If he gets the job... this may indicate something to us about Trump's plans for Iran
WASHINGTON — Elliott Abrams, a neoconservative who has long argued for an activist foreign policy that spreads American values around the world, was advising Republicans just last spring to “keep your distance” from Donald J. Trump and offering advice about what the party should do after the “Trump collapse.”
On Tuesday, Mr. Abrams is set to visit President Trump in the White House to determine whether there is a job for him in the new administration, as the State Department’s No. 2 official.
As part of the vetting process to see whether Mr. Abrams will serve as Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson’s deputy, his writings have been scrutinized in a White House suspicious of anyone who was not a Trump loyalist from the beginning.
But the advantage of picking Mr. Abrams is clear: He knows the inner workings of the department, he served under Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, and, like Mr. Trump, he is often a critic of the Washington foreign policy establishment. Of course, he is also a member of it.
It appears that selecting Mr. Abrams is not a done deal, with much probably riding on his conversation with a president whose campaign he urged others not to join. But some are already predicting that he will emerge as part of the Trump team.
“I think he’s pretty close to being named,” James Jay Carafano, a Heritage Foundation fellow who advised the Trump transition team on the State Department, said in an interview.
Mr. Abrams, 69, is described politely in foreign policy circles as a “controversial” figure, but that deeply understates the case.
He is remembered best for the days when he was an assistant secretary of state during the Reagan administration, and his conviction in 1991 on two misdemeanor counts of withholding information from Congress during the Iran-contra affair. He was later pardoned by President George Bush, and that moment has largely receded from memory — although if he is nominated, there is little question that Democrats will bring it up again.
Still, his selection would calm many at the State Department who worry that Mr. Tillerson, who has never served in government, is about to discover how running a large government bureaucracy full of dissenting opinions differs from running Exxon Mobil, where he was chief executive. Mr. Abrams knows the building well and, with a genial style and sharp views, knows how to navigate the national security bureaucracy.
His last stint in government was as deputy national security adviser during the George W. Bush administration. He often collaborated but sometimes feuded with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice over whether the Middle East peace process was, in fact, meaningful.
“The peace process was like Tinkerbell in that if we all just believe in it firmly enough, it really would survive,” he wrote in a book, “Tested by Zion,” about the Bush administration’s efforts.
In ordinary times, nominating Mr. Abrams would set off tremendous opposition, especially from the left. But Mr. Trump’s many promises during the campaign to upend decades of bipartisan foreign policy doctrine, as well as a series of phone calls and meetings in recent weeks that left allies feeling insulted, led many experts to applaud him as a man who could put the Trump administration on a more predictable path.
“For the most part, I think he would be welcomed in the State Department,” said Dennis Ross, the senior Middle East adviser under President Barack Obama. “He’s seen as serious, responsible and knowledgeable.”From Earlier :Did Trump Really Pull The Trigger on Obama’s Raqqa Plan?
Mr. Abrams’s nomination would be the beginning of an important process to fill out the State Department’s top ranks. The Trump administration, as is common, asked nearly all of the Obama administration’s political appointees to leave their posts, including some seen as vital to the day-to-day management of far-flung operations.