Trump’s stands go against Republican foreign policy positions
Washington - Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, despite giving lip service to party “unity”, has staked out foreign policy positions that go strongly against the party’s traditional philosophies.
Nonetheless, Trump’s positions are unlikely to hurt him in the November election with party-line voters because he has captured their mood on a number of key issues.
Trump realises that to beat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the general election he will need to galvanise Republicans, even those who voted against him in the primaries, which is why he mentioned party “unity” and gave establishment Republicans key roles in drafting the party platform. This also was the major factor in his choice of running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence.
Trump said he chose Pence, a staunch conservative, because advisers emphasised the importance of “party unity”.
Although Pence is likely to be a loyal running mate, he has differed with Trump on such issues as the Iraq war of 2003 (Pence voted for it when he was in Congress; Trump said he opposed it), free trade (Pence supported the North American Free Trade Agreement) and on Muslim immigrants (Pence has called Trump’s proposal for a ban offensive and unconstitutional).
It is Pence, however, who is likely to change his policies — at least publicly — rather than Trump, who says the positions he staked out in the primaries are the ones that will ensure victory in November.
Trump has consistently called the 2003 Iraq war a “dumb war” and a “disaster” that has destabilised the region. Trump has even used Democratic contender Bernie Sanders’ criticism of Clinton against her.
“Bernie said that Hillary Clinton has bad judgment,” Trump said in a campaign speech. “If you look at the war in Iraq, look at what she did with Libya; a total disaster.”
Although Trump has not formally commented on the Chilcot report, he gave an interview on British ITV in May in anticipation of the British inquiry into the Iraq war. Trump criticised former British prime minister Tony Blair joining then US president George W. Bush in invading Iraq and called the war a “disaster”, saying: “Your country shouldn’t have gone in.” Trump added that British leaders would get more respect if they put UK interests before US interests.
Because of Trump’s remarks during the primaries and his comments against the Iraq war, neither Bush nor his brother Jeb Bush, who was a presidential candidate against Trump, attended the Republican convention.
Trump’s position against the Iraq war is in sync with the majority of Americans. While there is some nostalgia among Republicans for the Bush presidency, the general public sees the Iraq war as a grave mistake.
Trump’s sharp criticism of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) fly in the face of Republicans’ traditional support for free trade. By condemning those deals, however, Trump has earned support of many white working-class Americans — many of whom often support Democrats — who claim such agreements have taken good-paying manufacturing jobs from the United States.
While Trump fashions himself as a proponent of “America First” — meaning that the United States should not be eager to engage militarily abroad because doing so saps resources needed at home — he has been very critical of President Barack Obama’s administration for not doing enough against the Islamic State (ISIS), which he says is a direct threat to the United States.
Although the latter position is in line with most Republicans, Trump seems to tie this to his anti-Muslim immigration position, which many Republicans see as discriminatory and hurting US efforts abroad to generate anti-ISIS support among Muslim countries.
The fear of more domestic terrorist incidents plays into Trump’s game plan. His position supporting a temporary ban on Muslims strikes many Americans as “sensible” given what they see in the daily headlines.
Trump’s bigotry against Muslims is likely to cost him support among principled voters of both parties but he probably figures he will make up that loss by appealing to the prejudices and fears of some white working-class voters.
Hence, Trump’s non-traditional positions may work to his advantage, particularly if come November there are more instability in the world and more terrorist incidents in the United States. Although Clinton enjoys a slight advantage in many polls, she should be concerned.