The Cable

GOP Chairman: Donald Trump Is a Bush 41 Republican

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker is rushing to Donald Trump’s defense, saying Thursday that the real estate mogul’s often controversial worldviews embody a long tradition of GOP foreign policy.

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 06:  Donald Trump attends the 2015 Hank's Yanks Golf Classic at Trump Golf Links Ferry Point on July 6, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 06: Donald Trump attends the 2015 Hank's Yanks Golf Classic at Trump Golf Links Ferry Point on July 6, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker defended Donald Trump on Thursday, saying the real estate mogul’s often controversial worldviews embody a long tradition of GOP foreign policy.

His proof?

James Baker, the influential GOP statesman and former secretary of state under President George H.W. Bush, who testified before Corker’s committee Thursday.

During the testimony, Baker weighed in on a range of current issues, including the civil war in Syria, Russia’s threat to eastern Europe, and China’s naval provocations in the South China Sea. But the issue both Republicans and Democrats wanted him to address was the foreign policy of the GOP’s boisterous front-runner.

Invoking the name of Bush and Baker, Corker said Trump’s thinking “reflects what I think Bush 41 and Jim Baker today espouse.”

“As I’ve said to others: ‘I’d chill,’” Corker said. “I think you’re seeing [Trump’s] foreign policy evolve.” Corker has not endorsed Trump but is already being talked up as a potential running mate for the businessman.

The favorable remarks provide Trump with something his expectations-defying campaign has only recently begun to amass: buy-in from elements of the Republican foreign policy establishment who have long-bristled at his strident attacks against neoconservatives who promoted the Iraq war.

But senators disagreed on whether Baker had validated or refuted Trump’s worldview.

Baker, credited with helping manage the collapse of the Soviet Union and plan the first Iraq war, is often sought after for his expertise even though he is difficult to pin down ideologically. He is an advocate of the grand strategy known as “selective engagement,” which cautions against military engagement in areas that do not directly affect U.S. national security or prosperity.

Sen. Bob Menendez, a hawkish Democrat and longtime Trump critic, asked Baker if he agreed with Trump’s remarks on “burden-shifting.” The businessman has repeatedly accused allies of failing to pay their fair share for U.S. military protection.

Baker responded that it is “certainly not unreasonable” to tell NATO allies, “‘Hey, it’s time for you to come in here and help carry this load.’”

Menendez appeared unsatisfied by the answer. But he grudgingly clarified that his own reservations about “burden-shifting” applied more to the Middle East than Europe.

Others had more success in drawing distinctions between Baker and Trump.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who suspended his presidential campaign in March, asked Baker about Trump’s proposal to allow South Korea and Japan to obtain nuclear weapons in order to defend themselves against China. Baker said the world “would be far less stable” if the United States let that happen. “The more countries that obtain nuclear weapons, the more instability there will be in the world,” he said.

Despite that divergence, Corker said Trump and Baker had more in common than differences. “I thought it was more of an affirmation, to be candid,” Corker said.

Sen. Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the committee, disagreed. “I didn’t see that coming out at all,” he told Foreign Policy. “What Donald Trump has said is inconsistent with any mature thinker on foreign policy.”

Baker did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for Bush said last week that the former president had no plans to endorse the presumptive GOP nominee.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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