Since Donald Trump’s election Sen. Graham has been a vocal critic of the former real estate magnate while defending him against some allegations stemming from the investigation into Russian influence in the presidential election. Graham quipped during a CBS interview that Trump “may be the first president in history to go down because [he] can’t stop inappropriately talking about an investigation,” which Graham argued would ultimately clear him. He than warned Trump to back a bill then in Congress aimed at punishing Russia. “We’re going to punish the Russians. Any member of the Congress who doesn’t want to punish Russia for what they’ve done is betraying democracy. And if the president doesn’t sign this bill to punish Russia, he would be betraying democracy.”
Retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, a former director of the both the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency who is known for his support for militarist U.S. defense policies, has been a vocal critic of Donald Trump. Before Trump’s election, Hayden warned that he could spur a crisis in “civilian military control,” arguing that military leaders may not “defer” to his decision-making. Since Trump’s election, Hayden has repeatedly excoriated his handling of the controversies concerning Russian interference in the election. In a recent Washington Post op-ed, Hayden called Trump Russia’s “useful tool.”
Newt Gingrich once called Trump an “unacceptable” presidential candidate. Since Trump’s election, however, Gingrich has repeatedly defended his administration, which may have helped sway the president to select Gingrich’s spouse Callista to serve as US ambassador to the Vatican. While pushing discredited conspiracy theories about the death of former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, Gingrich has also kept busy haranguing Congress to back Trump regardless of the various scandals he has caused. “Republicans in general — not just Trump — are in a crossroads,” Gingrich said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “And if they don’t get their act together, Pelosi is going to become speaker and she’s going to impeach Trump. That’s how big the stakes are.”
David Albright, a controversial nuclear non-proliferation “expert” who heads the Institute for Science and International Security (aka “the Good ISIS”), has continued to focus criticism on the Iran nuclear deal, feeding into Donald Trump’s invective against Tehran and his opposition to the nuclear agreement. A recent example of Albright’s misleading work is his May 2017 report coauthored with Olli Heinonen of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies that questions whether Iran is “mass producing advanced gas centrifuges.” The basis for the original article was a mistranslation from Persian of a statement by the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, who according to Albright and Heinonen said in April that Iran had “initiated” mass production of centrifuges. In fact, he only stated that Tehran had the “capacity” to do so. When confronted with the error, ISIS said they would “re-issue” the report yet stick to its original conclusions. Notes one observer: “In other words, the Good ISIS published a report based entirely on the mistaken belief that Iran had initiated the mass production of advanced uranium centrifuges, but after learning that Iran has not initiated the mass production of advanced uranium centrifuges, that report’s findings haven’t changed.”
Sam Brownback, the Christian Right governor of Kansas and a former senator known for his hawkish “pro-Israel” views on U.S. Middle East policy, has been touted for several posts in the Trump administration, including secretary of agriculture, which ultimately went to former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue. More recently, Brownback has been rumored to be Trump’s choice for ambassador for international religious freedom. Brownback is known for his Christian Zionism views on Israel.
During the 2016 presidential primary and election, Forbes frequently chided the political establishment for “complaining” about Donald Trump. He later endorsed Trump, saying that the real estate mogul was “absolutely unique.” Since Trump’s election, Forbes has remained largely silent on many of the controversies that have plagued the administration, instead focusing attention on his bread-and-butter policy issue, tax reform. In a recent New York Times op-ed, Forbes urged Trump to quickly push through a tax overhaul, including cuts for corporations and more privately funded infrastructure investments, among other conservative agenda items. Failure to pass tax reform early in the administration, Forbes argued, could stall the purported “Trump bounce.”
Stephen Hadley, a core member of the “Vulcans” team that advised then-presidential candidate George W. Bush in 2000 and now a director of defense contractor Raytheon, was briefly considered to be a candidate for Secretary of Defense in a Trump administration. More recently, Hadley has spoken out about Trump administration foreign policies. In one recent interview, Hadley discussed the dilemma facing Trump over accusations about his campaign’s ties to Russia. While Hadley said it was “fair to say” that Trump had brought a lot of the problems on himself by his statements and actions, he also tried to deflect the focus of attention on the need to allow the president to deal with the “real problems” facing America. However, he argued that it would be best if Trump allowed the investigations into the Russia issue to proceed without constantly attacking them.
The Trump administration appears to have been surprised by this breach among its friends in the critical Gulf strategic area. But it is difficult to envision an effective U.S. role in rebuilding this Humpty-Dumpty.
The head of the Institute for Science and International Security—aka “the Good ISIS”—recently demonstrated again his penchant for using sloppy analysis as a basis for politically explosive charges about Iran, in this case using a faulty translation from Persian to misleadingly question whether Tehran is “mass producing advanced gas centrifuges.”
Trump has exhibited a general preference for authoritarians over democrats, and that preference already has had impact on his foreign policy. Such an inclination has no more to do with realism than does a general preference for democrats over authoritarians.
The President went to the region as a deal maker and a salesman for American weapon manufacturing. He talked about Islam, terrorism, Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without the benefit of expert advice in any of these areas. After great showmanship in Riyadh, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem, he and his family left the region without much to show for or to benefit the people of that war-torn region.
Although the Comey memo scandal may well turn out to be what brings Trump down, this breach of trust may have had more lasting effect than any of Trump’s other numerous misadventures. It was an unprecedented betrayal of Israel’s confidence. Ironically, Trump has now done what even Barack Obama’s biggest detractors never accused him of: seriously compromised Israel’s security relationship with the United States.
Congress and the public acquiesce in another military intervention or a sharp escalation of one of the U.S. wars already under way, perhaps it’s time to finally consider the true costs of war, American-style — in lives lost, dollars spent, and opportunities squandered. It’s a reasonable bet that never in history has a society spent more on war and gotten less bang for its copious bucks.