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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Stories about campaign policy advisors are normally ones of process, interesting only to those inside the beltway. This is truly the nitty-gritty of political analysis: delving into the resumes of the men and women behind the candidate, and trying to extrapolate broad worldviews or specific policy recommendations they might be whispering into candidates’ ears. In short, it’s normally pretty banal stuff to the average observer.

It says something about the GOP race for president, then, that the foreign policy teams of their presumptive nominee and current runner-up are making such a splash in the news cycle.

Last week, the Republican Party’s last unpleasant hope to stop presumptive nominee Donald J. Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, released an eclectic mix of foreign policy advisors. One the one hand, Cruz has poached traditional neoconservatives, including names like Elliott Abrams of Iran-Contra indictment fame or Michael Leeden, Iraq and Iran war advocate extraordinaire. Yet on the other, he has courted some of the most extreme single-issue Islamophobes on the fringe of the right. Chief among these is of course Frank Gaffney, whose insane brand of Islamophobia includes believing that Saddam Hussein was behind the Oklahoma City bombing and warning against the infiltration of the American government (including the Republican Party) by members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The curious range of folks on his team mirrors Cruz’s obfuscatory foreign policy stances. Cruz has branded himself against neoconservatives, frequently lumping primary opponent Sen. Marco Rubio in with the Obama-Clinton (read: NATO) intervention in Libya. Nonetheless, they now appear on the senator’s foreign policy team, perhaps drawn to his idle promises of “carpet bombing” ISIS. But Cruz is trying to have his cake and eat it too; while on the one hand seeking the endorsement of the Washington establishment he so loathes (and that so loathes him) via the neoconservatives, he’s also trying to hit Trump from the right flank by bringing in extremist charlatans like Gaffney.

Meanwhile, 181 days after promising radio host Hugh Hewitt he’d be announcing “something very soon” and that “so many great national security people, including generals” were clamoring to be by his side, Trump has released the names of five advisors. There is arguably little point in analyzing the individual members of Trump’s national security team, because they are not a means to an end (better policy) but an end in and of themselves: Red meat for the beltway press to devour, and a throwaway line (“See, he has advisors—and they aren’t political hacks, either!”) for his supporters to holler at anyone who will listen.

In the same editorial board meeting in which Trump unveiled this preliminary list of advisors, he also suggested that the United States should step back from NATO, of all things. Trump’s understanding of U.S. power projection around the world as a money drain—and his proposed solution of a tribute payment solution—reflects a childish understanding of geopolitics, but he’s been expressing it consistently and publicly since 1990. Advisors will not change that view, but instead adapt their own expertise to bolster it in some way. At the end of the day, Trump’s comment that his best foreign policy advisor is himself because he has “a very good brain and [has] said a lot of things” is all the statement that one needs to understand how he views the world.

Both candidates’ foreign policy teams, thus, say more about their character than their substance. For Cruz, it’s a flexible attempt to reconcile his current need for the establishment with his past brand of radicalism; for Trump, it’s a cultivation of low-level sycophants who will validate his own assumptions about the world until the establishment swallows its pride and comes around to do the same. Meanwhile, the troubling spaces where both men overlap on foreign policy—inhumane positions on torture and refugees, simplistic, bomb-based plans to defeat ISIL, and reckless preference for force over diplomacy—remain too little discussed and dissected.

Banking on lists of advisors to adjust rhyme, reason, or American values into the GOP foreign policy conversation is clearly a faint hope.

Graham F. West manages The Whistlestop (@thewhistle_stop), a platform for holding candidates and elected officials accountable on issues of national security and foreign policy throughout the 2016 cycle. Views expressed are his own.

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate businessman Donald Trump and rival candidate Senator Ted Cruz (R) cross paths during a break at the Fox Business Network Republican presidential candidates debate in North Charleston, South Carolina January 14, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane 

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Copyright 2016 The National Memo

39 Responses to Cruz And Trump’s Foreign Policy Advisors Are Unsurprisingly Bad

  1. So, Cruz picked a bunch of indicted war criminals and neocon hawks who used their extensive networks to avoid actual military service. Looking at Trump’s list, at least he has one person who served (before he was invited to resign his commission).

  2. The fact that Ted Cruz chose far right radicals, with a dismal record and documented religious zealotry, is not surprising. Cruz is an ideologue who, with the exception of beheading, acts and talks like most ISIL leaders do. Choosing fanatics that think like he does was to be expected.
    I doubt Trump will make the same mistake. He may be an empty suit, politically speaking, but he is not dumb. He is likely to pick retired generals, and one or two distinguished conservative politicians, as members of his foreign policy advisory team. Unfortunately for him, it is too little too late. His image, immaturity, and irresponsibility are known worldwide, and elicit fear that no advisory team will be able to mitigate in a life time.

    • Again, I am not a Trump supporter, but I think he would surround himself with the best in our country. He has done that before in his business and I think he would do the same as President. I also believe he is smart enough to listen to them. Personally I think the only choices of Trump or Hillary for President is a sad sad situation for our country. Seems to me, we should be able to do much much much better. Both of them have so many unfavorables and people that don’t trust them, we are in for 4 more years of hate in the Congress and no corporation between the two parties.

      • ” no corporation between the two parties” I know that was just a typo but I couldn’t help but comment that it is in fact the “corporation(s)” that unite the parties. Both are owned by them.

      • Well, the editorial board of the Sun Sentinel of Florida doesn’t share your feelings about Hillary. Here’s just an excerpt from their endorsement of her:

        The breadth of her experience and her accomplishments are why the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board recommends voters choose her over Bernie Sanders in Florida’s Democratic primary on March 15. Hillary Clinton brings assets we’ve seen too little of this primary season — steadiness and experience at the highest levels of government.

        Her resume is impressive. She spent eight years in the U.S. Senate, representing New York from 2001 to 2009. She followed that with four years as secretary of state. Though she ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination in 2008, she was in the White House for eight years working on policy while her husband was president. Of course, that makes Clinton the ultimate establishment insider, which to some voters is hardly an asset this year. But if you wouldn’t go to a doctor who hadn’t graduated from medical school, why would you elect a president with no experience in government? Donald Trump, for example, would be the first president never to have served in government or the military. His lack of experience already shows.

        Clinton also has chosen not to totally distance herself from the record of Barack Obama. On the contrary, she and Obama have similar views on most of the main domestic issues: health care and immigration reform, equal rights, income inequality and a higher minimum wage, tougher gun laws, combating climate change, paid family leave and restoring relations with Cuba.

        Her ambitious goals on climate change especially matter in Florida, the state most at risk from rising seas. Clinton’s goals for renewable energy are more ambitious even than Obama’s.

        And by the way, the Sun Sentinel refused to endorse any of the GOP candidates – Trump, Cruz, Rubio or Kasich saying not one of them was qualified to be president or even acted presidential.

  3. Making deals instead of going to Congress to make a treaty with Iran was a great. Just give them 150 billion and let them break the deal. That is great foreign policy. Drawing red lines and then denying doing it is great foreign policy. Not enforcing our immigration laws and allowing murderers and rapist and sanctuary cities is great foreign policy.

    • “my .friend’s mate Is getting 98$. HOURLY. on the internet.”….

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    • It’s was a great policy to move towards peace vs war. President Obama has enforced the immigration laws more then the Bush did, more have been deported under his watch Murders and rapist are part of your family members and friends that have turned on society, that has nothing to do with foreign, now does it, but it sound good to say that all Mexicans are murders and rapist to YOU and TRUMP, two peas in a pod.

      • Where did anyone say all Mexicans are murders and rapist. My post was about illegals be allowed to stay here. Yes, they have murdered and raped. You just want to ignore and call anyone that tells the truth about the murders and rapes and other crimes racist. Obama changed the rules on how many are deported. He counts people turned away legally at the borders as being deported. If Obama enforced the border laws, why does the border patrol say they have been ordered to NOT arrest and detain by Obama? Are they all liars also?

          • He said no such thing. He said Mexico wasn’t sending us their best. He also said he has many Mexican employees and they are hard working good people. He wants to get rid of the illegal criminal element of all races.

          • Why is there such a big push to get rid of the illegals when it’s native-born Americans who commit 8-10 times the number of crimes that require incarceration?? Yup!! Illegals commit 1/8 to 1/10 the overall crimes that native-borns’ do and when they do commit a crime – the crimes they commit are 2-3 times less likely to require jail time.
            The reason you and your idiotic right-wing friends think illegals are such murderers and rapists is because when an illegal commits a rare murder or rape, the media spews it all around the country while not making anywhere near the splash about the 10 times more frequent murders and rapes committed by non illegal native-born Americans.

          • I’ve tried to explain this to itsfun, but he, as a typical conservative, doesn’t believe statistics or facts!

          • Yes, like so many right-wing sympathizers he lives in his only little fantasy world; mostly created by Faux News propaganda.

          • And once again, YOU LIE!!
            Here are Trumps exact words from one of his speeches: “But you have people coming in, and I’m not saying they’re just Mexicans, I’m talking about people from all over, that are killers and rapists; and they’re coming into this country.”

        • Are you saying that Muslim people have been murderers and rapists because, if you are, you are incorrect. Check the statistics….although I know that’s against anything that you’ve been taught to do!

          • Nope not saying that. How many members of ISIS are Muslim?
            Have the ISIS members vowed to kill all infidels? You and I are infidels you know. How many of all the middle east terrorists groups are Muslims? The border patrol has been ordered to not arrest or detain illegal border crossing, so how can anyone say anything as stupid as the illegal crossings are zero. When you are ordered not to count, how do you expect any numbers? If you do watch the news, you would see how many innocent families are killed and destroyed by illegals. Of course we can’t talk about anything like that.

          • Not all Muslims are ISIS, but I guess you don’t understand that because it’s been drummed into your feeble mind by the GOP with their usual lies and scare tactics. Yes, ISIS and the Taliban are Muslims, but they misinterpret the Koran much like some of the evangelical Christians misinterpret the bible! No, the border patrol has NOT been ordered not to arrest or detail illegal crossings….I should know because my brother-in-law works for the border patrol in Arizona. He says that this is a typical BS lie that is told to the American public and it’s not true….they are still arresting and detailing illegals coming across the border that they apprehend. However, he DID agree that these have slowed to a crawl and they see more illegals going BACK to Mexico across the border than coming to the U.S. And, as for “innocent families killed or destroyed by illegals,” where’s your facts on this. As I said earlier…..statistics do not prove this to be true, but then again, conservatives don’t care about facts and statistics!

          • nobody ever said all Muslims are ISIS. You just love to read whatever you can into any and everything. Next you will deny they attacked Paris, Brussels the United States or anywhere else. Now you are making up a relative working for the border patrol. It was border patrol agents that said they were ordered to not arrest illegals. I suppose you will call them liars also. Try reading a newspaper or watch a news show, then come up with more fantasy about illegals never killing innocent families. A whole lot of mothers and fathers have been on TV interviews talking about how their sons and daughters have been killed by illegals. I am sure you will call them liars too. statistics don’t lie, but liars make up statistics. You don’t care about truth, just about how much BS you can come up with.

          • Good bless you for trying to engage itsfun. It is not fun, it has never been productive and will lead to acid stomach. Itsfun, is, I believe a troll. He might even be a paid troll. That seems doubtful, given the quality of his post.
            Anyone who is familiar with him knows to disregard. Happy Easter.

      • In fact, President Obama has deported MORE illegals than any of the past presidents and to date, there are fewer and fewer people coming across the border from Mexico into the United States that ever before. But, to try to get a Republican to believe anything that is against what they’ve been brainwashed to believe is impossible.

    • We didn’t “give” them $150 billion….it was their money to begin with. We just released it to them. And, not sure what you mean by “murderers and rapists” since very few murders and rapes have been done by so-called “illegal” aliens. You might want to look at the statistics….you’ll see that most of these are done by American citizens TO American citizens in most cases.

      • Yep and they sure are obeying the details of the 150 billion dollar deal. By murder I mean someone that kills. By rapist I mean someone that rapes. Seems like its ok with you if a illegal does it. What is the percentage of illegals committing crimes compared to legal American citizens?

        • I’m not going to do your homework for you….you look it up. Crimes in the U.S. by illegals is MUCH lower than crimes in the U.S. by American citizens. But, if you run true to course, you won’t bother to check your so-called “facts.”

          • Try checking the percentage of crimes committed by illegals compared to the percentage of crimes committed by legal citizens. Even you should know that 11 million illegals cannot commit the same number of crimes as 300 million. But as always you just want to make up numbers.

  4. “for Trump, it’s a cultivation of low-level sycophants who will validate his own assumptions” That pretty much sums up how Trump would use advisers if we are unfortunate enough to have to endure his presidency.

    • Sure, bombing the crap out of the Middle East and stealing their oil is a real peaceful concept and should go over very easily!

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