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Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

The 2016 Republican presidential candidates compete to out-hawk each other

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Jeb Bush

Former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush has been a favorite of neoconservatives since the mid-1990s, when he supported the launching of the Project for the New American Century. Since announcing his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, Bush has made several explicit gestures indicating his commitment to continue his brother's track record, including forming a foreign policy advisory team comprised mostly of neoconservative veterans of the George W. Bush administration. He’s also spurred criticism recently for saying that he would have authorized the Iraq War despite “knowing what we know now.”

Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio, a Republican Senator from Florida, is a 2016 Republican presidential candidate who has, according to the conservative National Review, “consistently articulated a robust internationalist position closest to that of George W. Bush." From his perch on the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, Rubio has pushed for interventionist foreign policies, advocated increased military spending, and strongly opposed the Obama administration's diplomacy with Cuba and Iran. According to reports, Rubio is also a favorite of GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, whose free Israeli paper, Israel Hayom, has been giving rave reviews to his presidential campaign.

Scott Walker

Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, notorious for reigning in the rights of workers in his home state, has staked out hawkish positions on foreign policy in advance of his expected run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. He has called for the United States to have a “strong presence” in the Middle East, has said he would not rule out U.S. “boots on the ground” in the fight against ISIS, and has said he would “absolutely” reject any nuclear deal with Iran if he becomes president. Walker has also spurred ridicule for saying the “most significant foreign policy decision” of his lifetime was Ronald Reagan’s decision to fire striking air traffic controllers in 1981.

Ted Cruz

Sen. Ted Cruz is a Tea Party Republican senator from Texas who recently announced his candidacy for the 2016 Republican Party presidential nomination. Although Cruz has described his foreign policy approach as between “the isolationism of Rand Paul” and the “neoconservatism of John McCain,” when asked by Bloomberg View which foreign policy experts he trusts, he listed three overt militarists: former George W. Bush U.N. ambassador John Bolton, Iran-Contra veteran Elliott Abrams, and former CIA director James Woolsey.

Lindsey Graham

During his speech officially announcing his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) declared that “the world is exploding in terror and violence.” Such hysteria over purported threats to the United States is standard Graham fare, who has also contended that “the world is literally about to blow up” as a result of President Obama’s foreign policy. One of the Senate’s most hawkish members, Graham has long been at the forefront of congressional efforts over the years promoting war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Iran.

Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum is a 2016 Republican presidential candidate and former senator from Pennsylvania who champions stridently right-wing positions on social issues and foreign policy. He has recently called for 10,000 U.S. ground troops to be deployed to fight ISIS and has opposed the Iran nuclear negotiations, claiming that Iran wants to “conquer the world.” He has also denounced the Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage as “disrupting the foundation of the world.”

Rick Perry

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, who ran a gaffe-riddled presidential bid in 2012, has officially joined the crowded list of candidates seeking the Republican Party’s 2016 presidential nomination. He has reportedly entered the race as a “national-security stalwart,” a label that nearly all the GOP candidates appear to aspire to. He has advocated the use of torture, has called for “providing lethal aid” to Ukraine to use against Russian-backed separatists, and has argued that U.S. ground forces may have to be deployed against ISIS in Iraq.

Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee, a former Republican governor of Arkansas and an evangelical pastor, has brought attention to his 2016 GOP presidential campaign by making a series of outlandish claims. He argues that President Obama was “raised in Kenya,” holds that the United States was founded by God, and says that he doesn’t want to live in a United States that “does not fear God because if we don't fear God, nobody will fear us." Huckabee has also urged young Americans not to serve in the military until Obama leaves office. 

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Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts and two-time failed presidential candidate, is a foreign policy hawk with neoconservative leanings who appears set to become the next senator from Utah.


Vin Weber, a former Republican congressman and longtime “superlobbyist” who has supported numerous neoconservative advocacy campaigns, has become embroiled in the special prosecutor’s investigation into the Donald Trump campaign’s potential collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential election.


Jon Lerner is a conservative political strategist and top adviser to US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. He was a key figure in the “Never Trump” Campaign, which appears to have led to his being ousted as Vice President Mike Pence’s national security adviser.


Pamela Geller is a controversial anti-Islam activist who has founded several “hate groups” and likes to repeat debunked myths, including about the alleged existence of “no-go” Muslim zones in Europe.


Max Boot, neoconservative military historian at the Council on Foreign Relations, on Trump and Russia: “At every turn Trump is undercutting the ‘get tough on Russia’ message because he just can’t help himself, he just loves Putin too much.”


Although overlooked by President Trump for cabinet post, Gingrich has tried to shape affairs in the administration, including by conspiring with government officials to “purge the State Department of staffers they viewed as insufficiently loyal” to the president.


Former Sen Mark Kirk (R-IL) is an advisor for United Against Nuclear Iran. He is an outspoken advocate for aggressive action against Iran and a fierce defender of right-wing Israeli policies.


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As the United States enters the second spring of the Trump era, it’s creeping ever closer to more war. McMaster and Mattis may have written the National Defense Strategy that over-hyped the threats on this planet, but Bolton and Pompeo will have the opportunity to address these inflated threats in the worst way possible: by force of arms.


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We meet Donald Trump in the media every hour of every day, which blots out much of the rest of the world and much of what’s meaningful in it.  Such largely unexamined, never-ending coverage of his doings represents a triumph of the first order both for him and for an American cult of personality.


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