Hi there! My name is Daniel Drezner, I write Spoiler Alerts here at PostEverything. I fear I’m one of the people at the Post who has written “badly” about you, as you put it in your amazeballs conversation with the Post’s editorial board.
You also said in that conversation:
I get these stories [about me in the Post] and they’re so angry and I actually say, I actually say, “How could they write?” – and many stories I must tell you, many stories are written that with a brief phone call could be corrected before they’re written. Nobody calls me.
Speaking for myself as an opinion writer, that’s not how it works. But fair’s fair, you like to be asked questions, and you made a lot of foreign policy news yesterday. So here are my five queries for you on foreign policy:
1) Is this really the best you can do for foreign policy advisers? Back in the September 2015 GOP debate, you promised to put the “finest team anyone has put together” on foreign policy. And yet, looking at the names you revealed yesterday to the Post’s editorial board, I see that your advisers include:
- Someone who “had an important role in a Christian militia accused of involvement in the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacres of Palestinians” and is super-obsessed with sharia law;
- Someone who had a dubious track record as the Defense Department’s inspector general and then went to work for Blackwater;
- A 2009 college graduate who listed his Model U.N. experience as a foreign policy credential and previously served as a foreign policy adviser to Ben Carson;
- Someone who blames NATO for Russia’s incursion into Ukraine and links the 2015 National Security Strategy to slavery.
I believe this crew will be managed by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a man “not known as one of the party’s leading foreign policy voices in the Senate,” according to Reuters.
As Michael Crowley notes in Politico, this is not a stellar list. You promised some more names in the future, so maybe the average quality will improve. Still, is this really the finest foreign policy team anyone has put together? Or, as I suspect, have you had some difficulties closing the deal in recruiting foreign policy experts?
2) What, exactly, do you want to do with the Iran deal? I heard your AIPAC speech yesterday. You read from a Teleprompter very well, it was just tremendous reading. But there are some passages that don’t make much sense to me. For example, you said:
My number one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran. I have been in business a long time. I know deal-making and let me tell you, this deal is catastrophic — for America, for Israel, and for the whole Middle East.
“Dismantle” is a pretty clear word, and it makes it seem like you’re going to repudiate the deal. Except that just a few minutes later, during your three-point plan to deal with Iran, you said: “at the very least, we must hold Iran accountable by restructuring the terms of the previous deal.”
Given that you had said ‘dismantle’ before, what does ‘restructuring’ mean?! Is it possible to restructure and dismantle a deal at the same time? Does this kind of complex dealifying require a Trump University advanced degree or something? How will you renegotiate? What if, as is very likely, the other members of the P5+1 refuse to renegotiate a deal that took two years to hammer out? Will you enforce the existing deal or tear it up?
3) Are you fully aware that people record your words and can tell when you contradict yourself? This is from the close of your AIPAC speech:
You see, what President Obama gets wrong about deal making is that he constantly applies pressure to our friends and rewards our enemies. That pattern, practiced by the President and his administration, including former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has repeated itself over and over and has done nothing but embolden those who hate America.
OK, so you’re opposed to pressuring America’s friends and don’t want to reward America’s enemies. Fair enough! But can you then explain the following things you said to The Washington Post’s editorial board?
Well if you look at Germany, if you look at Saudi Arabia, if you look at Japan, if you look at South Korea — I mean we spend billions of dollars on Saudi Arabia, and they have nothing but money. And I say, why? Now I would go in and I would structure a much different deal with them, and it would be a much better deal. When you look at the kind of money that our country is losing, we can’t afford to do this. Certainly we can’t afford to do it anymore….
I think the distribution of costs has to be changed. I think NATO as a concept is good, but it is not as good as it was when it first evolved. And I think we bear the, you know, not only financially, we bear the biggest brunt of it. Obama has been stronger on the Ukraine than all the other countries put together, and those other countries right next door to the Ukraine. And I just say we have, I’m not even knocking it, I’m just saying I don’t think it’s fair, we’re not treated fair. I don’t think we’re treated fair, Charles, anywhere. If you look everything we have. You know, South Korea is very rich. Great industrial country. And yet we’re not reimbursed fairly for what we do. We’re constantly, you know, sending our ships, sending our planes, doing our war games, doing other. We’re reimbursed a fraction of what this is all costing.
Germany, Saudi Arabia, Japan, and South Korea have been America’s friends for decades. When you talk about renegotiating deals with these countries — not to mention our NAFTA partner Mexico — aren’t you promising to apply even greater pressure to America’s friends than President Obama? And maybe, just maybe, does your past praise of Vladimir Putin offer succor to one of America’s geopolitical rivals? Can you see how you’re contradicting yourself?
4) What is the point of asking you any substantive questions about foreign policy? You said to the Post’s editorial board that any discrepancies could be cleared up with a brief phone call. But consider your myriad flip-flops on the H1-B visa question. Or consider that your AIPAC speech flatly contradicted what you said last month in an MSNBC town hall. What could you say in a brief phone call — besides “I don’t know what I’m talking about” — that would clarify these inconsistencies? Why should any person, foreign or American, trust anything you say about foreign policy?
5) Can you please stop bragging that you were a parade Grand Marshal like it’s a genuine foreign policy credential? You weren’t taking a “risk.” And unless you’re proposing Dr. Ruth as your Secretary of State, no one cares. Sad but true!
If you could respond with a letter, or maybe even a tweetstorm, that would be just great.