Foreign policy matters if it’s the right “story”

From the NYT:

Fifty of the nation’s most senior Republican national security officials, many of them former top aides or cabinet members for President George W. Bush, have signed a letter declaring that Donald J. Trump “lacks the character, values and experience” to be president and “would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.”

Mr. Trump, the officials warn, “would be the most reckless president in American history.”

The letter says Mr. Trump would weaken the United States’ moral authority and questions his knowledge of and belief in the Constitution. It says he has “demonstrated repeatedly that he has little understanding” of the nation’s “vital national interests, its complex diplomatic challenges, its indispensable alliances and the democratic values” on which American policy should be based. And it laments that “Mr. Trump has shown no interest in educating himself.”

“None of us will vote for Donald Trump,” the letter states, though it notes later that many Americans “have doubts about Hillary Clinton, as do many of us.” …

 Among the most prominent signatories are Michael V. Hayden, a former director of both the C.I.A. and the National Security Agency; John D. Negroponte, who served as the first director of national intelligence and then deputy secretary of state; and Robert B. Zoellick, another former deputy secretary of state, United States trade representive and, until 2012, president of the World Bank. Two former secretaries of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, also signed, as did Eric S. Edelman, who was Vice President Dick Cheney’s national security adviser and as a top aide to Robert M. Gates when he was secretary of defense.

Now, on the surface you might say, I’ve never heard of Michael Hayden, Robert Zoellick, Eric Edelman, etc., how could this matter.  Or, heck, maybe you have heard of them, but, come on, how could these people matter to the average Republican voter on whether to support Trump or not.

Well, here’s the thing it does matter.  A fair amount I’d say.  When we are talking about election campaigns, virtually everything matters not for the direct effects, but how it is interpreted by the media and shapes the media narrative.  And, on that score, I see this as bad for Trump in two ways.

First, this very much shapes how the media covers Trump.  Republicans calling out Trump for these matters is an infinitely huger story than if Democrats did so.  Clinton’s spokespersons says this, it’s not even a story.  An Obama appointee to CIA says this, and not a story.  A Republican says it, it’s affects reporting going forward.  Reporters don’t have to say Democrats say this about Trump, but Republicans say that.  They can consistently write things like, “foreign policy experts across the political spectrum have accused Trump’s foreign policy understanding.

Secondly, it’s more focus on Trump’s catastrophically ill-suited personality for being president.  Trump has shown himself to be somewhat teflon on how utterly absurd his policy proposals can be.  The average American knows pretty much nothing about NATO and does not get how reckless Trump’s statements on the matter are.  That same voter, however, can certainly understand the idea of an ignorant and unstable man that Republican experts think should be nowhere near the nuclear codes.  Ultimately, I think Trump’s “temperament”is (quite rightly) already proving to be, and will continue to be his ultimate downfall.  It’s truly hard to see how he turns things around from this.  Honestly, given current dynamics in the race, something truly unexpected and dramatic has to happen to Clinton’s campaign for Trump to really have any chance.  That could, of course.  But absent a fundamental change in the race, it really is hard to see how Trump wins.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

One Response to Foreign policy matters if it’s the right “story”

  1. Jon K says:

    I had a hard time realizing that most Americans don’t understand how critical our military deployments in South Korea, Japan, and other places are critical to maintaining world stability. I thought it was understood that people knew that our military presence prevents nuclear proliferation, keeps trade flowing freely, and prevents other nations from threatening our allies and partners. I honestly thought most people understood that, and that was why nobody has seriously considered making them a major issue in previous campaigns.

    Then Trump happened.

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