CHECK TO FOREIGN POLICIES
Don’t expect the mixed results of Tuesday’s midterm elections to rein in “Trumpism. ”
I refer to the president’s personalized foreign policy that disses treaties, friendly leaders, old alliances and anything multilateral, but favors dealings with strongmen.
Although the House of Representatives changed hands, the GOP’s increased control of the Senate will block any effort to pass legislation that could circumscribe Donald Trump’s foreign policy efforts. Moreover, Congress has rarely proved able to check a determined president on foreign policy in recent decades.
Yet the shift to a Democratic majority in the House gives Democrats control of key foreign policy committees, along with the power to hold investigations and issue subpoenas.
Until now, Trump could operate with scarcely any checks or balances, ignoring briefings, and undercutting his own cabinet members. He could hold unprecedented solo meetings with adversaries (such as the Helsinki summit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, where there was no U.S. translator or notetaker present) and leave his own intelligence community in the dark.
Going forward, Trump’s more controversial foreign moves can be subjected to House hearings.
The good news is that the Democrats who will most likely take over the powerful committees dealing with foreign issues are exceptionally experienced and well-versed in their subject areas.
Rep. Brendan Boyle (D., Pa.), foresees possible hearings on issues related to Russia, not the Mueller investigation, but issues such as the defense of Ukraine or the role of NATO. He also expects hearings on U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia.
That committee’s role will be vital, given the elimination of the GOP’s most serious foreign policy experts in the Senate, including the death of John McCain and retirement of Bob Corker, the outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
A key issue will be whether the Democrats “use their power in a subtle way and ask questions that legitimately need to be answered,” says the Council on Foreign Relations’ Carla Anne Robbins, “or whether they go overboard like the Benghazi hearings.”
She refers to the shameful partisan circus conducted by former GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy, who chaired the House Oversight Committee and wasted taxpayer millions on a useless inquiry into the 2012 attack on a U.S. compound (when previous investigations had entirely covered the ground).
Here are some of the topics I’d like to see them take on:
Russia. Don’t get in the way of the Mueller investigation, but any threat to Mueller and his work should be prime material for hearings.
North Korea. It’s time to query Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — and experts on North Korea — over the present and likely future of negotiations to get Kim Jong Un to give up his nuclear weapons.
Saudi Arabia — and the Yemen war. Let’s delve into whether first son-in-law Jared Kushner’s bromance with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has brought the benefits Trump promised.
Moreover, the United States has been dragged into supporting war crimes against civilians in Yemen, which are going to increase support for Iran and terrorism, not tamp it down.
Look into Trump’s destruction of arms control accords with Russia and Iran, that are undermining prescribed limits on nuclear weapons that could lead to new arms races.
Americans should be made aware that Trumpian nationalism does not equate with patriotism. That may be too big a topic for a House committee, but I’d like to see them take it on.