Voters in almost half of all Republican primary contests will have cast their ballots by the end of the evening, and the Republican frontrunner still has not formed a support team for foreign policy. Mika Brzezinski reminded Donald Trump on today’s Morning Joe of his overdue promise to announce his foreign-policy team. Three weeks earlier, Trump said he’d announce the names in a week, and two weeks later he promised to announce the team “soon.” Today, Trump continued to hedge, saying the team would come together soon — but gave no firm date:
BRZEZINSKI: So I think I’ll start off by asking you a question I’ve asked you three times now since we’re a talking about foreign policy. I think it was 20 days ago now our town hall where you said you’d be announcing a foreign policy team and you said then it would be a week and then last time we talked to, last week you said it would be soon. You’ve mentioned one name, Jeff Sessions. Who is on your foreign policy team? Who are the giants that are going to join you?
TRUMP: Well, I’ve already got Jeff Sessions. He’s endorsed me. Well I’m not doing it this morning, Mika, you do always ask me that question. I said I would have it in due time and I’ve been meeting with some tremendous people and I haven’t made exactly my decision yet but you’ll have it in due time.
BRZEZINSKI: Is there a team?
TRUMP: Yes, there is a team. There’s not a team. I’m going to be forming a team. I have met with far more than three people and I will be forming a team at the appropriate time.
BRZEZINSKI: I am just —
SCARBOROUGH: So Donald, there has been a lot of, there has been a lot of talk about your rallies where you actually ask people to raise their hands if they’re going to support you, they uh, Mika, you look upset. do you want to follow up again with this foreign policy team? Donald, she’s giving me that look.
BRZEZINSKI: It’s just to me at some point there have to be people who will stand by your side stand by your side and take on global strategy and some ideas that you find important that they bring to the table. Who are these people?
TRUMP: Well, I think Senator Jeff Sessions as an example, who wasn’t on board the last time I spoke to you because he just endorsed me last week, but I think he’s a prime example. He’s highly respected as a senator and he is somebody I have a lot of respect for and that would be one to start off with. In addition to that, I’m dealing with numerous other people and I’ll be making a decision over, you know, fairly short period of time.
Jeff Sessions makes for a good start to a foreign policy team, but he’s not exactly known as a foreign-policy heavyweight. His specialities lie in legal, military, and immigration policy, the latter of which is very valuable for Trump. Sessions sits on Senate panels that deal with national security such as the Armed Services committee and the Judiciary’s subcommittees on Crime and Terrorism and Immigration and the National Interest. Those have indirect connections to foreign policy, but they aren’t directly dealing with the broad foreign-policy questions that Trump will need to address.
Besides, it’s getting late in the day for a “good start” to a foreign-policy team. If the front-runner had extensive experience in diplomacy and depth in foreign-policy achievement, it might not be as necessary — but Trump lacks both. So do the other Republican candidates, but all of them have foreign-policy advisers announced by the campaigns. On top of that, the other Republicans all speak more cogently and comprehensively on America’s foreign policy challenges, even while disagreeing with each other on specific directions within this policy realm. In debates and on the stump, Trump is consistently the least coherent and substantive candidate in the GOP, as the most recent debate in Detroit demonstrated. Besides “making America great again,” the only foreign policy position Trump made was that we should get along better with Vladimir Putin.
This matters because the likely Democratic candidate has four years of experience at State — four years of disastrous experience, but Hillary Clinton at least knows the lingo and the players. Unless Trump comes up to speed very quickly, Hillary will carve him up on the stump and in debates on foreign policy. The GOP debates have spent very little time on this policy area, but you can bet that the general-election debates will spend plenty of time on it, and the mainstream media will focus on any perceived advantage Hillary has on it. Cruz, Kasich, or Rubio could compete effectively, but if Trump doesn’t start going to school soon, Hillary will flunk him right out of the race.
The appropriate time to form a team and take this seriously isn’t now — it was when Trump entered the race last year. It may already be too late if Trump wins the nomination.