Susan Rice Pens Anti-Trump Op-Ed Days Before Appearance at Scaramucci Conference

Susan Rice / Getty Images
May 6, 2019

Susan Rice, who served as Barack Obama's national security adviser, accuses President Donald Trump of using his foreign policy solely to strengthen his domestic political position in a new op-ed.

Writing in the New York Times, Rice, who also worked as Obama's ambassador to the United Nations, writes that Trump's approach to international affairs "appears impulsive, improvisational, and inchoate—devoid of clear purpose, values, or even ideology."

Yet, she continues, there is a "unifying theme" of Trump's foreign policy: "simply to service his domestic politics."

Rice says that Trump puts himself and the Republican Party "over our country," accusing the president of encouraging Russia to interfere in American elections to benefit him and of breaking with past policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to "curry favor" with Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and thus garner "right-wing political support."

"Nowhere is this pattern more consistently apparent than in the administration's dealings with Latin America," Rice writes. "In recent weeks, Mr. Trump has taken a series of actions that are not tied to coherent strategies and will not deliver the desired results—if those results are to be measured in terms of achieving American foreign policy objectives. Rather, they may succeed only to the extent that they help Mr. Trump gain reelection by dishing up red meat to energize the Republican base."

Rice then chides Trump for imposing sanctions on the communist regime in Cuba and for canceling a deal to allow Cuban baseball players to play in the United States. She argues that the Obama administration's efforts to normalize relations with Cuba were groundbreaking, despite not fostering an improvement in human or political rights for the Cuban people, and says Trump's tougher posture will "bolster hard-liners in Havana."

Rice suggests that, with his policy changes toward Cuba, Trump is hoping to fire up Cuban-American voters in Florida, a crucial battleground state in any presidential election.

"Not content to bank only on the Cuban community in Florida, Mr. Trump is also courting the state's many Venezuelan immigrants, who justifiably detest the government of President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas," Rice continues. She then praises Trump's efforts to impose sanctions on Maduro and to recognize the opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, as interim president, but only before accusing Trump of doing so to "stoke his base."

"That's why Mr. Trump trumpets the bogus threat of Venezuelan-style 'socialism' invading America through the Democratic Party," she writes. "Similarly, he periodically threatens military intervention in Venezuela, which is music to the ears of many exiles in South Florida."

Rice then turns to Trump's decision to end assistance to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, which, together, send the majority of migrants to the American border. "An epic crush of migrants at the border might make Mr. Trump's apocalyptic rhetoric and policies seem more justified and help him whip the Republican political base into what is now their reliably biennial anti-immigrant frenzy," she argues.

"Plenty of presidents before Mr. Trump have made serious, sometimes catastrophic foreign policy mistakes; but, few, if any, decided almost every aspect of foreign policy on the basis of what would help him get reelected," Rice concludes. "The Republican Party has largely abdicated its responsibilities in favor of the whims of a president guided solely by personal and political interests, even in executing the most sacred and solemn duty of the office—to keep America safe."

Rice's op-ed comes before she is set to appear this week at a major financial industry event known as SALT, which Anthony Scaramucci, the famously short-lived communications director in Trump's White House, puts together in Las Vegas. The conference brings together "the world's foremost investors, policy experts, politicians, and business leaders for four days of networking, entertainment, and idea sharing," according to the event's website. Rice is scheduled to sit on a panel focused on the Middle East and to participate in a discussion with "young leaders" titled, "Up close and personal: Susan Rice."