Republicans, including early supporters of President-elect Donald Trump, are shaking their heads over the difficulty the transition team is having in coming up with a selection for the most coveted job in Washington after president: secretary of state.
One reason is that the intellectual makeup and policy penchants that Mr. Trump appears to covet haven’t been shared by the people who have occupied the commanding heights of American foreign policy in Washington for more than 30 years.
“President-elect Donald Trump’s challenge in filling the secretary of state position is to find someone who is knowledgeable and shares his reluctance to have the U.S. intervene militarily abroad unless directly threatened,” said Merrill Matthews, resident scholar at the Institute for Policy Innovation.
“But that same person must be someone who can discuss foreign policy in a tactful way that doesn’t outrage the neoconservatives who support an aggressive interventionist approach,” Mr. Matthews added.
With a dearth of recognizable names that fit the “America First” policies Mr. Trump rode to the presidency, the Trump transition seems to keep coming up with the same faces and names but never slipping the State Department engagement ring on any of their fingers.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the highest-profile “Never Trump” Republican, and retired Gen. David Petraeus, a former CIA director, were having second interviews this week on the 26th floor of Trump Tower in Manhattan.
Both men are, on the face of things, unlikely choices for a president-elect who ran in opposition to any more military actions for regime change or to export democracy at gunpoint.
Neither Gen. Petraeus, with his decades in the military, nor Mr. Romney, with a long career as the essence of the GOP establishment, has much in common with Mr. Trump’s worldview on foreign policy.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker of Tennessee is being pushed for the job by some Trump people as someone who could line up with Mr. Trump’s kind of “America First” worldview. Other America Firsters have floated the name of Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Hawaii Democrat who endorsed Bernard Sanders for president in significant part over her concerns about Hillary Clinton’s interventionism.
One contributing columnist for The Hill praised Ms. Gabbard for embodying “the very essence of the President-Elect’s ideological departure from the interventionist policies that have plagued this nation for the past two decades.”
Most amazing is that the transition team apparently overlooked the joint announcement by Gen. Petraeus and former astronaut Mark Kelly that they were forming a Veterans Coalition for Common Sense to urge elected leaders to “do more to prevent gun tragedies.”
Mr. Kelly is the husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, who was injured by a crazed gunman and also co-founded Americans for Responsible Solutions, which seeks more restrictions on guns.
“Three may not be a lot of names out there but better choices are available,” said Tom Kilgannon, Freedom Alliance President, about Gen. Petraeus.
International gun-control forces have been lobbing the United Nations to make universal a set of restrictions on gun sales and ownership that second amendment forces have been fighting tooth and nail to head off.
“There may not be a lot of names out there but better choices are available,” said Tom Kilgannon, Freedom Alliance President, about Gen. Petraeus.
John R. Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., came off to some as a neoconservative hawk but he actually is a tough diplomat who “understands that tough and effective diplomacy can negate the need for military intervention,” Mr. Kilgannon said.
“Petraeus would bring too many problems from his past and he doesn’t understand — not the way Bolton does — the need to reduce the size of international government like the arms-trade treaty that U.N. and Obama administration and international government agencies are pushing for,” he said, adding that international institutions are seeking to usurp domestic laws on matters such as guns, climate, trade, taxation and social issues.
“International government — in the form of so-called ‘nongovernment organizations’ or ‘NGOs’ — is the instrument by which liberals try to implement the agenda that American voters reject at the ballot box,” Mr. Kilgannon said. “Nobody understands that better than John R. Bolton.”
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