Does Trump really have any distinguished advisers within the mainstream of American foreign policy? I’m guessing not. That is more than a hunch, and more than the conclusion one would reach from his incoherent, nutty ideas (e.g. a 45 percent tariff on China, letting Russia deal with the Islamic State, forcing Mexico to pay for a wall). In the past people about whom he has spoken favorably have denied being in contact with him and have directly criticized him. Keep in mind that many think tank scholars as a courtesy will sit down with virtually any candidate for a briefing; this does not make such a generous, public-spirited scholar into an “adviser.”
Rumors have been floated that high-profile individuals like Ret. Gen. David Petraeus have spoken with him. When I inquired whether he had given advice or even met with Trump, a stern denial followed. According to sources close to Petraeus, the claim is “unequivocally false.” We have also learned that Trump’s campaign is reaching out to foreign policy experts, presumably trying to come up with names to put on a list. The savvy ones will steer clear of Trump.
We decided to do some more checking. At least 77 prominent foreign policy advisers have signed a #NeverTrump letter, which reads in part:
We the undersigned, members of the Republican national security community, represent a broad spectrum of opinion on America’s role in the world and what is necessary to keep us safe and prosperous. We have disagreed with one another on many issues, including the Iraq war and intervention in Syria. But we are united in our opposition to a Donald Trump presidency. …Mr. Trump’s own statements lead us to conclude that as president, he would use the authority of his office to act in ways that make America less safe, and which would diminish our standing in the world. Furthermore, his expansive view of how presidential power should be wielded against his detractors poses a distinct threat to civil liberty in the United States. Therefore, as committed and loyal Republicans, we are unable to support a Party ticket with Mr. Trump at its head. We commit ourselves to working energetically to prevent the election of someone so utterly unfitted to the office.
The Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a prominent foreign-policy think tank, tells Right Turn it has not been in contact with Trump or his staff.
Danielle Pletka is in the #NeverTrump camp as well. “Where does he stand on foreign policy, for example? No one knows. He does not like Muslims but opposes the overthrowing of Middle East dictators such as Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. He says he would deport 11m illegal aliens,” she writes. “Apologists insist a President Trump would be limited by America’s constitutional checks and balances, and rendered incapable of carrying out his more radical plans. This is meant to be reassuring.” She is not reassured: “At a moment when partisan loyalty and party power are at their weakest, it is time to fall back on the ideas and principles that matter. For conservatives, that means finding a candidate able to speak to the anger of voters who rightly feel betrayed by the parties that dominate the body politic. It does not mean compromising our values by opting for Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Trump.”
Former CIA and National Security Agency chief Michael Hayden has deplored Trump’s idea to use methods worse than waterboarding, saying American officials would be legally obliged to disregard orders to engage in such conduct: “If he were to order that, the armed forces would refuse to act. … You are required not to follow an unlawful order. That would be in violation of all the international laws of armed conflict.”
Benjamin Wittes of the Lawfare blog and Hoover Institution writes: “This is Trump: promising outcomes without programs, promising to do by force of personality and will what a country cannot do through policy or democratic deliberation. It is a lie in all spheres. But in the national security space, it is a particularly pernicious lie. Our tools are too dangerous for cults of personality. Our problems are too hard to wish away with magical thinking. The stakes are too high to permit magic to eclipse persuasive thought and analysis. And the relationship between our tools and tyranny is too intimate to allow demagogues anywhere near the decisions the national security apparatus has to make — or the machineries with which it makes them.”
So who are these national security geniuses helping Trump? It surely cannot be New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who bashed Trump in the campaign for failing to realize Russia was not fighting the Islamic State, for propounding the dangerously counterproductive Muslim ban and for lacking presidential temperament.
So let’s hear it: Who are these people? As with his tax records, Trump cannot be allowed to hide the ball when we have so much reason to distrust him already.