Juan Williams: GOP rashness on foreign policy aids Dems

Juan Williams: GOP rashness on foreign policy aids Dems
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With Congress paralyzed by fear of repeating the mistake of authorizing the Bush administration to go to war in Iraq, the debate on U.S. foreign policy is being out-sourced to the presidential campaign.

The Republican majority on Capitol Hill has refused to vote on firing missiles into Syria; they won’t vote to give the president authorization to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Congressional Republicans hammer President Obama for not wiping out ISIS. But they have to be careful for fear of making it obvious that they have no alternative to the Obama’s administration’s ‘degrade and destroy’ strategy, short of the horrific, ineffective carpet-bombing suggested by Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzBiden administration resists tougher Russia sanctions in Congress Republicans struggle to save funding for Trump's border wall GOP holds on Biden nominees set back gains for women in top positions MORE (R-Texas).

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The only place to see any debate over the direction of GOP foreign policy is the campaign for the party’s presidential nomination. And it is twisted.

Front-runner Donald TrumpDonald TrumpStowaway found in landing gear of plane after flight from Guatemala to Miami Kushner looking to Middle East for investors in new firm: report GOP eyes booting Democrats from seats if House flips MORE is calling for the U.S. to pull back from NATO. He favors making Japan and South Korea into nuclear powers. He has no issue with torture or killing the families of terrorists, and he calls for a temporary ban on all non-citizen Muslims entering the U.S., alienating allies we need in the Middle East.

He has also charged his fellow Republican, President George W. Bush, with lying about weapons of mass destruction to justify going to war in Iraq.

The cherry on top of all that is Trump’s effusive praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin. He calls him a “man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.” Trump even defends Putin from charges that he has killed journalists and political dissidents.

Trump’s praise was prompted by Putin. The Russian leader judged the real estate mogul turned politician to be “a very outstanding man, unquestionably talented.”

This is a far cry from the two most recent GOP presidential nominees. Mitt Romney judged Russia to be our “number one geopolitical foe.” John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP senators appalled by 'ridiculous' House infighting MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace, Chris Christie battle over Fox News Trump's attacks on McConnell seen as prelude to 2024 White House bid MORE called Putin a “thug and a murderer in the old KGB style.”

A group of leading Republican foreign policy advisers recently signed a letter that damned Trump’s “vision of American influence and power in the world” as swinging wildly from “isolationism to military adventurism within the space of one sentence.”

When Obama heard Trump’s suggestion that Japan and South Korea take care of their own need for nuclear weaponry, he said Trump “doesn’t know much about foreign policy or nuclear policy or the Korean Peninsula or the world generally.”

Cruz, Trump’s top rival for the GOP nomination, has his own shrill foreign policy ideas.

He has called for the U.S. to allow Bashar al-Assad to remain as president of Syria despite his murderous regime because he believes the dictator’s removal would make matters “materially worse for U.S. national security interests.”

Cruz also favors surveillance of Muslim neighborhoods in the U.S. to fight terror threats and promises to “shred” the multinational pact that halts Iran from developing nuclear weapons. His alternative is to promise to kill Iran’s ayatollah if the nation gets nuclear weapons.

Last week, President Obama said the foreign policy ideas coming from Cruz and Trump are unsettling to world leaders who are now “constantly” asking him about the “wackier suggestions” coming from the candidates seeking to succeed him.

“People expect the president of the United States and the elected officials in this country to treat these problems seriously,” the president explained.

He is not the only critic of the GOP candidates.

In Commentary, a conservative magazine, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations concluded Trump is “unqualified to be commander-in-chief.” Max Boot wrote that with Trump in the White House “our enemies would have a field day – Moscow and Beijing must be licking their chops at [Trump’s] desire to abandon U.S. allies in Europe and Asia.”

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRepublicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves Poll: Democracy is under attack, and more violence may be the future Popping the progressive bubble MORE is also critical of Trump. His prescriptions on foreign policy don’t “show he’s strong,” she said recently, but that “he’s dangerously wrong — he’s in over his head.”

Clinton added that she is personally getting messages from European leaders thanking her for standing up to Trump and Cruz, and expressing disbelief at their rhetoric.

The other Democrat running for the nomination, Senator Bernie SandersBernie SandersFive ways Senate could change Biden's spending plan Poll: Harris, Michelle Obama lead for 2024 if Biden doesn't run Bernie Sanders' ex-spokesperson apprehensive over effectiveness of SALT deductions MORE (I-VT), called Trump and Cruz’s tone “an international embarrassment.”

Foreign policy and national security will be crucial to the outcome of November’s election. And the polls have consistently shown that Clinton wins that competition.

Most recently, a Washington Post/ABC poll found Clinton with a 29-point lead over Trump on the question of which candidate can best deal with a crisis overseas. And specifically on the question of which candidate can best respond to terrorism, Clinton bested Trump by 14 points.  

The Democrats’ best strategy as November nears will be to cast Trump or Cruz as unstable warmongers. This tactic worked in 2008 when Obama and Democrats hammered GOP nominee John McCain for his comment that the U.S. might have to stay in Iraq for “100 years” and his jokingly singing, to the melody of the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann,” that the U.S. should “Bomb-Bomb-Bomb, Bomb Iran.”

With Trump and Cruz, the Democrats have even more ammunition to make that attack stick this year.

Juan Williams is an author and political analyst for Fox News Channel. His latest book, "We The People," published by Crown, is out now.