A Republican battle erupted Thursday over President Trump’s firing of national security adviser John Bolton, with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney each claiming to be the true representative of Trumpism.
The dispute reflected a deep divide among Republicans over the aggressive interventionist policies Bolton pushed.
After Cheney repeatedly criticized Trump over his Camp David invitation to Taliban negotiators for a meeting that would have overlapped with the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks — a proposal Bolton is said to have vehemently opposed — Paul lashed out at the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Cheney, whose interventionist, neoconservative foreign policy positions closely mirror those of her father, quickly fired back at Paul, who, like his own father — former Texas Rep. Ron Paul — tends toward an isolationist view of American power.
On Wednesday, Trump said Bolton “wasn’t in line” with his administration’s philosophy on foreign policy, and criticized Bolton’s past support for the Iraq War, a conflict Cheney’s father helped engineer.
“John’s known as a tough guy. He’s so tough he got us into Iraq. That’s tough,” Trump said derisively in the Oval Office.
The dispute between Bolton and Trump, as well as the proxy war between Paul and Cheney, illustrates the foreign policy transformations that the Republican Party has undergone in recent years.
Like Cheney, Paul made sure to praise Trump as a way to advance his own foreign policy priorities.
Hi @Liz_Cheney, President @realDonaldTrump hears all your NeverTrump warmongering. We all see your pro-Bolton blather. I’m just grateful for a president who, unlike you, supports stopping these endless wars.— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) September 12, 2019
Cheney then reminded Paul of his own failed presidential bid and included past insults lobbed by Trump himself.
Hi @RandPaul I know the 2016 race was painful for you since you were such a big loser (then & now) with a dismal 4.5% in Iowa. No surprise since your motto seems to be “Terrorists First, America Second.”— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) September 12, 2019
Here’s a TBT courtesy of @realDonaldTrump. No truer words were ever spoken https://t.co/7MIM31ZuKl
With Bolton gone from the White House, the president quickly adjusted his administration’s posture on Iran in a more conciliatory direction.
“I do believe they’d like to make a deal,” Trump told reporters Wednesday. “If they do, that’s great. And if they don’t, that’s great too.”
Trump, who ridiculed the deal between the U.S. and Iran under President Barack Obama as a giveaway to Tehran, now is said to be considering a French plan to reinstate a version of the pact and extend a $15 billion line of credit to Tehran to make up for lost oil revenues as a result of U.S. sanctions, the Daily Beast reported.
With the direction of U.S. foreign policy still uncertain, Trump sought to reassure members of his party that he wasn’t retreating from the hard-line policies associated with Bolton.
In fact, he laid claim to being even tougher than Bolton.
In fact, my views on Venezuela, and especially Cuba, were far stronger than those of John Bolton. He was holding me back! https://t.co/FUGc02xiac— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 12, 2019
Paul and Cheney, meanwhile, continued their war of words.
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