The Cable

The Cable goes inside the foreign policy machine, from Foggy Bottom to Turtle Bay, the White House to Embassy Row.

Top Rubio Advisor Came to Philadelphia and Saw a Missed Opportunity

A top GOP national security hand came to the Democratic convention and left feeling depressed about Trump’s “America First” Republican Party.

RubioGOP
RubioGOP

PHILADELPHIA -- Alex Conant says that he came to the Democratic convention this week to “study the enemy” as his boss, former Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio, fights for reelection to the Senate in the key battleground state of Florida.

But Conant ended up coming away with a bit of envy that it was the Democrats -- not the Republican Party of Donald Trump -- that presented the more optimistic vision of the country’s future and some foreign-policy tenets that more closely aligned with where his own party had been for decades.

“Look it’s no secret that a lot of Republicans, including myself, have had trouble supporting Donald Trump,” he said in an interview here. “Foreign policy more than anything is where he causes a lot of heartburn among a lot of conservatives.”

PHILADELPHIA — Alex Conant says that he came to the Democratic convention this week to “study the enemy” as his boss, former Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio, fights for reelection to the Senate in the key battleground state of Florida.

But Conant ended up coming away with a bit of envy that it was the Democrats — not the Republican Party of Donald Trump — that presented the more optimistic vision of the country’s future and some foreign-policy tenets that more closely aligned with where his own party had been for decades.

“Look it’s no secret that a lot of Republicans, including myself, have had trouble supporting Donald Trump,” he said in an interview here. “Foreign policy more than anything is where he causes a lot of heartburn among a lot of conservatives.”

Conant, Rubio’s communications director during his ill-fated presidential run, insisted that the Republican Party remained “committed to strong international agreements, and being the best ally possible, and the worst enemy possible.”

That sounded like the message Democrats heard Wednesday from President Barack Obama, who saidAmerica’s promises do not come with a price tag. We meet our commitments. We bear our burdens.”

But Conant’s view of his own party doesn’t sound at all like that of Trump, who has threatened to leave NATO allies to fend for themselves in the event of a Russian invasion, mused about withdrawing American forces from Europe and Asia, encouraged Moscow to hack the former secretary of state’s emails, and said Russian President Vladimir Putin was a “better leader than Obama.”

So whose party is it? Trump’s or Rubio’s?

“I didn’t want Donald Trump to be our nominee, and most Republicans didn’t want Donald Trump to be our nominee,” Conant said. “He has done little to reach out to those voters to try and unite the party and that was on display last week.”

Many of these Republican national security veterans have kept their distance from their nominee, with GOP power brokers openly fretting that the mogul’s bigoted, misogynistic, and racially charged language could pave the way for Democrats to retake the Senate.

Conant said Trump managed to win the nomination because of his “force of personality,” the crowded primary field, and an unusually angry electorate. He admitted that he was disappointed Rubio’s attempts to forge a forward-looking GOP had fallen short, leaving them with Trump’s doom and gloom.

“I wish that the Republican Party would be the party of the future — I think we still can be,” he said. “But certainly Trump’s not running on that mantle.”

Conant derided Clinton as an establishment figure with too many ties to the policies and policymakers of the past. He made clear that he also didn’t want to see Trump as president, which left him with no clear path forward in November.

Still, he acknowledged that a Clinton victory would be a historic moment because three of the world’s five biggest economies would have women leaders.

“That is a net positive for the world,” he said. “I think having a woman leader is something that we should be proud of.”

Photo credit: Alex Wong / Staff

More from Foreign Policy

A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Lessons for the Next War

Twelve experts weigh in on how to prevent, deter, and—if necessary—fight the next conflict.

An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s High Time to Prepare for Russia’s Collapse

Not planning for the possibility of disintegration betrays a dangerous lack of imagination.

An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.
An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.

Turkey Is Sending Cold War-Era Cluster Bombs to Ukraine

The artillery-fired cluster munitions could be lethal to Russian troops—and Ukrainian civilians.

A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol  January 8, 2009 in Washington.
A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol January 8, 2009 in Washington.

Congrats, You’re a Member of Congress. Now Listen Up.

Some brief foreign-policy advice for the newest members of the U.S. legislature.