Most voters probably don’t pay attention to the presidential race at a granular level, but it’s worth keeping an eye on the kind of advisers a candidate surrounds himself or herself with. As we recently discussed, who a presidential hopeful turns to for guidance, especially on matters of foreign policy and national security, tells voters something important about the kind of presidency the public can expect.
It mattered, for example, that Jeb Bush surrounded himself with members of his brother’s team, just as it mattered that Marco Rubio put together a “dream team” of prominent neoconservatives. (Asked yesterday who he’s speaking with for guidance on foreign policy, Donald Trump said, “I’m speaking with myself. I have a very good brain.”)
As for Ted Cruz, Eli Lake reports today for Bloomberg View that the Texas senator is unveiling his own national security advisory team, which includes names like Elliott Abrams – who lied to Congress about the Iran-Contra scandal, and who was also on Rubio’s advisory team – and former assistant U.S. attorney Andrew McCarthy, known for his far-right contributions to National Review.
But the name that stood most was Frank Gaffney, one of the nation’s most notorious anti-Muslim activists.
When Trump proposed a temporary ban on all Muslim immigration, he quoted from a 2015 survey of American Muslims commissioned by the think tank Gaffney founded, the Center for Security Policy. It concluded that a quarter of U.S. Muslims supported violent jihad against the U.S. This led to speculation in the Washington press that Gaffney was advising Trump.But Gaffney is a Cruz man…. As Cruz makes the case that he is the last, best chance to prevent Trump from winning his party’s nomination, his foreign-policy advisers include not only Gaffney, but also three others who work for Gaffney’s think tank.
Keep in mind, as recently as 2011, the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) deemed Gaffney a crackpot and banned him from the annual event after he accused the American Conservative Union’s board members of being part of a conspiracy to spread radical Islam.
Five years later, if the Bloomberg View report is correct, Gaffney is advising a leading Republican contender for the party’s presidential nomination.
For more on Gaffney’s truly bizarre background and worldview, Right Wing Watch and Vox have all kinds of additional, alarming information.