Of all cabinet appointments, none is proving as sensitive as the one considered most important: Secretary of State.
Newt Gingrich — the first Trump loyalist to pull himself from contention — has noted that our entire approach to diplomacy needs recalibration. Far too many career diplomats elevate personal politics (generally well to the left of center) above the president’s desires. Even more disturbingly, some of them see their jobs as representing to Washington the interests of the countries to which they are assigned — rather than the other way around. The next Secretary of State must thus be willing and able to uproot an entrenched bureaucracy that often fails to put America first.
The right candidate must also gain Senate confirmation — essentially giving veto power to any GOP Senator willing to challenge the president. Senator Rand Paul a longtime critic of the war in Iraq, the Freedom Agenda, nation building, and expensive interventions has vowed to oppose two early favorites — Rudy Giuliani and John Bolton — as far too interventionist for his taste. Though the president-elect — not to mention America and our allies — would be very well served with either of them in the position, the rumor from Capitol Hill is that Paul has mustered the few Republican votes necessary to sink their nominations. For very different reasons, there are doubts as to whether General David Petraeus — another formidable choice — could clear the confirmation hurdle.
Even more importantly, once confirmed, our next chief diplomat must be comfortable working for the maverick President Trump and proud to represent his unabashedly America-first approach in the international arena. Donald Trump’s surprisingly generous outreach to Mitt Romney notwithstanding, Romney’s establishment persona — not to mention his leadership of the #NeverTrump movement — suggests that his heart would never fully be in his representation of President Trump. And the way that President Obama ran rings around Bob Corker — while Iran was running rings around Obama — suggests a lack of boldness that work in the Trump Administration will require.
Trump has already demonstrated that his approach to diplomacy will shake things up in ways that serve America’s interest. His telephone conversation with Taiwan’s President is a case in point. While the Obama Administration and its lackeys in the press got the vapors howling about Trump’s spontaneous, amateurish, and appalling breach of protocol, the president-elect knew precisely what he was doing. Rather than worrying what Beijing might think about a phone call between Washington and Taipei, he decided to let Beijing worry about what Washington might think the next time it tries to build a new island. And that happened before he even took office. By next year at this time, we may even have a U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem — a move that will require smelling salts for half the American population and 90 percent of the D.C. press corps.
So, whom does that leave?
The emerging answer appears to be California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher — a foreign policy expert who actually praised Trump’s Taiwan call. Recognized in Washington as a leader in the fight against illegal immigration, in national security, and international diplomacy, and in the development of space and energy technologies, Rohrabacher’s interests and inclinations match Trump’s own. He also brings to the table long service on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where he is considered highly substantive and well informed.
Rohrabacher was a Reaganite as early as 1976; he served as a senior speech writer throughout Reagan’s term in office. In that role, Rohrabacher played a key role in shaping the “Reagan Doctrine,” a cost-effective approach to rolling back Soviet influence in Africa, Asia, and Latin America by aiding anti-Communist guerillas and resistance movements. That experience makes him a solid choice to implement Trump’s promises to rebuild the military and reassert American interests and influence while avoiding costly entanglements.
Though a dark horse to the public, Rohrabacher is well known in Washington and knows Washington well. He is versed in the bureaucracy, yet distant enough to shake up the State Department without tripping over personal relationships. And crucially, the libertarian wing of the GOP has indicated its comfort with Rohrabacher. Reports suggest that even Sen. Paul would be okay with a package deal in which Bolton takes the number two slot at State if Rohrabacher is the Secretary. That arrangement, and Rohrabacher’s unstinting support for Israel — specifically during its 2014 war with Hamas — should cheer the party’s significant pro-Israel wing, which tends to be more interventionist than the strict libertarians and would thrill to see Bolton in a position of foreign policy influence.
The talent parading through Trump Tower is impressive; any one of them would be the best Secretary of State we’ve had in years. Among the contenders, however, Dana Rohrabacher seems to be emerging as the one who combines the knowledge, experience, loyalty, innovation, and confirmability needed to bring the Trump revolution to Foggy Bottom and the world.
Bruce Abramson is the President of Informationism, Inc., Vice President and Director of Policy at the Iron Dome Alliance, and a Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research.
Jeff Ballabon is CEO of B2 Strategic, Chairman of the Iron Dome Alliance, and a Senior Fellow at the American Conservative Union's Center for Statesmanship and Diplomacy. To read more of their reports — Click Here Now.
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