump “has no understanding of the world and the role we play.”
“This speech was unnerving. It was pathetic in its content, and it was scary in terms of its construct. If you had any doubt that Donald Trump is not fit to be commander in chief, this speech should’ve removed it,” Graham said. “It took every problem and fear I have with Donald Trump and put in on steroids.”
He added: “It was like a guy from New York reading a speech that somebody wrote for him that he edited that makes no sense.” And: “It was not a conservative speech. This was a blend of random thoughts built around Rand Paul’s view of the world.”
It’s true that Graham’s response there is a substance-free ad hominem attack, but he did get around to making specific critiques. In particular, he noted that Trump can’t keep his promises to both minimize our presence in the Middle East and destroy ISIS in short order without significant alliances with the regimes in the Middle East. But he won’t be improving our alliances by talking negatively about Islam as a religion and banning Muslims from entering the United States. Graham said that the problem with Obama is that he isn’t seen as a reliable ally by these despots, but that Trump “is worse than Obama…the entire world is going to look at Donald Trump as a guy who doesn’t understand the role of America, that doesn’t understand the benefit of these alliances.”
Graham also blasted Trump’s position on NATO and said that “the idea of dismembering NATO would be the best thing possible for [Russian President Vladimir] Putin.”
It’s not that Graham properly understands “the role of America” or that he gets the downsides of our alliances with foreign dictatorial regimes. But he understands that you can’t win a war against radicals in the Arab world by making enemies of every Arab (and Muslim) in the world. Graham understands that you can’t criticize the president for being a lousy friend and then rip up longstanding and uncontroversial agreements with those friends while demanding both more money and more deference.
A full treatment of Trump’s speech and foreign policy ideas is beyond the scope of this blog piece, but he’s about to become the leader of a party that is filled with neoconservatives.
They aren’t going to pretend that the emperor has clothes on.
And, for once in their lives, they’re largely right.
By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 29, 2016
The United States is not just another democracy on the map. Plenty of countries have elections to choose their heads of state, but given the unique role the U.S. has as a global superpower, and the effects of our policies on the international stage, a global audience keeps an eye on our presidential elections with scrutiny other countries don’t receive.
After all, we’re choosing the “Leader of the Free World.”
But just as the U.S. is not just another democracy, 2016 is not just another election. While international observers tend to watch American presidential elections with a degree of curiosity, this year, the world is experiencing a very different kind of sentiment.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham tried to reassure foreign leaders that Donald Trump is nothing to worry about during a trip to the Middle East last week. “Everybody asked me about Trump in terms of policy changes. I said he is an outlier, don’t look at him,” Graham told reporters Thursday about his overseas trip.
The most serious concerns Graham said leaders from Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt expressed raised were regarding Trump’s proposal to temporarily ban most Muslims from entering the United States.
The South Carolina Republican, hardly a liberal, added that many of the leaders he spoke to were “dumbfounded that somebody running for president of the United States would suggest that the United States ban everybody in their faith.” Officials abroad, he added, are “bewildered.”
There’s a lot of this going around. At a White House briefing this week, a reporter asked President Obama whether Trump’s foreign-policy proposals are “already doing damage” to America’s reputation. “The answer … is yes,” Obama responded. “I think that I’ve been very clear earlier that I am getting questions constantly from foreign leaders about some of the wackier suggestions that are being made.”
Last week, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) returned from a trip abroad and said officials in Israel and Turkey specifically pressed him on the anti-Muslim rhetoric in the Republican presidential race.
All of this dovetails with reporting from a month ago about international “alarm” over Trump from officials in Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia.
A senior NATO official, speaking before the Republican frontrunner talked publicly about abandoning the treaty organization, was quoted telling Reuters, “European diplomats are constantly asking about Trump’s rise with disbelief and, now, growing panic.”
As we talked about at the time, there’s ample speculation about the message the United States would send to the world if Trump was elected president. But there’s probably not enough speculation about the damage the success of Trump’s campaign is already doing to the nation’s reputation.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 8, 2016
I am taking Tuesday’s Wisconsin primary personally. That’s the progressive state with the capital P, the home of the Progressive Party founded by the LaFollettes about a century ago. Sen. Bob LaFollette is considered one of the very best senators in history. Scenic blue Madison is the city where the university anti-Vietnam War movement caught on fire and tear gas.
An irony that gives no pleasure: the Republican candidate favored to win, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, reminds people of Wisconsin’s own shameful demagogue. Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who went on witch hunts for Communists at home, was a national disgrace. His tear was not stopped before he wrecked hundreds of lives – maybe more.
The radical demonization of others is what Cruz and McCarthy share in common. In one campaign debate, Cruz insulted the island of Manhattan for its views on reproductive rights. The Texan even looks like McCarthy, I’ve heard people say. Yes, there is a resemblance. Is Wisconsin going to vote for Cruz, for old times sake?
Please say it’s not so.
Here’s one more irony. The Republican party elders and regulars are so adamantly against mogul Donald Trump winning the nomination that they are openly willing to settle for Cruz, the most hostile antagonist to other Republican senators. He’s a freshman, about as rude as Trump, without a drop of the milk of human kindness. He has very few friends in the Senate, making a practice of insulting senior senators, both Republican and Democratic. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has no idea what to do with him. Most senators like to be liked and put up a good front.
The Republican establishment and the arch-conservative Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, are egging on the only Republican in Trump’s league for arrogance. It’s rare to have a politician who loves to be hated. Cruz thrives on it. If he becomes the nominee, it will be hard to have the party rally round him.
In a normal political season, the governor of Ohio would be elected Republican party darling. Gov. John Kasich comes across as an experienced and reasonable candidate. He speaks well, inflected with Midwestern earnestness. Beware. His political rise took place in Speaker Newt Gingrich’s House. And he is no moderate friend to women’s rights and health. He is scary on that score.
The truth is, I feel about Trump what Winston Churchill declared about democracy as a system of government: that he’s a deeply flawed contender, but better than all the others. Better than Cruz and shallow Sen. Marco Rubio. Better than the prince of privilege, Jeb Bush. Better than the self-serving, acid Gov. Chris Christie. Better than the clueless Dr. Ben Carson.
Let me explain. Trump’s the only candidate to speak out strongly against the ill-fated Iraq War, which shattered our well-being as a nation. He told Bob Woodward of The Washington Post that our presidents could have “gone to the beach” and the Middle East would be in better shape. Thank you, that’s true. The Middle East with the Islamic State group is a hot mess, thanks to us.
The brash New Yorker gets no credit for that forceful fresh analysis, because the media always sees Trump in black and white. First, he was a clownish figure in a freak show. Now he’s a danger to all the liberties we hold dear. National security experts, many of whom beat the drum for war in Iraq, wrote a letter stating that Trump is a threat to national security. What does that make them?
On the issue of choice, Trump was clearly chastened by outrage at a careless remark about women getting “punished” for exercising their constitutional right to privacy in personal medical matters. He learned from this mistake. Very soon after, he became the only Republican to admit the laws on legal abortion are clear and set since 1973. He said the law should stay as is. Unlike the rigid Cruz, Kasich, Rubio and the rest, Trump gets Planned Parenthood as a women’s health organization. No small thing.
As for accusations of misogyny, I’ll be the judge of that. Too many male pundits toss that word out there like a pitch on Opening Day. Many don’t grasp it’s a heavy, ancient Greek word that should be saved for the real thing.
Wisconsin is America’s dairyland, but much more than that. Madison, the state capital, was a paradise to me, set by the shore of Lake Mendota. The country will be watching Wisconsin closely Tuesday night for clues to our state of mind, nobody more than me.
By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, April 4, 2016
“His Global Brainless Trust”: Donald Trump’s New Foreign Policy Advisers Are As Rotten As His Steaks
A Christian academic accused of inciting violence against Muslims. A former Pentagon official who blocked investigations into Bush administration bigwigs. And an assortment of self-professed experts probably few in established foreign policy circles have ever heard of. These are the minds advising Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on foreign policy and national security.
Trump, who has been pressed for months to name his council of advisers, revealed five in a meeting with the Washington Post editorial board on Tuesday: Keith Kellogg, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Walid Phares, and Joseph E. Schmitz.
Few of these names will register with most voters, or many experts in Washington. None of them are especially sought after for foreign policy views and national security expertise in the nation’s capital—which may be why they’re attractive to Trump.
Trump revealed little about what specific advice they’d given so far, or how any of them may have shaped Trump’s surprising new position that the U.S. should rethink whether it needs to remain in the seven-decades-old NATO alliance with Europe.
Sounding more like a CFO than a commander-in-chief, Trump said of the alliance, “We certainly can’t afford to do this anymore,” adding, “NATO is costing us a fortune and yes, we’re protecting Europe with NATO, but we’re spending a lot of money.”
U.S. officials, including former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, have said that European allies have to shoulder a bigger burden of NATO’s cost. But calling for the possible U.S. withdrawal from the treaty is a radical departure for a presidential candidate—even a candidate who has been endorsed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
It also wasn’t clear how Trump’s arguably anti-interventionist position on the alliance squared with his choice of advisers. The most well-known among them is Phares, a politically conservative academic who has accused President Obama of “appeasement” toward radical Muslim terrorists and called for more U.S. military intervention in the Middle East.
To his detractors, Phares is a rare combination of lightning rod and dog whistle. His various claims about a creeping, underappreciated jihadi “apocalypse” against the West will find quarter with Trump’s broad suspicion of Muslims and his call to ban foreign Muslims from entering the U.S.
In a 2008 essay in the conservative Human Events, Phares warned that in the following four years, “Jihadists may recruit one million suicide bombers” and that by 2016, they would have 10 million and “seize five regimes equipped with the final weapon,” referring to nuclear weapons.
This isn’t Phares’s first time as a presidential adviser. As The Daily Beast reported in 2011, Phares’s work co-chairing the Middle East policy team for then-GOP candidate Mitt Romney—who has recently vowed to fight against Trump’s nomination—prompted the Council on American-Islamic Relations to call on the candidate to ditch Phares, whom it called “an associate to war crimes” and a “conspiracy theorist,” citing his ties to a violent anti-Muslim militia.
Mother Jones reported that in the 1980s Phares, a Christian who was then active in Lebanese political groups, trained militants in ideological beliefs to justify a war on Muslim and Druze factions, prompting a former CIA official to question why a man with ties to foreign political organizations was advising a U.S. presidential candidate.
Phares has his supporters, chiefly in neoconservative foreign policy circles and among conservative pundits and analysts. But those connections drew scrutiny in 2012 when the group Media Matters for America alleged that Phares’s connections to the Romney campaign weren’t properly identified when Phares was working as a consultant for Fox News.
Another Trump adviser, Schmitz, has served in government, as the Defense Department inspector general. Schmitz was brought in during the first term of President George W. Bush with a mandate to reform the watchdog office, but he eventually found himself the subject of scrutiny.
“Schmitz slowed or blocked investigations of senior Bush administration officials, spent taxpayer money on pet projects and accepted gifts that may have violated ethics guidelines,” according to an investigation by the Los Angeles Times in 2005. Current and former colleagues described him as “an intelligent but easily distracted leader who seemed to obsess over details,” including the hiring of a speechwriter and designs for a bathroom.
Schmitz also raised eyebrows for what the paper’s sources described as his “unusual” fascination with Baron Friedrich Von Steuben, a Revolutionary War hero who’s regarded as the military’s first inspector general. Schmitz reportedly replaced the Defense Department IG’s seal in its office across the country with a new one bearing the Von Steuben family motto, Sub Tutela Altissimi Semper, “under the protection of the Almighty always.”
By: Shane Harris, The Daily Beast, March 21, 2016
“Trump And The Myth Of Superiority”: It’s The Lowest Part Of Who We Are, This Need To Find Someone Else To Put Down
There are many reasons to recommend Elizabeth Strout’s new novel, “My Name Is Lucy Barton,” but this is not a book review, so I offer this single, searing paragraph:
“I have said before: It interests me how we find ways to feel superior to another person, another group of people. It happens everywhere, and all the time. Whatever we call it, I think it’s the lowest part of who we are, this need to find someone else to put down.”
Could there be a more perfect description of that failed human strategy? If we feel good about ourselves only by comparison, we are forever on the hunt, setting our sights on innocent others so that we can stomach who we’ve become.
“So what?” one might ask. If this game of mental gymnastics is an interior job — if we keep our darkest motives to ourselves — what harm comes of this way of thinking?
Well, there’s this: When storing our insecurities, the mind is the worst place to stock the shelves. Eventually, the monster festering and growing in the dark demands its freedom — or, in the case of the Republican presidential race, an audience.
This week Sarah Palin, who refuses to go away, endorsed Donald Trump, who insists he is here to stay. The public response was rapid and, many would say, often hilarious. Satirist Andy Borowitz wrote a piece for The New Yorker titled “Palin Endorsement Widens Trump Lead Among Idiots.” The New York Daily News‘ cover headline: “I’M WITH STUPID! Hate minds think alike: Palin endorses Trump.”
A few months ago, I would have snickered along and maybe shared links to this coverage on Facebook, but these past few months of relentless Trump coverage have changed me. To laugh is to play along with this notion of my superiority, and I don’t like that version of myself. I was raised to be better than this.
Some of Trump’s most ardent supporters — white, working-class males who fear they are on the brink of extinction — are the same Americans who would suffer most if he were the Republican nominee and could continue this farce of a campaign to Election Day. These are the people I come from. I have reached the point where I am more worried for them than embarrassed by their choice of candidate. I’m not proud of either sentiment.
It is perhaps the most depressing fact of this current primary campaign that Donald Trump’s extremism — so much of which swirls around his assertions of superiority — has fueled his momentum. Every speech is one long brag-fest about his fictional superiority, not just to other candidates but also to a growing list of entire groups of people: Mexicans and Muslims, women and black people — and now members of the media, too, who dare to defy his coverage directives. He mocks them, all of them. The more he bellows and belittles, the louder his crowds roar.
And now he has been joined by Sarah Palin, who resigned her job as Alaska’s governor to pursue her hobby of willfully uninformed trolling in the arena of public discourse. During her endorsement speech for Donald Trump, she made up a new word — “squirmishes” — to describe the complexities of the violence in the Middle East:
“And you quit footing the bill for these nations who are oil-rich. We’re paying for some of their squirmishes that have been going on for centuries, where they’re fighting each other and yelling ‘Allahu akbar,’ calling jihad on each other’s heads forever and ever. Like I’ve said before, let them duke it out and let Allah sort it out.”
And this, comparing Trump to President Barack Obama: “And he, who would negotiate deals, kind of with the skills of a community organizer maybe organizing a neighborhood tea, well, he deciding that, ‘No, America would apologize as part of the deal,’ as the enemy sends a message to the rest of the world that they capture and we kowtow, and we apologize, and then, we bend over and say, ‘Thank you, enemy.’”
Thanks (I think) to The New York Times‘ Michael Barbaro for transcribing those chunks of Palin’s ranting.
Most major news organizations in the country sent out breaking news alerts when she announced that she was endorsing Trump. Think about that, but whatever you do, don’t dwell on it. No good comes of it, I can tell you.
There was a time when too many of us saw Trump’s climb in the polls as so temporary, and evidence of our superiority. Look how stupid those people are, we said, chuckling.
Who’s laughing now?
By: Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Columnist; The National Memo, January 21, 2016