"Trump is beatable": Former ambassador authors a GOP game plan for defeating the "would-be autocrat"

James B. Foley doesn't believe that a Trump nomination is inevitable in the 2024 Republican presidential primary

Published September 6, 2022 4:00AM (EDT)

Donald Trump (MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Donald Trump (MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

When Rep. Liz Cheney lost a GOP congressional primary in Wyoming to challenger Harriet Hagemen by 38% on Aug.16, the takeaway for many Republicans was: don't cross Trump. The arch-conservative Cheney has been attacking former President Donald Trump relentlessly over the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection, while Hagemen campaigned on a stridently pro-MAGA platform — and Cheney will be gone from the U.S. House of Representatives in 2023.

But in an op-ed published by Politico on Labor Day 2022, James B. Foley — a former U.S. ambassador to Haiti under President George W. Bush and to Croatia under President Barack Obama — emphasizes that Trump is not invincible even though many Republicans believe that he is. And Foley does not believe that a Trump nomination is inevitable in the 2024 GOP presidential primary.

"Almost without exception, the potential Republican candidates for the party's presidential nomination in 2024 are showing conspicuous deference to Donald Trump, bordering on fear," Foley explains. "Their reticence is understandable with the party still largely in his grip, but it's hardly a way of persuading voters they are presidential timber, even at this early stage. Their theory of victory appears to hinge almost entirely on the possibility that Trump will be sidetracked or disqualified from running in 2024 or that primary voters will simply tire of his ceaseless chaos."

Foley continues, "They secretly hope the former president slips on a legal banana peel while professing to abhor any such thing. This is plainly a strategy for losing, an approach that paves Trump's way to the Republican nomination once again in the likely event he enters the race. But for GOP candidates who actually aspire to defeat Trump in the political arena, there are ways to take him down, particularly by focusing on his disastrous foreign policy record . . . The fact is, Donald Trump is beatable."

Foley, now 65, goes on to say that as a "long-time U.S. diplomat," he has seen his share of bullies along the way — and Trump, according to Foley, fits that profile.

"I have seen his type around the world; he is a would-be autocrat who lacks the vision, discipline and basic competence to achieve anything of enduring significance — a piker compared to world historical demagogues of the recent past, or even our home-grown variety like Huey Long," Foley observes. "Nonetheless, Trump does possess one trait that is critical in politics: a killer instinct. Armed with a talent for ridicule, he has an ability to sense his opponents' weaknesses and to exploit them ruthlessly. And yet Trump is himself an extremely fat target for ridicule, with massive liabilities as a candidate for reelection."

Foley goes on to cite some anti-Trump lines of attack that he believes other Republicans could successfully use against him: (1) Trump is a "stone-cold loser," (2) Trump is a "foreign policy bungler," (3) Trump encouraged "surrendering Afghanistan," (4) Trump favored "putting Russia first" and (5) Trump is a "phony tough guy."

"The 2024 election is unfolding at a pivotal moment in world history," Foley notes. "Sensing a fundamental shift in the global balance of power, China and Russia have forged an alliance and all but declared war against the United States, pledging mutual support toward the goal of supplanting U.S. power in Europe and Asia. Putin's invasion of Ukraine was but the opening phase in this blueprint . . . If voters want the United States to remain the leader of the western democracies and to maintain its preeminent position in the world, they need an American president committed to that cause. Trump has proved he is not that president."

Foley adds, "Giving Trump the GOP nomination would bring to the doorstep of the presidency a pro-Russian isolationist who would dismantle the global alliance system on which U.S. security depends. Alternatively, the party can choose to serve as the nation's first line of defense. Republican leaders with conservative credentials have the credibility to expose Trump as the threat to national security that he is. The truth is so compelling, in fact, that the ultimate prize could very well go to a truly tough-minded candidate who dares to make the case. What does he — or she — have to lose?"

By Alex Henderson

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