The recent California Republican Party convention featured foreign policy presentations by Ed Royce, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and John Bolton, George W Bush's Ambassador to the United Nations. Both discussed the mess that is Syria, Russian resurgence, the "no strategy" confrontation with ISIS, and the Iranian nuclear agreement. Both concluded that strong, competent foreign policy leadership must be the the first requirement for the Republican presidential nominee. Let's apply that test to the current field.
It is hard to sort out anything serious with the plethora of Republican candidates, given a focus on the subjects that the people in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina are interested in, and a 24 hour news cycle that jumps from the Pope's visit, to Planned Parenthood videos, to to a shooting in Oregon, to a hospital bombing in Afghanistan, to the Republican leadership travails in the House. Unfortunately, the current debate format and focus has not yet provided an opportunity for serious discussion with the 20 million person audience, but there are some clues on the candidates web sites and in their histories.
The CNBC debate on October 28 will include candidates with at least 2.5% support in an average by six polling organizations. The apparent relevant views of the ten that would qualify today:
Donald Trump (23%):
- The Trump web site contains positions on tax reform, gun rights, and immigration, but nothing on foreign policy. While Trump's business activities are concentrated along the East Coast, he does have real estate and hospitality ventures in the Caribbean, Scotland, and the Philippines so he has interacted with other governments at some level. He has no real foreign policy or national security experience.
Dr. Ben Carson (17%)
- Doctor Carson's web site contains admonitions that we must support Israel and stand up to Vladimir Putin, with "all options on the table", but no specifics. He has no foreign policy or national security experience.
Carly Fiorina (11.5%)
- Carly's web site contains her life story, including a defense of her time at HP, but little on policy. She did have significant international business experience, was Chair of the CIA's External Advisory Board, and has offered specific proposals to strengthen the military.
Senator Marco Rubio (9.75%)
- Of the seven fairly detailed issue discussions on Rubio's web site, four deal with foreign policy, Iran, Russia, and the Veterans Administration. His committee assignments include the Foreign Affairs and the Select Committee on Intelligence. It is a focus.
Former Governor Jeb Bush (9.0%)
- Bush's web posting on the Middle East is an August speech given at the Reagan Library - apparently written by consultants to cover "safe" Republican criticisms of President Obama. The Syria policy clings to the plan of coordinating unidentified secular opposition forces to topple and replace Assad. Bush has no real foreign policy experience, and likely would rely on the advice of many associated with his brother.
Senator Ted Cruz (6.0%)
- Cruz' web site is mostly about his conservative credentials, and while it does list a number of relatively minor pieces of legislation supporting military personnel, it does not contain his ideas about ISIS, Russia, or the Middle East. He does sit on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Governor George Kasich (4.0%)
- Kasich's web site's policy plank on national security focuses on "cheap but smart" budgets without a discussion of how he would deal with threats. He was on the House Armed Services Committee for 18 years and was central to the restructuring of the military which took place under President Reagan.
Governor Chris Cristie (3.75%)
- Cristie's web site talks of standing with our allies and standing up to our adversaries, increasing military funding, and strengthening intelligence, but there is little specific. He does speak hawkishly, particularly about the Patriot Act and his time as a federal prosecutor dealing with terrorism cases after 9/11.
Former Governor Mike Huckabee (3.5%)
Senator Rand Paul (2.75%)
For those who agree with Royce and Bolton that seven years of Obama, Clinton, and Kerry have made the world a more dangerous place and that the top priority for a president is someone with demonstrated national security expertise and the strength to restore American leadership, the top tier would seem to be Rubio, Kasich, and Fiorina.
This week's video is an advertisement for the December Climate Change Conference in Paris - another opportunity for the Obama Administration to make executive decisions which will hobble the country - at least until undone by a Republican administration.
bill bowen - 10/9/15