Ri­vals hit Trump on for­eign pol­icy

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

Frus­trated with Don­ald Trump’s abil­ity to blunt at­tacks on his do­mes­tic poli­cies, his ri­vals for the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion in­creas­ingly are tak­ing aim at his ap­proach to for­eign pol­icy, ar­gu­ing that the flam­boy­ant busi­ness leader has dis­qual­i­fied him­self from con­sid­er­a­tion as com­man­der in chief be­cause of his “iso­la­tion­ist” views.

Fresh off Mr. Trump’s lat­est stum­ble, when he re­versed him­self on whether in­vad­ing Afghanistan in 2001 was a mis­take, Sen. Marco Ru­bio and former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida say the real es­tate mag­nate has shown him­self to be in over his head when it comes to fac­ing down the world’s big­gest threats.

Mr. Trump has chan­neled former Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan’s “peace through strength” mantra, vow­ing to make the mil­i­tary so strong that no coun­try would want to mess with the United States.

But in the past few weeks, he has faced scru­tiny for say­ing that the U.S. has no role in fight­ing the Is­lamic State or the rul­ing regime in Syria, and that it is OK for Rus­sia to strike tar­gets, in­clud­ing U.S.-backed rebels, in­side Syria.

That has spurred fever­ish re­ac­tion from ri­vals.

“Don­ald Trump has no idea about this war,” said Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham of South Car­olina, a mem­ber of the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee.

He told CNN that the bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man is an iso­la­tion­ist and lumped him with Sen. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky, the lib­er­tar­ian whose crit­i­cism of for­wardlean­ing Amer­i­can power has sparked a deep di­vide within the Repub­li­can Party.

The for­eign pol­icy at­tacks have in­ten­si­fied as world events have heated up — and as at­tacks on Mr. Trump’s do­mes­tic poli­cies have done lit­tle to dent the Repub­li­can front-run­ner’s stand­ing in polls. In­deed, two Repub­li­can ri­vals — former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Wis­con­sin Gov. Scott Walker — dropped out of the race shortly af­ter get­ting into dust-ups with Mr. Trump over im­mi­gra­tion and bud­get pol­icy.

Repub­li­can of­fi­cials, though, say it could be hard for Mr. Trump to de­fend his for­eign pol­icy views at a time when con­cerns about a nu­clear-armed Iran, the rise of Is­lamic mil­i­tants in the Mid­dle East and Rus­sia’s med­dling in East­ern Europe and Syria are uni­fy­ing broad swaths of the party base.

“Up un­til this point in the cam­paign, he has traded on his per­sonal at­tributes more than any de­tailed com­mand of for­eign pol­icy,” said Brian Mur­phy, chair­man of the Rock­ing­ham County Repub­li­can Party in New Hamp­shire.

“Peo­ple are drawn to his de­ci­sive­ness, and there is a sense of con­fi­dence that he will lead given the op­por­tu­nity,” Mr. Mur­phy said. “But the next pres­i­dent needs to be job-ready Day One. And Don­ald Trump will need to make his case on for­eign pol­icy.”

Rep. Raul R. Labrador, Idaho Repub­li­can, told The Wash­ing­ton Times last week on Capi­tol Hill that the Trump hype is all “me­dia-driven” and sug­gested that Mr. Trump could lack sub­stance on na­tional se­cu­rity is­sues.

“Even­tu­ally, peo­ple are go­ing to start look­ing at his pol­icy,” Mr. Labrador said.

A Quin­nip­iac Univer­sity poll re­leased last week also had warn­ing signs for Mr. Trump, which showed the over­all Repub­li­can front-run­ner trail­ing Ben Car­son in Iowa.

What’s more, the sur­vey found that Mr. Trump is fa­vored by 29 per­cent of likely Repub­li­can cau­cus-go­ers in Iowa on the econ­omy, 28 per­cent on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion and 19 per­cent on taxes. But Mr. Ru­bio edged out Mr. Trump on for­eign pol­icy, 18 per­cent to 17 per­cent.

The poll co­in­cided with an­other spat be­tween Mr. Trump and Mr. Bush — this time over how much blame his brother, former Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, de­serves for hav­ing been in of­fice dur­ing the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist at­tacks. Mr. Trump said he didn’t blame the former pres­i­dent out­right, but he as­serted that no such at­tack would have hap­pened on his watch.

Jeb Bush shot back in a Na­tional Re­view op-ed by say­ing Mr. Trump’s re­marks sounded like “the at­tacks of Michael Moore and the fringe left.”

“Let’s be clear: Don­ald Trump sim­ply doesn’t know what he’s talk­ing about,” Mr. Bush said. “And his blus­ter over­com­pen­sates for a shock­ing lack of knowl­edge on the com­plex na­tional-se­cu­rity chal­lenges that will con­front the next pres­i­dent of the United States.”

Still, the for­eign pol­icy at­tacks could fall as flat as the do­mes­tic pol­icy at­tacks.

An­drew Smith, a poll­ster at the Univer­sity of New Hamp­shire, said vot­ers don’t get caught up in pol­icy pro­pos­als.

“Hu­man traits, such as per­son­al­ity, lead­er­ship, tough­ness, hu­mor, etc., are far more im­por­tant,” Mr. Smith said. “And in a pe­riod in which Repub­li­cans have not been happy with their elected po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship, a guy like Trump can sim­ply run on that rather than pro­vid­ing de­tailed plans for what he plans to do.”

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