Hmm, never thought I’d begin a post on a liberal blog with “Thank you, Senator Corker.” But, here it is. The Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee issued his now famous Tweet about properly staffing the Pennsylvania Adult Day Care Center, and followed up with a serious conversation including:
“The senator, who is close to Mr. Tillerson, invoked comments that the president made on Twitter last weekend in which he appeared to undercut Mr. Tillerson’s negotiations with North Korea.
“A lot of people think that there is some kind of ‘good cop, bad cop’ act underway, but that’s just not true,” Mr. Corker said.
Without offering specifics, he said Mr. Trump had repeatedly undermined diplomacy with his Twitter fingers. “I know he has hurt, in several instances, he’s hurt us as it relates to negotiations that were underway by tweeting things out,” Mr. Corker said.”
Simply airing these views is an act of civic responsibility, and if the Senator’s comments are accurate then there are more Republican Senators who hold these views; it would behoove them to chime in, even if only on the last few lines of the chorus. We can imagine why we’ve not heard more voices.
The Republicans may now be victims of their own gerrymandered monster. Those who break with the President may feel at risk of facing primary challengers. However, a president with a 32% approval rating is not necessarily a creature to be feared. That said, there are states in which the local politics could require senatorial and congressional candidates to pose close to the president, or at least could encourage it. Senators should recall that a Trump endorsement doesn’t insure election — ask Luther Strange in Alabama.
Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) has drawn a challenger who is (thus far) playing unabashed sycophant in the Trump parade, perpetual candidate for almost anything Danny Tarkanian. (See also: Nevada Independent)
“I have so many people that are contacting me over the past couple months saying ‘you gotta run against Dean Heller,’ ” Tarkanian said. “They understand, as I do, that we’re never going to make America great again unless we have senators in office that fully support President Trump and his America first agenda.”
There are a few problems with that agenda. If America first means America alone, then the President’s doing a fine job of that. Right off the bat members of NATO got the message that Trump didn’t think all that much of Article 5, at least not enough to even mention it during a meeting concerning that important mutual defense clause. Paris Accords — not even a treaty, but a mutual decision to follow voluntary self imposed guidance on climate change mitigation — and the US backs out. When the President said he wouldn’t mind renegotiating the agreement the rest of the world’s nations said, thank you but NO we’re not interested.
We’re now in Round 4 of talks to renegotiate the NAFTA and the US Chamber of Commerce isn’t pleased with the administration’s demands, which border on protectionism (if they don’t ramble right into it). As of two days ago the administration appeared poised to insert “deal breaking demands” into the bargaining process, some of which would seriously upset supply chains for the auto industry. While there are certainly NAFTA provisions which might be improved, the current administration has proposed items which sound very much like the TPP provisions Trump opposed when he pulled the US out of those talks. [WaPo]
And then there’s North Korea. While the remnants of the State Department (there are still a massive number of unfilled positions, many of which have NO nominees) try to tackle this problem, the President issues saber rattling tweets and undercuts his own Secretary of State. [NPR] It isn’t the least bit reassuring to hear informed comments like this when discussing the delicate and significant relations with the North Koreans:
“Without political appointments in place, governments in Asia and around the world are canvassing the Trump administration, trying to open lines to various advisors in the White House. And they’re getting mixed messages that are often hard to sort out.”
Oh, but wait there’s even more. In addition to leaving our allies scrambling around at least since last August trying to find definitive answers to a chaotic foreign policy, they may also question whether our word means much of anything. We need to recall that whatever Trump says, there are 6 nations involved in the Iran nuclear development containment deal and two of them aren’t happy: the Iranians and the Russians. The Chinese government went on record in late September in support of the containment plan treaty, and three days ago the United Kingdom made its position clear in a medium Trump would understand (Twitter) “The Iran Deal is Working.” The French foreign minister made a longer, but similar comment:
“It’s essential to maintain it to prevent a spiral of proliferation that would encourage hardliners in Iran to pursue nuclear weapons,” the minister told journalists in New York on the sidelines of this week’s UN general assembly.
French President Macron has also made his support for the agreement clear. The German government has stated its support for a continuation of the agreement. The P5+1 that signed the treaty could end up being the Chinese, French, Germans, Russians, and British vs. the US. America “first” literally becoming America alone.
Senator Corker has a reputation for speaking carefully — all the more reason to listen to his warning.