Repub­li­can ‘es­tab­lish­ment’ glad to in­flu­ence Trump for­eign pol­icy

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY BEN WOLF­GANG

Pres­i­dent Trump has been sucked into the abyss of the Wash­ing­ton “es­tab­lish­ment” since his inau­gu­ra­tion, prom­i­nent Repub­li­cans and Democrats charged Sun­day morn­ing, and whether that’s a pos­i­tive devel­op­ment de­pends en­tirely on one’s po­lit­i­cal point of view.

Sen. John McCain of Ari­zona, one of the Repub­li­can Party’s most re­spected voices on na­tional se­cu­rity, flatly de­clared that he hopes es­tab­lish­ment types have in­flu­enced the pres­i­dent’s shifts on China, Syria and other for­eign pol­icy mat­ters.

Mr. Trump two weeks ago aban­doned his non­in­ter­ven­tion­ist campaign rhetoric and or­dered mil­i­tary strikes in Syria, and last week said he no longer con­sid­ers China a “currency ma­nip­u­la­tor.”

The lat­ter is an at­tempt by Mr. Trump to en­list China’s help in deal­ing with North Korea, which over the week­end con­ducted an­other mis­sile test that, while fail­ing in spec­tac­u­lar fash­ion, still rep­re­sented an ag­gres­sive, an­tag­o­nis­tic move.

Mr. Trump in re­cent days also walked back his campaign claim that NATO is an ob­so­lete or­ga­ni­za­tion.

On those and a whole host of other global is­sues, it’s be­com­ing clear that Mr. Trump is con­duct­ing his for­eign pol­icy in a more tra­di­tional man­ner. Crit­ics say the “es­tab­lish­ment” is hav­ing an ef­fect on him, but Mr. McCain and oth­ers say all Amer­i­cans should be grate­ful for that.

Ap­pear­ing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mr. McCain, chair­man of the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, had a sim­ple an­swer when asked if Mr. Trump has been sucked in by es­tab­lish­ment forces.

“I hope so,” he said. “On na­tional se­cu­rity, I do be­lieve he has as­sem­bled a strong team and, very ap­pro­pri­ately, he is lis­ten­ing to them.”

Mr. McCain said he hopes the administration de­liv­ers a thor­ough, com­pre­hen­sive plan to deal with Syria, Iraq and other hot spots in the Mid­dle East be­cause such a strat­egy does not ex­ist.

Mr. Trump’s move to­ward a more es­tab­lish­ment-style for­eign pol­icy comes against the back­drop of a broader fight in­side the White House. More mod­er­ate fig­ures such as Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kush­ner, re­port­edly have clashed with ide­o­log­i­cal war­riors like chief strate­gist Steve Ban­non. Mr. Trump dis­tanced him­self from Mr. Ban­non last week, dis­miss­ing the for­mer Bre­it­bart News chief as “a guy who works for me,” stok­ing spec­u­la­tion that Mr. Ban­non will soon be out of a job and that the pres­i­dent is soft­en­ing his stances.

Other fig­ures on Mr. Trump’s White House team also could soon be pushed out.

K.T. McFarland, the pres­i­dent’s deputy na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, said that more changes are com­ing, seem­ingly con­firm­ing that she will soon trade her job to be­come U.S. am­bas­sador to Singapore. Ms. McFarland was brought in with re­tired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, for­mer head of the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, who was re­moved amid con­tro­versy over his con­ver­sa­tions with Rus­sian of­fi­cials.

While Mr. McCain and oth­ers praised the for­eign pol­icy shifts, oth­ers see Mr. Trump’s de­scent into the es­tab­lish­ment — or “swamp,” to use the pres­i­dent’s campaign term to de­scribe in­sider Wash­ing­ton — as a be­trayal of what sup­port­ers be­lieved he stood for.

By ap­point­ing pow­er­ful Wall Street fig­ures such as Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven T. Mnuchin and Eco­nomic Coun­cil Chair­man Gary Cohn, Mr. Trump is sell­ing out his mid­dle-class sup­port­ers, ac­cord­ing to Sen. Bernard San­ders, Ver­mont in­de­pen­dent and a hero to the pro­gres­sive left.

Mr. San­ders charged that the pres­i­dent is fail­ing on his cen­tral campaign vow to shake up the es­tab­lish­ment and break the link be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Wall Street.

“Peo­ple are per­ceiv­ing that Trump did not tell the truth dur­ing his campaign in terms of what he would do as pres­i­dent of the United States,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

But at the same time, Mr. San­ders urged Mr. Trump to con­tinue on his more mod­er­ate for­eign pol­icy tack, say­ing the U.S. must work with China and re­solve the tense sit­u­a­tion with North Korea through diplo­matic means.

“We must not act im­pul­sively, and we must not act uni­lat­er­ally,” Mr. San­ders said.

North Korea’s mis­sile test failed just hours be­fore Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence landed in Seoul, South Korea.

On a visit to Yongsan mil­i­tary base, Mr. Pence at­tended Easter ser­vices and then ad­dressed troops at a fel­low­ship din­ner, say­ing he had spo­ken en route to Mr. Trump af­ter North Korea’s mis­sile test.

“He told me in no un­cer­tain terms to make sure I told all of you, ‘We’re proud of you and we’re grate­ful for your ser­vice,’” Mr. Pence said. “This morn­ing’s provo­ca­tion from the North is just the lat­est re­minder of the risks each one of you face each and every day in the de­fense of the free­dom of the peo­ple of South Korea and the de­fense of Amer­ica in this part of the world.”

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