WASHINGTON — Republican national security leaders and experts have assailed GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump as unfit to be commander in chief, calling him dishonest and describing his positions on key issues as dangerous and uninformed.
The broadsides began Wednesday evening and carried into Thursday when Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the chairman of the Armed Services Committee and the 2008 presidential nominee, said that Republicans should "think long and hard about who they want to be our next commander in chief and leader of the free world." Earlier in the day, the 2012 presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, said that if the GOP chooses Trump, "the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished."
More than 70 conservative national experts, including former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, wrote in an open letter released late Wednesday that they have disagreed with one another on a variety of issues but are united in their opposition to a Trump presidency. Chertoff served in President George W. Bush's administration.
The experts who signed the letter said they'll work to prevent Trump's election, a stance that suggests there may be a shallow pool of experienced conservative national security professionals willing to join Trump's administration should he win in November.
They called Trump "fundamentally dishonest" and said his support for the expanded use of torture against suspected terrorists is inexcusable. They also cited Trump's "hateful, anti-Muslim rhetoric," his admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, and his advocacy for waging trade wars, which they say would lead to economic disaster in a globally connected world.
The letter was posted on the website War On The Rocks, an online forum for foreign policy and national security commentary.
Other experts who signed the letter included Fran Townsend, former homeland security and counterterrorism adviser to President George W. Bush; Eliot Cohen, former counsellor to the State Department during Bush's administration; Dov Zakheim, who held Defence Department posts in the Bush and Reagan administrations; and Robert Zoellick, the former president of the World Bank who was Bush's U.S. trade representative and later served at the State Department.
During an interview Thursday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Trump declined to say whom he consults with on foreign policy issues. But he said he has spoken to his team and plans to announce its members soon. "I don't think there's any rush," Trump said.
Trump said he respects Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. Haass served in the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush.
Haass did not sign the letter. Iva Zoric, his spokesperson, said Haass has met with Trump once "as he has with six other presidential candidates from both parties." The council is a nonpartisan organization and does not endorse or exclusively advise any presidential candidate, she said. But Haass, as he has done in past presidential campaigns, offers briefings to all the candidates on foreign policy issues.
The national security experts said Trump's penchant for equating his success in the business world with foreign policy experience is false. "Not all lethal conflicts can be resolved as a real estate deal might, and there is no recourse to bankruptcy court in international affairs," they said, making a dig at Trump's four bankruptcies.
Cohen and Bryan McGrath, a retired Navy officer and managing director of The FerryBridge Group defence consulting firm, organized the letter after exchanging their concerns about Trump over Twitter.
McGrath said he's gratified by the large number of signatures. The letter, he said, is a "vehicle for people to say they've had enough."
Online: Conservative national security experts open letter on Trump: http://warontherocks.com/2016/03/open-letter-on-donald-trump-from-gop-national-security-leaders/
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Richard Lardner, The Associated Press