If the ‘Tillerson swapped out for Pompeo and then Pompeo replaced by Tom Cotton‘ shakeup actually happens, it will be amazing the degree to which Trump’s core campaign message – disengagement from aggressive, regime change-oriented policies in the Middle East – turned out to be unmitigated bullshit.
It’s not that it’s surprising of course. Trump campaigned as a champion of middle class ‘real Americans’ against Wall Street and coastal elite fat cats. He’s ended up presiding over an extreme Club for Growth handouts to Wall Street economic policy. But Trump’s anti-Middle East interventionism seemed a bit more core to his beliefs.
Don’t get me wrong. It was always 100% clear to me that Trump would have a highly militaristic foreign policy. What drives Trump isn’t ideology or policy but character. No personality so driven by impulse and the need to dominate would have a remotely pacific or, frankly, sane foreign policy. But if you had to pick one member of the current US Senate most in line with, most identified with the militarist, neoconservative foreign policy that drove Bush foreign policy in his first term, it’s Tom Cotton. Not even close. He carries the water for that crew and he is part of that crew.
What it all boils down to is that racism – white racial grievance, immigration restriction, generalized bashing of basically any political or cultural assertion by African-Americans – is the only consistent and persistent line connecting the campaign to the presidency. This is not quite the same as saying that that’s the only real bottom line for his supporters – though there’s a lot of truth to that. But for Trump, that’s clearly the only thing that isn’t opportunistic and situational. Those all fall away. The only thing that doesn’t is the ethno-nationalism and racism. It’s the real him.