The word “unprecedented” gets thrown around a lot in conversations about Donald Trump’s presidential run. It’s a risky label to affix: History doesn’t always validate its use, and besides, the term has become diluted unto meaninglessness through constant repetition.
To understand the ways in which Trump’s candidacy represents a break from decades of U.S. foreign-policy consensus—including in most, though not all cases, Republican orthodoxy—it’s more useful to follow the old axiom of show-don’t-tell with an inventory of the policy proposals Trump has suggested, juxtaposing them with the old, agreed-upon approach. Here’s a cheat sheet on the GOP nominee’s divergences from the established path.
Hacking and Sovereignty
The existing consensus: U.S. sovereignty is paramount. Foreign government attempts to undermine American sovereignty—for example, through hacking into government officials’ email systems—is an unacceptable violation.
What Trump says: In a July 27 press conference, Trump expressed his belief that Russian-government agents may have hacked then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails, and said that would be a good thing: “By the way, if they hacked, they probably have her 33,000 emails. I hope they do. They probably have her 33,000 emails that she lost and deleted. Because you’d see some beauties there.” He added: “I will tell you this: Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” Those comments earned immediate backlash, including from many Republicans, who said foreign governments should stay out of U.S. elections. One George W. Bush-era National Security Council member even called it “tantamount to treason.” Max Fisher interviewed experts who were gobsmacked. “Being shocked into speechlessness is not the sort of thing you’re really used to in the business of foreign policy analysis,” one told him.