Cokie Roberts and Steven V. Roberts

The Rise of Dangerous Donald

Donald Trump is fond of giving his opponents demeaning nicknames. Lyin' Ted. Little Marco. Low-Energy Jeb.

Now, with his own words, he's labeled himself: Dangerous Donald.

In trying to demonstrate his fluency in foreign policy, Trump gave lengthy interviews last week to The New York Times and Washington Post. A close reading reveals an unavoidable truth: He knows almost nothing about the world and how it works.

Trump's ideas are not just ignorant or uninformed. They truly threaten the national interest. As Secretary of State John Kerry put it, "It's clear that what's happening is an embarrassment to our country."

Speaking on CBS' "Face the Nation," Kerry added: "Everywhere I go, every leader I meet, they ask about what is happening in America. They cannot believe it. I think it is fair to say that they're shocked ... It upsets peoples' sense of equilibrium about our steadiness, about our reliability."

Trump says his goal is to "make America great again." But his foreign policy would have the opposite effect. What he describes is really a feeble, timid country that shrinks from its international responsibilities and embraces an inward-looking, money-grubbing, selfish set of priorities.

"Why are we always the one that's leading?" Trump whined to the Post.

The clear consensus answer has been shared by Republicans and Democrats alike since Pearl Harbor plunged this country into World War II: America is the "indispensable nation."

Our economic, military and moral strength helps bring order to a very disorderly world. No wonder foreign leaders are so worried that our "steadiness" and "reliability" would be jeopardized by a Trump presidency.

Foreign policy usually plays a small role in American elections, but it should get more attention -- especially this year. On domestic issues, all presidents are hemmed in by countless competing interests, especially if the rival party controls Congress. Almost every decision has to be a product of negotiation and compromise.

When it comes to global issues, however, a President Trump would have a far freer hand, so his proposals demand the strictest scrutiny. And "dangerous" might actually be an understatement.

On MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Trump was asked who he consults for advice, and he gave a revealing answer: "I'm speaking with myself, number one." That's obviously true, since his worldview seems entirely filtered through his own experience as a businessman and dealmaker. Every key decision is reduced to one misguided metric: Make a killing. And screw the other guy.

Take NATO. "I'll tell you the problems I have with NATO. No. 1 we pay far too much," he told the Times. "We don't have money anymore because we've been taking care of so many people in so many different forms."

There is no mention of the strategic benefits the U.S. derives from "taking care of so many people." Benefits like stable European democracies. Prosperous trading partners. Reliable allies. Do you think Baltic states like Estonia, threatened by an expansionist Russia, share Trump's view that NATO is "obsolete"?

Take Japan and South Korea. Trump "would be willing" to withdraw American troops from those countries if they didn't increase their financial contributions. "We cannot afford to be losing vast amounts of billions of dollars on all of this" he said to the Times.

Again, Trump displays absolutely no sense of why those troops are there. He never mentions how they help those countries provide an economic and military bulwark against China; protect vast markets for American goods and services; ensure invaluable sources of intelligence; shore up alliances.

Asked by the Post if the U.S. derived any benefit from involvement in Asia, Trump answered, "Personally, I don't think so ... I think we were a very powerful country, very wealthy country, and we are a poor country now. We're a debtor nation."

That's not true, either.

"This version of reality is wildly at odds with the facts," writes Robert Samuelson in the Post. "True, there is stubborn poverty in America, but this does not deny our overall wealth ... The United States is wealthy enough to pay for essential government, including a robust presence abroad."

And that's only the beginning. The Economist Intelligence Unit in London concludes that Trump's policies "could rapidly escalate into a trade war" with China and Mexico and serve as a "potent recruit tool for jihadi groups." Robert Powell, an analyst with the unit, says of a Trump victory: "The impact for the world would be bad. The impact for the U.S. would be even worse."

That's why the GOP frontrunner richly deserves to be called Dangerous Donald.

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