Donald Trump is looking more and more like he is going to be the Republican nominee. After an impressive showing in Michigan and Mississippi yesterday, most models are giving Trump about a 75%-80% chance of becoming the Republican presidential choice this summer. Therefore, it is surprising that Trump hasn’t been able to announce a group of foreign policy advisors. Indeed, it has been a long, confusing process with him. Drezner has helpfully compiled a list of Trump’s statements on the matter, so I will quote him at length here:
As it turns out, it has been very easy to keep track of Trump’s public promises and pledges on this question:
1. Sept. 16, 2015: At that night’s GOP debate, Trump promises to put the “finest team anyone has put together” on foreign policy.
2. Sept. 21, 2015: Trump promises Hugh Hewitt on his radio show that he’ll be announcing his foreign policy team “very soon.”
3. Throughout the fall: Trump names foreign policy people as advisers; those people say they have not talked to the candidate.
4. Feb. 9, 2016: Trump promises Fox News Channel’s Martha MacCallum that he’ll name his foreign policy team, saying, “I’m gonna release a list in about two weeks.”
5. Feb. 17, 2016: At an MSNBC town hall event, Trump says, “I’m going to be announcing a team in about a week that is really a good team.”
6. March 2, 2016: GOP foreign policy experts release a petition stating that they are “united in our opposition to a Donald Trump presidency.” That list is now at 117 people (full disclosure: I am one of the signatories).
6. March 3, 2016: Trump responds to Mika Brzezinski’s question on “Morning Joe” about his foreign policy team and when he’ll announce it by saying, “I’ve met and I’ve spoken to the team. I’m going to do it shortly.”
7. Later on March 3, 2016: Trump names a chairman of his national security advisory committee. It’s Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). Admittedly, asReuters reports, “Sessions is not known as one of the party’s leading foreign policy voices in the Senate.” Still, it’s … a name! So all Trump and Sessions need is an actual team!
8. March 8, 2016: Again on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump offers what might be the quickest flip-flop in campaign history:
“Yes, there is a team,” Trump said, before reversing himself within seconds, “There’s not a team. I’m going to be forming a team. I’ve met with far more than three people, and I’ll be forming a team at the appropriate time.”
Pointing to Sessions, “who wasn’t on board the last time I spoke to you because he just endorsed me last week,” Trump said he is “dealing with numerous other people,” adding that he will be making a decision “in a fairly short period of time.”
Which brings us to — scans news feed — the present moment. By my count, Trump has broken at least three explicit promises to name his team by a certain date.
Yup, Trump has misled us at least three times just in regard to his foreign policy team. It’s not that surprising given that most of his talking points and promises are based on lies or just vacuous nothingness, but the fact that he can’t get a foreign policy team is concerning for two reasons. First, he clearly isn’t as good a deal-maker as he and his supporters seem to believe. After all, getting underpaid professors and foreign policy wonks to sign up for a cushy job with one of the most well-known men in the world right now seems easy. Heck, even I could make that pitch and probably land some advisors. So, the fact that Trump can’t get any serious people to join his campaign means that he either can’t persuade anyone to do anything (this makes me question the feasibility of his wall even more) or his views are so insane that no serious person wants to tie their career to his sinking ship.
It’s also a problem because it eliminates one of his supporters’ best retorts to people like me who bash Trump’s policy position. Namely, it’s now impossible to say that Trump’s exact positions (or lack thereof) don’t matter because of his “great team” and “tremendous advisers.” This team simply doesn’t exist. Trump supporters are absolutely correct that none of the candidates know everything about everything. What really matters is how good the advisers and aides are. Unfortunately for Trump supporters, every candidate but theirs (yes, even Bernie has acquired some foreign policy advisers) has a decent group of experts advising them. Until Trump can point to an actual team, his supporters can’t simply dodge every criticism of his policy. Until Trump actually acquires serious advisers, the positions he takes at rallies are all we have to go on. If those are the positions taken by the United States… well, we should all be very afraid.