Can the GOP live down Donald Trump’s Middle East “Policy”?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Comedians, bloggers, and pundits are ecstatic about The Donald throwing his toupee in the ring for the Republican nomination. The stories write themselves. But the Republican Party establishment is appalled, because Trump will create an image for the party that will hurt it in the general election. Despite doing well in 2012 at the level of the House of Representatives and the Senate, the Republicans lost the presidency and some seats because of the clownish things some of their prominent figures kept saying, about rape, abortion, and immigration. Statistically speaking, you pretty much have to get 44 percent of the Latino vote to be president. The Angry White Men running for congress make it hard for the Republican standard bearer to pull that off. And the Grand Old Party has a 10% gender gap with the Democrats, for whom many more women vote.

Trump’s maiden speech was a doozy, and will not have made the Latinos happy. As for the women, Trump’s past pronouncements on their issues still stick in the craw.

In his speech, Trump accused Mexico of stealing our jobs, along with China, which has also apparently stolen our money. (Trump doesn’t seem to understand the difference between China holding nearly $1 trillion of US debt– not very much, actually– and China robbing all our banks.)

He said, “You have a problem with ISIS, you have a bigger problem with China. And in my opinion, the new China, believe it or not, in terms of trade is Mexico.”

This is bizarre. Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) took 40% of Iraqi land, displaced millions, arbitrarily killed thousands.

China and Mexico aren’t anything like that. The US isn’t even running much of a trade deficit with Mexico any more.

Trump said, “That’s right – a lot of people up there can’t get jobs. They can’t get jobs because there are no jobs because China has our jobs and Mexico has our jobs. They all have our jobs.”

Mexico doesn’t actually, of course, have “our jobs.” Trump told anecdotes about US and foreign corporations siting factories in Mexico rather than in the US. He blamed this on Mexico, when the real problem is that US law doesn’t penalize US corporations for relocating abroad to evade taxes. President Obama and his secretary of the Treasury have been working on this. But Trump wasn’t offering a serious analysis. He was just riling up the angry white men.

Trump interspersed a few observations on foreign policy among his various tirades. He said of Obama, “Take a look at the deal he’s making with Iran. He makes that deal, Israel maybe won’t exist very long. It’s a disaster and we have to protect Israel.”

There isn’t an obvious way that Obama’s deal with Iran restricting its nuclear program to being solely for civilian purposes could cause Israel not to exist very long. But note that most of the Republican candidates say the same thing, as does Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu. That is, Trump’s stream of conscious serial falsehoods don’t actually end up differing much from GOP orthodoxy.

Trump is also unhappy with Saudi Arabia:

” I’ll give you another example: Saudi Arabia. They make a billion dollars a day, a billion dollars a day.

I love the Saudis, many are in this building. They make a billion dollars a day. Whenever they have problems, we send over the ships. We send, we’re going to protect – what are we doing? They got nothing but money.

If the right person asked them, they’d pay a fortune. They wouldn’t be there except for us.

And believe me, you look at the border with Yemen – you remember Obama a year ago, Yemen was a great victory. Two weeks later the place was blown up. Everybody.

And they kept our equipment. They always keep our equipment. We ought to send used equipment, right? They always keep our equipment, we ought to send some real junk because, frankly, it would be – we ought to send our surplus. We’re always losing this gorgeous, brand-new stuff.

But look at that border with Saudi Arabia. Do you really think that these people are interested in Yemen? Saudi Arabia without us is gone. They’re gone.

And I’m the one that made all of the right predictions about Iraq. You know, all of these politicians that I’m running against now, it’s so nice to say I’m running as opposed to if I run, if I run – I’m running.

But all of these politicians that I’m running against now, they’re trying to dissociate. I mean, you look at Bush – it took him five days to answer the question on Iraq. He couldn’t answer the question. He didn’t know.”

So Donald Trump wants to charge Saudi Arabia for the US security umbrella, the way George H W. Bush charged them for the Gulf War.

I couldn’t tell you what he meant about Saudi Arabia not actually being interested in Yemen . I don’t think it is true.

Trump wants to deal with Daesh / ISIL by finding the right general, finding a MacArthur. But Daesh is a guerrilla problem that can’t be dealt with by infantry of the sort that MacArthur commanded in Korea. It doesn’t make any sense that Martin Dempsey, who is an Iraq War vet, wouldn’t know best the terrain and strategy for Iraq.

So to sum up:

Start trade wars with China and Mexico;

Charge Saudi Arabia money for providing it with security;

Find a general for Iraq.

Stop Iran.

It is going to be a hilarious summer.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

PBS News hour: “Watch Donald Trump announce his candidacy for U.S. president ”

28 Responses

  1. How can such an idiot as Donald Trump get so much news time? He’s wealthy and powerful.

    Americans need to get the wealthy and powerful out of their government.

    America needs elected and appointed government personnel that are honest, intelligent, not overly educated and come from the 99% of Americans. I believe that many that come from wealthy and powerful families have proven to lack real honesty, wisdom, heart, intelligence and common sense. Some of these traits are not supported in our educational system.

    The world is changing. Competition needs to be replaced with cooperation–real humanity. The world must focus on humanity or else we will “progress into extinction”.

    link to

    I checked on Romney’s back ground and found that he had contributed to consolidation and bankruptcy of companies that included off shore practices that resulted in hundreds of thousands of American workers losing their jobs and homes. How could such an gangster get nominated? Bush and his buddies should be in jail. Enough.

    • You call him an idiot. How many non-idiots do you know who have made a billion dollars? I would not underestimate the man. He is just as likely to haul the rest of the Republican candidates over the coals as anyone the Democrats can field. He might even have a few hard questions for Hillary. Personally I would not vote for the man, but there is a certain appeal for a candidate who is not beholden to any backers. I would not be surprised to see him move up in the polls.

      • Actually many of the super wealthy are really idiots with no social redeeming value, who are occasionally lucky and are good at scamming other gullible, greedy humans with low self worth.

        Human capabilities actually fall into a very narrow range with over 90% of humans being equally mediocre, so valuing someone that claims to have more wealth is a false value.

        BTW – there is no actual documentation that Trump’s personal wealth is more than US$1.50. All indications are his claims are just a bunch of lies.

        In other words, you have been a victim of a scam. How does that make you feel?

      • How many non-idiots do you know who have made a billion dollars?

        Good point. Although I believe you meant to say the opposite. Only idiots — actually psychopaths — spend their lives accumulating massive fortunes, all at the expense of everyone else

  2. A candidate for the presidency who kicks off his campaign by bragging, “I’m rich! $8.9 billion dollars! I have the best properties in the world. I’ve done a great job!” lacks any sense of humility or identification with the 99%. I can’t fathom Teddy, FDR or JFK reading their financial statement during a campaign appearance which, by comparison, goes to show how little class this supercilious ego maniac has.

    • No, but Herbert Hoover got the GOP nomination and the presidency after this immortal utterance: “If you haven’t made a million dollars by the time you’re 30, you’re not much of a man.” I see a pattern here.

  3. It’s all very well laughing at Trump but he is not atypical of a fair number of US electors. Did you see the RT piece on a couple of recent fake petitions:

    While a majority of Americans asked by a US journalist to support President Obama’s “plan” to nuke Russia signed a fake “petition” to do so, RT decided to conduct its own poll on the streets of Moscow. Most people said no to striking America. Calling the plan “crazy,” Russians refused to leave their signatures under a fake “petition” to send missiles to America.

    link to

    Obviously there is no conceivable comparison between a beach in San Diego and the streets of a capital like Moscow. However…

    • American exceptionalism is founded on a sense of invulnerability – yet demagogues can juggle that with a sense that everyone is out to get us. Thus, THEY threaten us with destruction, but magically if we come up with a monstrous crime to exterminate them, our leaders must have a plan to get away with it.

      Whereas, even the worst people in Europe know how risky war is from their own history.

  4. Hopefully, in the first debate The Donald will put on a big show and make totally outrageous statements to get attention. It would be perfect if the Dems planted some Trump supporters wearing toupees in the audience. They could all stand up, lift their hairpieces and say “We love you Donald” whenever he speaks.

  5. But the Republican Party establishment is appalled, because Trump will create an image for the party …

    Make that “Trump will make the GOP’s loony fringe more obvious.”

    The good news is because the American people are taking the 2016 presidential election seriously, Trump will help provide an antidote and expose this election for the farce it really is.

  6. Ann Sosman

    I think Tom Cotton would make a fine general to send over to the middle east.. can we promote him out of congress?

  7. Finally I have compete agreement with everybody …the only one in America who thinks trump is not a clown is trump..

  8. Trump is the ONLY Republican who wouldn’t take his marching orders from Bibi Netanyahu. He could apologize to Latinos and get 44% of their votes by putting Alberto Gonzalez on his ticket.

    The Donald & The Gonzo 2016…Why not? The Republicans are already a circus.

  9. Trump is the Ahmadinejad of America. Scratch that; just one of far too many. I don’t think we appreciate how bad these klowns make the United States look to people living in other countries.

    Frankly, I’ve heard more intelligent rants in bars shortly before closing time.

    • You’re right, but I’m going to say it again; the bad guys get away with it until someone hurts them badly enough to teach them a lesson. When is the rest of the world ready to make real sacrifices to punish America?

  10. Right again Juan Cole. When I need to know about what is happening in the Middle East, Iraq, etc. I go to your web site. Keep up the great reporting. I enjoy your sense of humor. My own most recent blog post is a generic (geriatric?) reaction to the latest Republicans to throw in their (mad) hats: link to

  11. I hope Trump goes far into the Primary process. Real far. His landslide defeat would win the Senate for Dems, maybe even the House.

  12. My God. He can’t even understand that China props up the US $ by buying our questionable securities and bonds! He can’t understand that Saudi Arabia has been doing the same since 1971, aided later by Japan.

    He talks about stealing jobs, but how can the US stop that without “Big Government” interfering with “Free Enterprise”? And how can it do that without shutting down “Free Trade” – which must include labor? Where’s his opposition to to the TPP?

    And why would we send military equipment at all if it was no good? What purpose would that serve?


  13. early in the speech, 5:30 to 5:40,
    Mr Trump said that the US GDP was below zero.

    for that to be true,
    nobody in the country could have produced or earned anything.

    Donald, I love ya, man.
    Who else could start by inheriting $ 400 Million, and turn that into a fortune worth over $ 1 Billion ?
    But you need to hire someone to write your speeches for you.
    and the speechwriter needs to hire a fact checker.

  14. Say what you want about the Donald. I think it will be great fun to watch the likes of Trump, Rick Perry and Lindsey Graham. I can hardly wait to watch them hustle, bustle and busker for the GOP prize!

  15. The old question, “If you’re so smart, how come you’re not rich?” should be turned around and asked of the Donald, as “If you’re so rich, how come you’re not smart?”

    I think we can save a lot of time by making a part of filing to run for Presidents a simple form on which they have to check off either YES or NO on these 14 questions, and include their answers on every ballot:
    1. Do you think global warming is a hoax?
    2. Do you believe the Holocaust happened?
    3. Do you think vaccinating children is good?
    4. Is open-carry of guns in bars a good idea?
    5. Do you believe that Blacks are inferior?
    6. Are you in favor of bombing Iran?
    7. Should we deport millions of illegal aliens?
    8. Are you in favor of eliminating Obamacare?
    9. Do you favor a woman’s ‘right to choose?’
    10. Are you in favor raising the minimum wage?
    11. Would you sign Grover Norquist’s ‘pledge?’
    12. Are you in favor of right to work laws?
    13. Are you in favor of Voter ID cards?
    14. Do you believe that Obama is a U.S. citizen?

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