Republican disunity linked to differences over Middle East policy

Published May 21st, 2016 - 05:57 GMT
President George W. Bush with U.S. troops in Iraq in 2003. Bush is not endorsing Donald Trump (AFP).
President George W. Bush with U.S. troops in Iraq in 2003. Bush is not endorsing Donald Trump (AFP).

The U.S. Republican party is anything but unified with its convention only two months away. Although outsider businessman Donald Trump is now the sole Republican candidate left in the race and the likely nominee-to-be, some major players in the party have thus far refused to endorse him. And much of the division is due to Trump's controversial ideas regarding foreign policy towards the Middle East.

Many prominent Republicans have said they are not endorsing Trump, perhaps most notably former presidents George H.W. and George W. Bush, along with the Jeb Bush, who was the latest of the Bush clan to run for office and another candidate in the ‘16 race. Jeb dropped out in February after poor performances in several states.

The Bush-Trump rift is undoubtedly related to U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, and reached a boiling point in February at a GOP (Grand Old Party, another name for the Republicans) debate. Here, when asked if he agreed with a statement he made in 2008 saying George W. should’ve been impeached for ‘lies’ regarding the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Trump said “the (Iraq) war was a big, fat mistake.”

A visibly angered Jeb then countered and defended his brother: “While Donald Trump was building a reality T.V. show, my brother was building a security apparatus to keep us safe.” Next, Trump interrupted Jeb, saying “The World Trade Center came down during your brother’s reign.”

It’s hard to imagine such insinuations pertaining to George W.’s decisions regarding the September 11 attacks and the Iraq war did not influence the Bush’s decision to not endorse Trump. In his statement congratulating Trump on his victory to-be and explaining his refusal to endorse neither likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton nor Trump, Jeb did not name specific policy qualms. However, Jeb clashed with Trump throughout the race on other Middle East topics too such as Trump's proposal to temporarily ban foreign Muslims from entering the U.S.

Republican opposition to Trump’s candidacy goes beyond the Bushes, and others have raised concerns over his policies toward the Middle East as well. 2012 party nominee Mitt Romney is not endorsing Trump, and in a February 3rd speech said “Insulting all Muslims will keep many of them from fully engaging with us in the urgent fight against ISIS,” in reference to the aforementioned ban.

Other top Republicans have yet to make a decision on Trump, including Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan, as well as Trump’s former primary election opponents Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and Ohio Governor John Kasich. Some of those mentioned criticized Trump’s ban as well. On the other hand, party big-weights New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former speaker of the house Newt Gingrich, and former Vice-President (to George W., ironically) Dick Cheney have endorsed him.

As the contentious ‘16 U.S. presidential election enters the crucial summer, the Middle East is bound to continue being a top issue.



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