May 27th, 2020


The frightful prospect of Trump as commander in chief

Jennifer Rubin

By Jennifer Rubin

Published March 14, 2016

Time after time in his campaign, Donald Trump assured us he had a foreign policy team. He was going to release the names "soon." Then he announced Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a one-note Johnny on opposition to all immigration, as his top adviser on national security. Then, today on "Morning Joe," Trump was asked whom he is talking to on foreign policy. His reply -- I kid you not -- was: "I'm speaking with myself, ... I have a very good brain." Well, that explains a lot -- and confirms that he consistently lies to the voters and treats endorsers like dirt. (New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is not the only one he snubs.)

On a more fundamental level, this is frightful. "Actually I think entrusting the nuclear 'football' to someone who admits to talking to himself for guidance on foreign policy ought to give every sentient voter pause," observes former ambassador and well-regarded foreign policy expert Eric Edelman. "Whatever else one might say about Sen. [Ted] Cruz, he has gladly received and listens carefully and respectfully to foreign policy advice from actual subject matter experts."

That's significant insofar as Edelman and other conservatives have been critical of certain aspects of Cruz's approach to foreign policy. But differences, even strong differences, over discrete issues (e.g. metadata-gathering) do not negate the near-universal conclusion among respected foreign policy people (many who have signed onto #NeverTrump statements) that Cruz is infinitely preferable to Trump on national security.

To state the obvious: Cruz knows a president cannot order the troops to commit war crimes. He knows one cannot "police" the Iran nuclear deal (as both Trump and Hillary Clinton want) since the mullahs use it to advance Iran's hegemonic interests and its ballistic missile program (not to mention, to get to nuclear breakout in 10 years). He knows you cannot slap a 45 percent tariff on goods from China without whacking American consumers. He knows Vladimir Putin and the Chinese Communists are not admirable because they are "strong." He knows we are not at war with all Muslims, and all Muslims are not Islamist terrorists. He knows we cannot assume a "neutral" position with regard to Israel and the Palestinians, and that, in any case, there will be no peace deal so long as Palestinians refuse to accept Israel as a Jewish state with secure borders.

Cruz should not be shy about saying any of this, or about identifying the profound threat to American national security if you elect as president someone with zero self-control and zero interest in even learning about the world. Cruz should make clear that Trump's professed concern for the troops is belied by his failure to make good on the promise of $6 million in donations to veterans groups. And he should be blunt: We need to repair our image in the world, not confirm our enemies' wildest hopes and our allies' deepest suspicions that the United States is mindlessly committed to decline and to letting the world slide into total chaos.

To be clear, conservatives have real differences of opinion with Cruz, but already (for example, on willingness to do whatever it takes rather than rely only on air power to defeat the Islamic State) he is showing the capacity to fine-tune his views to match reality. The choice between Cruz and Trump to be our commander in chief is really no choice at all. Trump, first, would get wiped out by Clinton, and in any event, would be incapable of competently performing the most critical aspect of his job, the role of commander in chief.

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