Tag Archives: foreign policy

Powell to GOP: Get a grip and stand up to Trump

Colin Powell is a patriot’s patriot. I admire this man greatly, owing in large measure to his experience as a combat soldier in Vietnam and his military and diplomatic leadership.

Powell said the following recently in a stern message to his fellow Republicans: “They need to get a grip, and when they see things that aren’t right they need to say something about it. Because our foreign policy is a shambles right now, in my humble judgement. And I see things happening that are hard to understand.”

Yep, that policy is in a shambles, all right.

The Republican Party movers and shakers, he said, need to stand up to Donald J. Trump, the president who’s grabbed the party by the throat.

Foreign policy? It doesn’t even exist. The president issues policy pronouncements via Twitter with little or no regard to advice from national security/diplomatic experts with whom he has surrounded himself.

I get that Gen. Powell isn’t perfect. He did, after all, read that statement into the record at the United Nations in which he said Saddam Hussein undoubtedly possessed weapons of mass destruction; he made the case for going to war in March 2003 against the Iraqis. He was tragically wrong.

However, he remains a man of great standing in many circles in this country. With that, I want to endorse his call for his fellow Republicans to exhibit some backbone as they watch Trump’s feckless efforts at seeking to “make America great again.”

Foreign policy no longer a bipartisan effort

It once was thought that “politics stopped at the water’s edge,” meaning that Democrats and Republicans locked arms when facing the rest of the world, setting aside their partisan differences.

A couple of events this week have demonstrated that the late Republican U.S. Sen. Arthur Vandenberg’s words of wisdom no longer apply.

Event No. 1: Mike Pompeo received a partisan vote of confirmation by the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee to become the next secretary of state. The full Senate now figures to confirm Pompeo, with only a couple of Democrats crossing over to cast affirmative votes.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who had been thought to be a “no” vote on Pompeo, changed his mind after receiving assurances from Donald Trump about Pompeo’s view regarding the Iraq War, which Paul opposed.

Event No. 2: The president is going to play host this week to a state dinner honoring French President Emmanuel Macron. But here’s the catch: Trump didn’t invite a single Democrat to the White House gala, which is starkly against presidential tradition.

Presidents of both parties traditionally reach across the aisle for these state dinners, which feature sumptuous menus, lots of fine music, toasts and expressions of good wishes.

Not this time, which happens to be the president’s first such state dinner since taking office. What’s more, Macron is head of state of our nation’s oldest international ally. After all, France fought side by side with us while our forebears revolted against Britain’s King George III.

As for the upcoming secretary of state vote, I feel compelled to remind everyone that the office of nation’s top diplomat needs to come in with a semblance of a mandate from the legislative branch of government. It sends the world a message that we remain united in the cause of furthering our nation’s interests.

Former secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Kerry, for instance, all received unanimous or near-unanimous votes of confirmation by the Senate.

Politics must end at the our water’s edge. It’s not just a quaint notion. It’s real and it’s vital in the conduct of foreign policy.

McCain showing his fickle side

John McCain once called Barack Obama a “feckless” foreign policy president.

He nagged the president continually over this and that foreign policy matter. Obama wasn’t tough enough; he wasn’t stern enough; he failed to deliver on his myriad threats against bad guys around the world.

Now, though, the Arizona Republican U.S. senator — and President Obama’s 2008 rival for the presidency — says the 44th president exhibited more international leadership than his successor, Donald John Trump.

Hey, what gives? President Obama’s “fecklessness” looks good now to the fickle senator.

Trump mistakes prove maddening

American “leadership” around the world has suffered under the Trump administration’s missteps, misstatements and mistakes, according to McCain.

I’ll concede a couple of points about McCain. One is that I didn’t support his presidential candidacy in 2008. Two is that he has served his country with rare honor and distinction, owing to his years as a Vietnam prisoner of war and the brutal treatment he suffered at the hands of his captors. Those years as a prisoner give him credibility that most other politicians cannot claim for themselves.

I believe he takes a stark view of American leadership and assesses it in bold strokes.

It might be now that McCain has come to appreciate — as many millions of other Americans — that the presidency requires a level of understanding and knowledge of the complex relationships this country has built with nations around the world.

Trump doesn’t get it. Sen. McCain has acknowledged as much, albeit begrudgingly. Is he being fickle? Maybe. I also believe he is correct.

Trump’s cuddling with Kremlin gets more curious


Suffice to say now that Donald J. Trump has become the Kremlin’s candidate for president of the United States of America.

The Republican presidential nominee thinks Russian strongman Vladimir Putin is a more effective leader than President Obama. He relishes the high praise Putin has heaped on him. Trump says what the heck, let the Russians re-annex Ukraine. He says that NATO allies will need to demonstrate their financial commitment to the defense of western Europe in the event of a Russian attack on, say, the Baltic States.

Now the candidate has ventured onto Russian-sponsored television to criticize the American president and, oh yeah, the U.S. political press.

There was a time when such conduct would be seen as a virtual disqualifier for a presidential candidate. No longer … I guess.

The network on which Trump appeared with that highly esteemed American “journalist” Larry King proclaims itself to be independent. It’s not. It is financed by the Kremlin and has faced repeated criticism of being in the Kremlin’s hip pocket.


Does this man Trump have any clue about the boundaries one must not cross? Ever?

He’s just crossed another one.

Sure, one-time candidate Barack Obama was criticized harshly for speaking ill of American policy while standing on foreign soil. It once was thought that partisan divides ended “at the water’s edge.”

Trump has just picked that old adage out of the trash bin, crumpled it up once again, and then tossed it back.

But … it won’t matter to those who cling to this idiotic notion that Trump merely is railing against “political correctness.”

Shameful, indeed.

GOP’s ‘unifier’ needs to start, um, unifying the party


I believe I’ve heard Donald J. Trump say — many times — that he is the great unifier among Republicans.

The GOP presidential nominee is going to bring the party together to rally behind his candidacy as he seeks to trounce the Democrats’ Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Didn’t he say that?

What’s going on with that?

Fifty senior Republican foreign-policy experts have signed a letter saying that Trump is a danger to the country. They say he’s unstable, and oh yes, “unfit” to become president.


How does a unifying presidential candidate bring the party together when former GOP Cabinet members, advisers, senior counsels and various top guns among the GOP foreign-policy intelligentsia all say the candidate doesn’t know what he’s doing?

The letter is a scathing indictment of the nominee. It speaks quite directly and forcefully to his lack of understanding — of anything!

Trump’s answer? The signatories all got us into the trouble we’re in, he said. Think about that for a moment. The man who insists he can unify the party responds to the criticism by telling Republicans that these wise men and women are partly responsible for creating the dangers that Trump says threaten the United States.

From my perch, it looks as though the Republican Party’s rupture is widening, not closing.

Time for Walker to 'bone up'

Scott Walker says he’d toss the Iranian nuclear deal negotiated by the United States and its allies into the trash if he’s elected president of the United States next year.

To which the current president, Barack Obama, says the Republican Wisconsin governor needs to “bone up on foreign policy” to realize the foolishness of such a pledge.

Score one for the 44th president.


The sole intent of the deal is to deny Iran the chance to develop a nuclear weapon. It was a painstaking negotiation. It reduces the number of centrifuges Iran can use. It allows for careful international monitoring of Iran by inspectors to ensure the Iranians are complying the with the deal. It won’t lift economic sanctions on Iran until it does comply.

So, what are the spectators in the peanut gallery — such as Gov. Walker — proposing? Do we bomb the Iranians? Do we invade? Do we just impose more sanctions and then hope they will prevent the Iranians from doing what they damn well please with respect to nuclear weapon development?

The president spoke to National Public Radio about the deal. “I am confident that any president who gets elected,” Obama told NPR host Steve Inskeep, “will be knowledgeable enough about foreign policy and knowledgeable enough about the traditions and precedents of presidential power that they won’t start calling [into] question the capacity of the executive branch of the United States to enter into agreements with other countries. If that starts being questioned, that’s going to be a problem for our friends and that’s going to embolden our enemies.”

All this tough talk and bluster from those who oppose the deal go the heart of a concern some of us out here have raised about whether the United States should be speaking with a single, clear, strong voice regarding Iran.

Yes, Congress should be heard. However, let us not undermine the executive branch’s authority to negotiate in good faith — even with our enemies.


Allies join in criticism chorus of Gang of 47

Now it’s the allies who are weighing in with criticism of the Republican Gang of 47’s letter to Iran.

Our nation’s European allies have chimed in with a blistering critique of the Senate GOP letter that says it’s OK for Iran to ignore whatever treaty that’s negotiated to get rid of Iran’s nuclear program.


“Suddenly, Iran can say to us: ‘Are your proposals actually trustworthy if 47 senators say that no matter what the government agrees to, we can subsequently take it off the table?’ ” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said during a visit to Washington.

What’s Germany’s stake in this? The Germans, along with the United States, Great Britain, France, China and Russia are negotiating with the Iranians for a way to rid the Islamic Republic of its nuclear ambition.

A large portion of the U.S. Senate’s Republican caucus has decided to take matters into its own hands by seeking to persuade Iran to ignore whatever agreement is worked out. Without congressional approval of a treaty, the Gang said, it becomes merely an executive agreement that can be wiped out when the next president takes office in January 2017.

Technically, it’s true. But the letter constitutes an egregious interference in a high-stakes negotiation.

Welcome aboard the criticism train, allies.


End of bipartisan foreign policy?

Leslie Gelb never has struck me as a crazed, left-wing ideologue.

He still doesn’t, but he’s written a piece for the Daily Beast that paints an extremely grim picture of one of the consequences of the Republican Gang of 47’s letter to the Iranian mullahs.

He said The Letter well might destroy bipartisan foreign policy, the kind envisioned by politicians of both parties until, well, just the other day.


The headline over Gelb’s essay says that Republicans “hate Obama more than nuclear Iran.”

“Hate” is one of those words our parents have told us we shouldn’t use. Yes, I’ve referred on my blog to “Obama haters,” and I regret the use of that term. I’ll only refer to prior use of it here.

Gelb, though, wonders whether The Letter signals the end of bipartisan foreign policy, the kind that compels politicians to rally around the president as he tries to negotiate deals with foreign leaders, prosecute conflicts, wage campaigns against terrorists, stared down our nation’s enemies.

The Gang of 47 sees it differently. They were led by a wet-behind-the-ears freshman senator, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who drafted The Letter that advised Iran that it should consider rejecting a nuclear prohibition treaty because it could be overturned when President Obama leaves office in January 2017.

The blowback against the senators has been ferocious. Even some Republicans are trying to back away from it.

Gelb writes: “What the 47 did was not a trivial matter or ‘a tempest in a teapot,’ as Senator John McCain has described it. It could well affect possible Iranian concessions in the end game. The ayatollahs could well conclude from that letter that concessions they might have made just aren’t worth it politically, as the agreement would go nowhere anyway. They’d be taking political risks for nothing.”

This interference in a president’s negotiation with a hostile foreign government is unconscionable. Teapot tempest? Hardly.

I hope Gelb is wrong about the future of bipartisan foreign policy. I fear, though, that he’s right.


Iranian hardliners find friends on Capitol Hill

Of all the criticism out there aimed at the Gang of 47 who signed The Letter to Iran, urging the mullahs to reject a nuclear deal with the United States, one point rings truer than the rest.

It is that The Letter has given ammunition to the hardline faction within the Iranian government to use against whatever the so-called “moderates” bring to any discussion on this matter.

Who would have thought that the hardline Iranian Islamic fundamentalists would find allies within the Republican majority that controls the United States Senate?

Roll that one around for a bit.

Freshman Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., drafted the letter and sent it to his GOP colleagues. Forty-six of them signed it, with seven Republicans declining to put their names on The Letter.

They’ve interfered directly with a sensitive U.S. negotiation with Iran over how to persuade the rogue nation to discontinue its nuclear development program. The Gang of 47 well might have broken U.S. law prohibiting such unauthorized negotiation with a foreign power, but the gang won’t be punished for it.

Conservatives think they’re doing the right thing. Liberals are angry with them for undermining the president of the United States, the secretary of state, and our allies who’ve joined us in seeking an end to the Iranian nuclear program.

And, yes, they’ve given the Iranian hardliners reason to smile today as they look toward the United States and see that members of our “loyal opposition” are proving to be not quite so loyal. They’ve turned a bipartisan U.S. foreign policy endeavor into a partisan contest.

The late, great Republican U.S. Sen. Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan, who coined the phrase that partisanship “ends at the water’s edge,” is spinning in his grave.




Now it's Sen. Graham thinking about '16 bid

Oh boy, I can hardly contain my enthusiasm for the upcoming presidential campaign.

The potential Republican field just got another name to ponder: Lindsey Graham, the senior U.S. senator from South Carolina.


Why is this such an interesting development?

Graham is a noted conservative from a deeply conservative state. He and fellow Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona take turns bashing the dickens out of President Obama, particularly on foreign policy — which is understandable, given that the domestic economy is starting to rock along. Heck, sometimes Graham and McCain are singing together.

However, Graham has had this annoying tendency — if you’re a Republican — to say nice things about some of the appointees the president puts forward to fill key administration posts. While many other GOP senators were slamming Loretta Lynch as the next attorney general, Graham said she’s a solid pick, highly qualified and he indicated his intentions to vote to confirm her when the time comes.

This is the kind of thing that’s going to make him a target among other GOP White House contenders when they line up to debate — if Graham decides to run, of course.

He’s a sharp lawyer. Remember when, as a member of the House, he managed the Republicans’ successful effort at impeaching President Clinton? Well, the Senate decided correctly to acquit the president of those “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

So, as he told “Meet the Press” today, he’s thinking seriously about a presidential bid. He told NBC’s Chuck Todd that he has “set up a testing-the-waters committee under the IRS code that will allow me to look beyond South Carolina as to whether or not a guy like Lindsey Graham has a viable path.”

Just one request, Sen. Graham, if you take the plunge: Stop referring to yourself in the third person.