Donald Trump

One Candidate Had a Foreign Policy That Anticipated Trump's

From George Wallace to Donald Trump

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Walt Kelly

For doves, Donald Trump's campaign may be the most mixed bag in recent political history. He can speak movingly about the damage done by the Iraq war, and he can float wild notions about seizing Iraq's oil. He has condemned the American intervention in Libya, and he has suggested a more "surgical" war there would have worked. He's an Iran hawk and a Russia dove. He attacks NATO and defends torture. Ultimately he's a nationalist, and his mix of militaristic and anti-interventionist opinions is as good a demonstration as you can find of the ways nationalism can be pulled in different directions.

So Trump is not a Ron Paul, or even a Pat Buchanan. But there is one significant presidential candidate of the last half-century whose approach to foreign policy resembles the current Republican nominee's. It's George Wallace, who ran four times for the White House, most notably as the American Independent Party candidate in 1968. Trump/Wallace comparisons are a dime a dozen these days, but they rarely if ever include the two men's thoughts on global affairs. They should.

In public memory, Wallace's foreign-policy views have been overshadowed by those of Curtis LeMay, the hawk he picked as his running mate in '68. In their first press conference after he got Wallace's nod, LeMay launched into a lecture bemoaning America's "phobia about nuclear weapons." ("I think there are many times when it would be most efficient to use nuclear weapons," he announced earnestly. "However, the public opinion in this country and throughout the world throw up their hands in horror when you mention nuclear weapons, just because of the propaganda that's been fed to them.") Wallace, who knew political poison when he heard it, kept breaking in to assure everyone that LeMay did not actually mean what he seemed to be saying, and LeMay kept piping up with yet more comments that undermined the man at the top of the ticket. It was a disaster, and Wallace probably came away from the event wishing he'd managed to nab one of the other choices he'd considered for the veep job, like J. Edgar Hoover or Col. Sanders.

Yet when Wallace himself discussed foreign policy, he didn't sound like Dr. Strangelove. Accent aside, he sounded like Donald Trump. When Pete Hamill covered Wallace's '68 campaign for the New Left magazine Ramparts, he quoted the candidate's attack on Ho Chi Minh's American sympathizers: "I promise you when I'm elected President and someone waves a Viet Cong flag or raises blood, money or other things for the enemy, we're gonna throw him under a good jail someplace!" Then he got to Wallace's views on the war itself:

To visitors freshly arrived, his views on Viet-Nam seem surprising; the popular image of Wallace, at least in the east, would lead him to believe that he is a Super-Hawk who is fully prepared to unload the hydrogen bomb on the yellow vermin of Southeast Asia. But he actually says something quite different.

"Now about Viet-Nam," he says. "I don't think we should have gone in there alone in the first place. I think we should have gone to our Western European allies and the noncommunist nations of Southeast Asia, and if we decided to go in there at all, we should have told them we would not carry the military and economic burden alone. That they would have to share equally, and if they were not interested, I would cut off every dime of foreign aid and make them pay back every cent they owe us datin' back to World War One. [Big Applause] So I would go to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and I would ask them, 'Can we win this war with conventional weapons?' And if they said yes, I would make full use of the country's conventional weapons to quickly end this war and bring our boys home." This always brings a roar from the crowd. Wallace never says what he would do if the Joint Chiefs told him the war was not winnable with conventional weapons. Some of his aides say that he would pull out "and to hell with it."

That sure sounds like the Trump of 2016, doesn't it? There's the declaration that he wouldn't have gotten us into this mess in the first place. There's the focus on foreign aid, and there's the idea that the U.S. is being ripped off by its alleged allies. There's the hand-waving promise to consult the best experts. There's the double reference to flexing Washington's military muscle ("make full use of the country's conventional weapons") and achieving peace ("to quickly end this war and bring our boys home"). And of course, there's the disdain for radical protesters. There were reasons here to believe the speaker might be more dovish in practice than his internationalist opponents, and there were reasons not to be sure. It wasn't a speech for doves, and it wasn't a speech for global crusaders either. It was a speech for nationalists.

The remnants of Wallace's third party still exist in several states. And this month in California, the state's American Independent Party—founded way back in 1967—endorsed a candidate for president. For the first time in its history, it backed the nominee of one of the two major political parties: Donald Trump.

Bonus video: I can't find the full Wallace/LeMay press conference online, but this brief video features a couple of moments from it:

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  1. Achieving peace would probably be more beneficial than achieving piece.

    1. Damn. That was inexcusable. Fixed.

    2. Whatevs. Have you ever gotten a road from a crowd?

  2. Found here: celebs who have said they’ll leave the country if Trump is elected. Will that be a foreign policy issue? Will Canada hate us if all these people show up there?

    Barbra Streisand
    Lena Dunham
    Samuel L. Jackson
    Miley Cyrus
    Cher
    Jon Stewart
    Raven Symone
    Natasha Lyonne
    Omari Hardwick
    Spike Lee
    Chlo? Sevigny
    Eddie Griffin
    George Lopez
    Al Sharpton
    Neve Campbell
    Rosie O’Donnell
    Whoopi Goldberg
    Chelsea Handler

    1. So a net positive for voting for Trump?

    2. Neve Campbell

      I would escort this Canadian lass to her new country.

        1. Neve say Neve. eve.

    3. I had no idea that Eddie Griffin and Neve Campbell are still alive, nor do I have any idea who Omari Hardwick is.

      Samuel is the only one who would be missed.

    4. “That would be a great, great thing for our country.”

    5. He should put that list in his next campaign ad. He’d win in a landslide.

      1. Yep, because there’s nothing Americans hate more than popular entertainers!

        1. In a country of hundreds of millions of people, commanding the attention of a few million isn’t exactly representative.

          1. That will make a great first sentence for an article about the Trump campaign.

    6. Ha, Jon Stewart still thinks he’s a celebrity.

      1. CBS thinks so too. He’s also got some deals with HBO, so it’s not as if he’s retired.

        1. He as also just in an angle with WWE at SummerSlam.

    7. I would permanently hate the USA if those people came here.

      And Neve is Canadian.

    8. Many of these same shitheads said the same thing about Bush, and to the best of my knowledge, Johnny Depp was the only one who ever followed through on his promise.

      1. That’s because his wife at the time (I believe?) was French so it was an easy move. If accurate, doesn’t count in my book.

    9. George Lopez? You mean Trump’s not going to simply trebuchet him over that Big, Beautiful Wall?

      Miley Cyrus and Lena Dunham leaving would almost make a Trump presidency worth it, but only if he gets Congress to pass the “No Twerkin’ Miley or Potato Sack Lena Mass Media in the US Ever Again” bill, post hoc.

    10. There is not one name on that list that I look at and say, “Fuck! I hate Hillary, but we just can’t lose ___________!”

      Natasha Lyonne was pretty hot in Slums of Beverly Hills called, but that was damn near 20 years ago.

    11. It’s an easy joke to say that’s a good reason to vote for Trump, but man, getting that list of people out of my life would honestly, actually improve it.

  3. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, LeMay clashed again with U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Defense Secretary McNamara, arguing that he should be allowed to bomb nuclear missile sites in Cuba. He opposed the naval blockade and, after the end of the crisis, suggested that Cuba be invaded anyway, even after the Soviets agreed to withdraw their missiles. Kennedy secretly agreed to remove US missiles from Turkey and Italy. Unknown to the US, the Soviet field commanders in Cuba had been given authority to launch nuclear weapons under their control?the only time such authority was delegated by higher command.[26] They had at least twenty nuclear warheads for medium-range R-12 Dvina (NATO Code SS-4 Sandal) ballistic missiles capable of reaching US cities (including Washington), each carrying a one megaton warhead (equivalent to 50 Hiroshima bombs), and nine tactical nuclear missiles. If Soviet officers had launched them, many millions of US citizens could have been killed. The ensuing SAC retaliatory thermonuclear strike would have killed roughly one hundred million Soviet citizens. Kennedy refused LeMay’s requests, however, and the naval blockade was successful.[26]

    Who wouldn’t want to vote for LeMay?

    1. Dirty hippies, obviously.

    2. The Cuban Missile Crisis is an interesting story of a bunch of arrogant idiots on both sides blundering themselves into the least bad outcome. Kennedy for his part does deserve some credit, but it’s notable how much of the justification for it all being the “right decision” is based on hindsight.

      1. While I agree, I don’t see any way that bombing the Cuban missile sites would have turned out well.

        1. Probably not, but I would presume that the thinking at the time would expect the Soviets to retaliate by bombing our sites in Turkey, not by nuking the U.S. That the commanders in Cuba would have launched on their own authority is part of the hindsight judgment I was referring to.

          1. Except, if we had dropped a couple nukes on Cuba, i doubt the commanders on the ground would have survived, nor would have the crews needed to launch them.

            1. Ah, I thought the proposed bombing would be conventional, not nuclear. Nevertheless, I also presume they would have had some advance warning from radar.

      2. The Kennedy myth machine is a potent force indeed. I remember PJ O’Rourke making a crack once about the reason you know Chappaquiddick was really bad – the press couldn’t manage to spin Teddy’s diving adventure into a heroic act the way they did with Jack driving his PT boat into the path of a Japanese destroyer.

        1. Jack didn’t drive his boat into the path. He parked it in front of the path and shut down the engines, in direct contradistinction to his orders.

          MacArthur wanted him court martialed while Joe Kennedy went on a media blitz spinning Jack “Wrongway Corrigan” Kennedy’s action into heroics.

          To be fair, once the situation had transpired, Kennedy did pretty well with the situation– if you ignore how he got there.

          Also, his ‘back’ problems had nothing to do with a war-time injury, but a recurring form of syphilis.

    3. LeMay was also the guy who ordered the switch from high-altitude target-bombing of Japanese cities, to low-altitude-incendiary-bombing which burned cities to the ground and caused more civilian casualties than both atomic bombs by a factor of ~8-or-9X

      some say he “won the war”. He said (to macnamara) that if the US had lost, he’d be a war criminal, and rightly so! but that’s just a greater incentive to win.

      1. And he oversaw the Berlin Airlift, so there is that.

        1. But he probably just wanted to bomb them at first.

          1. I was just going to say… someone switched all those bombs into food crates which probably pissed LeMay off.

      2. My only criticism of the American military mindset (well, it’s actually noble but problematic) is if you’re not ready to be ruthlessly ruthless then don’t go to war. You go to war to win.

        I’m doing my yearly brushing up on Ancient Rome reading. Read up on the Gallic wars. The Romans didn’t fuck around. Americans, to me, fuck around. So I *kinda* understand the Lemay’s of this world. Without knowing more, he seems like he was in it to win.

        I’m listening if I’m wrong.

        1. My only criticism of the American military mindset (well, it’s actually noble but problematic) is if you’re not ready to be ruthlessly ruthless then don’t go to war. You go to war to win.

          Compared to the Canadian mindset, they are ruthlessly ruthless. Unlike Canada, the American armed forces are not complacent to the International Criminal Court, and rejected the Protocols Additional to Geneva Convention IV, which was an attempt by the Soviet Union to make it harder to fight communist guerrillas as uniformed soldiers or mercenaries. Hell, one of the problems with NATO operations is that American forces have to tone themselves down if they’re in joint operations with nations who have agreed to these, because they’ll be legally liable.

          1. Good point; all relative. But even from a Canadian perspective, the U.S. seems to bend too much to political will after they decide to go to war. You can’t go into war and then suddenly be tepid about it.

            1. You can’t go into war and then suddenly be tepid about it.

              Except the problem is that the war seems to end pretty fast nowadays, and the ‘clean up’ is the thing that takes forever. It took less than a month to win the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, in the sense of removing the central authority we were opposed to and, in the case of Iraq, successfully defeating their national army. Although I do have problems with the ROEs most modern Western armies operate on nowadays, it’s not the wars that lack efficiency, it’s the occupations. And people are going to be rightly questionable about how brutal your occupation should be.

              Unless you’re arguing for a more severe assault on civilians in general as part of a campaign to encourage compliance. I mean, you could core their major city centres like we did with Tokyo and Berlin. But now there’s an international order that might have a problem with that.

      3. The war would have gone much worse much sooner for the Japanese if the Air Force had mined the home waters a year earlier instead of just bombing cities, or if MacArthur had been sidelined or left in the PI to be captured.

  4. Supposedly John Milius tried to make a film about LeMay. It would have been full of moments like the apocryphal tale regarding a fellow officer questioning LeMay about the possibility of LeMay’s ever-present cigar igniting high octane fuel on an Air Force plane: “It wouldn’t dare.”

    1. LeMay is the kind of guy you want fighting on your side… when the fight breaks out. But you don’t want him anywhere near the decision whether to fight.

      1. For sure. I find people like him to be absolutely fascinating.

  5. Curtis LeMay

    Curtis LeMay was a hawk that should scare hawks.

  6. “Wallace, who knew political poison when he heard it, kept breaking in to assure everyone that LeMay did not actually mean what he seemed to be saying, and LeMay kept piping up with yet more comments that undermined the man at the top of the ticket.”

    Hey, that sounds familiar….I seem to remember a similar situation recently…

  7. Seems like Donald Trump is every politician except Donald Trump.

  8. The Wallace-LeMay AIP ticket received 13.5 percent of the popular vote and carried five states for a total of 46 electoral votes.

    And with that, the Libertarian Party slunk off into the night and quietly died.

    1. 46 EC votes could, in theory, be enough to win the election for Johnson this year.

      If Trump/Hillary is close enough otherwise.

      We would end up with Johnson/Pence or Johnson/Kaine.

      1. I was mostly commenting on how a ticket with 180 degree opposed views to libertarianism did so well.

        1. I was using it to spin in another direction. 46 would be a great result. The fact that Wallace got it and not the LP just points out the sad state of the world.

          1. I guess we should just hug it out then.

          2. Of course, since the LP wouldn’t even exist for another three years, it would have been kind of hard for them to get any votes. They don’t practice time travel, as far as I know.

  9. I don’t even know what passes or qualifies as a ‘radical’ or ‘radical protestor’ anymore.

    Weren’t the Founding Fathers ‘radicals’ when compared to the British; European history up to that point?

  10. Not Neve, Chloe, and Miley!

  11. ‘”I think there are many times when it would be most efficient to use nuclear weapons,” he announced earnestly. “However, the public opinion in this country and throughout the world throw up their hands in horror when you mention nuclear weapons, just because of the propaganda that’s been fed to them.”‘

    Yeah, that’s so outrageous! … Or, totally true… It’s hard to tell the difference anymore.

  12. And what is so bad about being a nationalist??? Nothin’. Provided you more or less stick to the non aggression principle. Is there anything wrong with negotiating for the best interests of your own country in international dealings? No. The Europeans/Japanese/Saudis/etc SHOULD be paying more for shit in their own neighborhoods. Or more accurately they should be paying for all of it, and IF we agree with them we should just be maybe giving them a wink and a thumbs up when nobody else is looking.

    As far as going to war, nothing since maybe Vietnam has been remotely sensible. I don’t really agree with Vietnam on a principles level, but trying to put myself into the world of the 60s and really thinking things through kind of softens my opinion on the subject. I can kind of see how scared shitless people were of communism really taking over the world. In that context I kinda get it, and will almost let people slide for making the choice to go in in the first place. How we fought it is a different story… In any event everything since then has been nonsense politicking, to no benefit of us or anybody else really.

    1. That said if we ever DID have a war we couldn’t keep ourselves out of, I think you should go in swinging your hardest. Holding punches is not the way to win. So although I think Trump is just kind of undisciplined here as elsewhere, the general idea of trying to be pragmatic about how we handle this shit is better than how we’ve been doing things. 1st choice should always be: Don’t do it. 2nd choice should be: BOMB THE SHIT OUT OF THEM.

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