The Global Politico’s Susana B. Glasser writes:
Last year, Eliot Cohen rallied dozens of fellow veterans of Republican administrations, people like him who had served in the upper reaches of the Pentagon, State Department and National Security Council, to warn against Donald Trump winning the White House. He would become, the group open letter Cohen organized said, “the most reckless president in American history.”
A year later, Cohen, a top official in President George W. Bush’s administration, and another charter #NeverTrump proselytizer, his fellow conservative Max Boot, hardly back down when asked whether their predictions of global gloom and doom had been proven right in the first year of the Trump presidency. Both men, lifelong Republicans and historically minded policy intellectuals, offered unequivocal yeses in a joint interview for this week’s Global Politico podcast – and castigated former friends inside the party they’ve both now renounced as “Vichy Republicans” for collaborating with a president they believe is not fit to hold office.
Boot pronounced Trump both “incredibly erratic and unpredictable,” though he allowed that “some of the worst-case scenarios that we imagined have [not] yet, mercifully, come to pass.” Just because Trump has not yet destroyed NATO, launched a trade war with China or torn up NAFTA, lifted sanctions on Russia in a grand bargain with Vladimir Putin, or started a war with North Korea, Boot argued, does not mean he won’t.
“It’s true, they haven’t started World War III yet,” Cohen added. “That’s a pretty low bar.”
If anything, I found the two even more terrified about the Trump presidency at the end of Year One — filled with the sort of to-the-barricades warnings I’m still not used to hearing from learned defense wonks like Boot, who’s spent a career advising politicians like Republican Senator John McCain from establishment precincts like the Wall Street Journal op-ed page and the Council on Foreign Relations. “In many ways,” Boot said, “the damage he’s doing at home is even worse, where he’s undermining the rule of law. He’s obstructing justice. He’s lending the support of the presidency to monsters like Roy Moore. He is exacerbating race relations. He is engaging in the most blatant xenophobia, racism and general bigotry that we have seen from the White House.”
“All these things,” he added, “are very corrosive to the future of American democracy.”
Throughout the wide-ranging conversation, they addressed the toll — personal as well as political — that Trump’s takeover of their party has had, from “broken friendships” and Republican officeholders “who have permanently sullied themselves” to a GOP unmoored from basic principles like free trade and promotion of democracy that were long seen as its bedrock precepts. Cohen talked of his own “permanently ruptured” relationships as a consequence of Trump, not to mention the sad spectacle of “spineless” careerists taking jobs with a man they don’t believe in, while Boot elaborated on the “disorienting experience” of having close friends who’ve “gone off the rails” — a split worse than any, he argued, since the Vietnam war. Cohen disagreed, but only because he saw the divide caused by Trump hearkening back even further, to the foreign policy debates of the inward-looking 1920s and 30s that caused America to be dangerously unprepared on the brink of World War II.
Weren’t they being just a bit hysterical about the negative consequences of Trump, I pressed Boot?
“Look,” he responded, “the good news story of the first year of the Trump presidency is that there are checks and balances…. Trump as a personality type is probably no different from a Mussolini, a Peron, a Chavez. And if [he] were operating in Argentina or Italy, he would probably be a dictator by now. But luckily, he’s not operating in those countries.”
It’s not exactly an upbeat portrait of the world after a year of Trump, but I found it to be a bracing discussion with two of the president’s most incisive — and relentless — critics, and you can read the rest of our conversation below.
Click or tap here to read the rest of their conversation.