CHECK TO FOR­EIGN POLI­CIES

Daily Press - - Opinion - Ru­bin is a colum­nist for the Philadel­phia In­quirer. Send email to tru­bin@phillynews.com.

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.

Trudy Ru­bin

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