That was the right’s critique of President Barack Obama, but it’s an accurate assessment of President Trump’s refusal to assess and combat white-nationalist violence. He won’t even call the phenomenon by its name.
In an interview on “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) argued:
[White nationalist violence] is on the rise and the president should call it out, but sadly he’s not doing that. We saw in the aftermath of the horrible attack in Charlottesville that he tried to say that the white supremacists, neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates there were just, you know, good people. But when you see church shootings in Charleston, a synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, you see this hate-filled manifesto of the shooter in New Zealand who is murdering Muslims, we have to confront the fact that there is a rise in white supremacy, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim attitudes. The president uses language often that’s very similar to the language used by these bigots and racists. And if he’s not going to call it out then other leaders have to do more to call it out, and I certainly will. …I think the president is using language that emboldens them. He’s not creating them. They’re out there. But you know, at the same time as he was tweeting out yesterday his support for the family members in New Zealand, and that was appropriate, he was vetoing the Senate’s rejection of his emergency declaration from Thursday. And he used the word invaders to characterize people coming to the nation’s southern borders, which was exactly the same phrase that the shooter in New Zealand used to characterize the Muslims that he was attacking. That kind of language from the person who probably has the loudest microphone on the planet Earth is hurtful and dangerous, and it tends to incite violence.
In a parallel situation, Republicans would excoriate Obama if he used the same language about Western infidels that Islamist terrorists employed, spoke sympathetically about their aims and cast doubt on the motives of these self-identified Islamist terrorists.
Trump’s reaction to white-nationalist terrorism is part of a pattern in which Trump’s bizarre misconceptions about the world and desire to please a fringe element in his base prevent him from protecting U.S. national security interests.
The Post reported on an awkward encounter between former vice president Richard B. Cheney and Vice President Pence at a retreat held by the American Enterprise Institute in Sea Island, Ga.:
Cheney expressed concerns at such actions as taking a harder line toward U.S. allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and deciding to withdraw troops from Syria during what he fretted was “the middle of a phone call.”Cheney also worried aloud to Pence that “we’re getting into a situation when our friends and allies around the world that we depend upon are going to lack confidence in us” and then offered a blunt criticism of the current administration’s response to foreign policy challenges. …Cheney expressed alarm over news reports that Trump “supposedly doesn’t spend that much time with the intel people, or doesn’t agree with them, frequently,” as well as the high staff turnover rate at the intelligence agencies.The former vice president then turned his attention to the situation in North Korea. He worried about Trump’s decision to cancel the decades-long U.S. military exercises with South Korea and referenced a recent Bloomberg News report about the president’s directive “to pursue a policy that would insist that the Germans, the Japanese, and the South Koreans pay total cost for our deployments there, plus 50 percent on top of that.” … [Cheney] worried aloud, again and again, that for Trump, the former businessman turned president, foreign policy boils down to a crude dollars-and-cents transaction. Noting that NATO countries have provided their own troops to fight alongside the United States in Afghanistan, he said, “So it’s a lot more than just the checkbook.”
He might have thrown in that Trump has gotten into a no-win trade war with China, damaged our relations with Asian democratic allies (by, among other things, pulling the plug on the Trans-Pacific Partnership), given cover to the Russians for their attack on our elections, smeared the FBI and the rest of the intelligence community, failed to halt Iran’s regional aggression and replaced expert, competent advisers with yes-men and weaklings.
In short, nearly every critique (aside from defense spending, which Trump has increased) the right applied to Obama is equally if not more applicable to Trump. So why should Republicans who care about national security put up with a weaker commander in chief than Obama?
Not even defense spending is secure under Trump. While defense spending has increased under Trump, he’s now stealing from defense to pay for a wall to address an “emergency” his national security experts say doesn’t exist. Kaine made an argument Republicans who fancy themselves as hawks should be propounding:
I’m on the Armed Services Committee. I represent Virginia. I have a child in the military, so I sent a letter on February 15th to the secretary of defense and said if you’re going to ransack the Pentagon’s budget, tell me what projects you’re going to cut or delay or eliminate. They wouldn’t provide an answer. At the hearing on Thursday, we, we’re now going to vote that day on whether we support or reject the emergency declaration and they still hadn’t answered our question, “What projects are at stake?” At the hearing he said, “Oh I’ll send you the list later this afternoon.”And you’re right, I kind of blew up at him. You’re gonna give us the list after we vote? This is highly relevant to the vote about the president’s emergency declaration. What projects are you going to ransack out of the Pentagon budget? Is it going to be military housing? Is it going to be trying to make our bases safer from terrorism with construction projects? Is it going to be rebuilding Tyndall Air Force Base that got blitzed in the hurricanes last fall? And they said they would give us the list after. But Margaret, to add insult to injury they had to walk that back. They don’t even want to give us the list now at all we’re going to have to have an override vote. I don’t think the White House wants us to see the list before the override vote.
The good news is Republicans don’t have to put up with this nonsense for another term. They can support another Republican such as Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who defended a traditional conservative foreign policy in an interview with The Post:
“I come from the Ronald Reagan school of politics,” Hogan said last week in a wide-ranging interview at the state capitol, shaking his head in disapproval when asked whether he shares Trump’s nationalism.He said groups such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a frequent target of Trump’s ire, are “critically important.” He expressed alarm about the way the president is “not standing by or standing up for some of our allies,” and he poked fun at Trump’s competence.
Hogan has also opposed Trump’s effort to build an unnecessary wall. In addition, on North Korea, Hogan blasted Trump for “his expressions of admiration for the murderous dictator," as The Post put it.
Other Republicans including former Ohio governor John Kasich has blasted Trump for siding with Russian President Vladimir Putin over our intelligence community, calling into doubt our NATO obligations and refusing to defend human rights.
In sum, Republicans should recognize that Trump’s foreign policy has diminished American stature in the world, emboldened foes, inspired terrorists and alienated allies. Whatever Trump’s motivations, he is so intellectually and temperamentally unfit that he is incapable of behaving in ways that promote our national security interests. Republicans can thank him for increases in defense spending as they send him off into political retirement. They needn’t sign up for four more years of a president who combines the worst attributes of Jimmy Carter and Obama.