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“Unstable,” “Incoherent,” and “Dangerous”: The Democrats Running for Congress on Trump’s Foreign Policy

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Our final question for the five Democratic candidates running to unseat Greg Gianforte is about Congressional oversight of foreign policy. Thanks to all of the candidates for taking the time to respond so thoughtfully to all of our questions. We hope they’ve helped readers understand how each candidate would represent Montana.

We’ve got an impressive, thoughtful group of people here. I’m encouraged by their responses to these questions.

Question 5. Congress also serves a vital role overseeing American foreign policy. What element of President Trump’s foreign policy needs the most review or even stronger Congressional action? Why?

Lynda Moss

I believe in the power of diplomacy and peace. I believe climate change is our most pressing issue and one that requires global policies based on science and fairness.

I look at foreign policy through my personal experiences working internationally.

I have been a board member serving on the American Association of Museums, International Council of Museums. I’ve been a private advisor to the Ninth Session of the Permanent Forum of Indigenous People at the United Nations and I’ve developed an international student exchange program linking Montana and Argentina. I have participated in meetings at UNICEF in Paris and at the International Council of Monuments and Sites conferences in China, France and Italy. As a state Senator, I served as the Montana representative to Reforming States Group sponsored by the Milbank Memorial Trust. Reforming States Group included healthcare directors from countries around the world that provide universal or government sponsored healthcare.

Supporting opportunities for Montana farmers and ranchers, for small manufacturers, artists, crafts people, scientists, educators, bed and breakfast owners and others to access the world market place is key to sustainable economies and vibrant communities we want for our children and grandchildren.

Our connections are stronger than our differences. We can learn from the examples of world leaders like Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Montana’s own Mike Mansfield. Working together, across neighborhoods and states, across borders and continents, hand-in-hand, we can share a bold vision for our planet that is as expansive as Montana’s big sky.

Kathleen Williams

Congress needs to reassert itself in foreign policy. With President Trump and Rex Tillerson in the lead, we have an incoherent, unstable, and confusing approach to international affairs that is dangerous and has damaged America’s reputation across the world.

Our national security is dependent on a stable, peaceful world. As the daughter of a WWII veteran and wife of a Vietnam-era veteran who went to Iraq as a civilian in 2009 to help rebuild their agricultural sector, I am deeply committed to advancing peace in the world.

We need Congress to fund and staff our diplomatic corps, take responsibility for effective roles in alliances and the UN, and broadcast a consistent message to the world on where the United States stands on foreign policy and what can be expected of us. We need to minimize conflict where we can and not needlessly risk the lives and limbs of our service members. At a time when so many Montana families are already strained, peace is simply the most economically effective defense program we can have.

For our veterans, Congress must ensure their access to needed health care from the Veterans Administration, affordable housing, mental health services, and opportunities for education.

This is all common-sense policy, and policy I have talked about for the entire campaign. On the other hand, disturbing news comes out of Washington every day. For example, President Trump’s reported military parade is ridiculous, especially when America urgently needs to fund so many other elements of our foreign policy and veterans’ services. Our place in the world, and world peace itself, have been incredibly damaged in only one year. Congress must intervene to restore America’s reputation, influence, and a coherent, rational foreign policy.

Jared Pettinato

Congress has failed to satisfy its Constitutional obligation to manage wars. After seventeen years of mission creep, Congress has a duty to update the authorizations it granted to the President to fight terrorists.

In 2001 and 2002, Congress granted the military broad authority to respond to the September 11 attacks. Since then, presidents have taken actions far beyond Congress’s initial intentions. Presidents have used those authorizations as blank checks to battle against ISIS, in Syria, in Yemen, and even in Nigeria. As a clear example, Congress could not have foreseen, in 2001 and 2002, the military’s 2017 actions in Nigeria.

Congress has failed at its Constitutional responsibility to manage wars. The Constitution compels it to take charge again. At a minimum, the Constitution assigns Congress a duty to oversee the Executive Branch’s military actions and to authorize military actions or classes of actions before the military undertakes them. The military may have solid reasons for its actions, but it does not follow that Congress has no role in managing the military.

Moreover, those actions put American soldiers in danger. Even beyond its Constitutional obligations, Congress has a duty to those soldiers to ensure they are risking their lives on the right objectives. The Constitution did not allow Congress to give the President a blank check. Congress has a duty to draft new authorizations aimed at the threats the United States confronts today.

Grant Kier

President Trump’s unstable and chaotic leadership is failing Montana in many areas of foreign policy, including security, and trade.

President Trump is more interested in threats to his scheduled tee time than threats to global security. As a result, we are losing our place as the credible voice of moral authority in the world and this emboldens dangerous leaders in Iran, Syria, North Korea, and Russia. We must restore trust with our traditional allies, like NATO, and demonstrate that we will maintain our commitments to the existing treaties that we have negotiated together, such as the Iranian deal. A failure to do so leaves us with little credibility and few options when address growing problems in North Korea, Russia, and the middle east.

President Trump and Greg Gianforte are more interested in polishing their personal jets than preparing us for the changing global economy. Agriculture and tourism are Montana’s two biggest economic drivers. The fastest growing markets for us in both areas are in Asia and the Pacific. We need comprehensive trade agreements that give agricultural producers predictable access to growing and diverse Asian markets and ensure that fair treatment of our workers and great stewardship of our land and rivers is rewarded, not penalized. South America and Australia are ready celebrate our failures and serve these markets Trump and Gianforte flounder.

Finally, Trump and Gianforte’s failure to understand or address climate change poses a tremendous threat to security and the economy, especially Montana’s economy. By failing to acknowledge the preponderance of science and failing to engage in the global effort to address climate change, Montana and the US will see loses in crops, jobs, available water, forests, and perhaps lives. In the long term, we lose our chance to demonstrate leadership in science, business, technology, and the kinds of innovations that can address climate change, create good and lasting jobs in Montana, and maintain our place as leaders in world.

John Heenan

When President Trump did not enact sanctions on Russia that passed both the House and Senate overwhelmingly, Congress should have immediately acted. When President Trump tweets our foreign policy, he is not helping expand US foreign policy, and he certainly is not protecting our troops overseas.

The Republican-led congress is unwilling to stand up to President Trump. They refuse to fulfill their core constitutional responsibility as a check on the executive branch. Only Congress can declare war, and the Senate must approve all treaties and confirm the president’s nominees for our ambassadors.

We cannot overlook that fact that “foreign policy” is also a matter of concern on American soil. We must respect and work to improve the government-to-government relationships between federal and state government and our sovereign tribal nations, and we must honor our treaty obligations.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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