After the Eaton affair swept Former President Jackson’s official Cabinet, Jackson started consulting his “kitchen cabinet” instead of listening to his officially appointed Cabinet members. The kitchen cabinet ranged from newspapermen to the political figures, including future president Van Buren. Before and since then, presidents have consulted individuals outside of the officially appointed ones. Due to Trump’s inexperience in foreign policy, these informal advisers may play highly influential roles in US foreign policy, and as such we should pay attention to the individuals from which Trump takes advice, and attempt to predict his future foreign policy from these choices.
A group that Trump seems to consistently listen to is his family, especially his wife Melania, his older children, and their spouses. However, none of them have served in military positions, and their foreign experience is limited to business ventures, leading them to a certain reluctance on offering public foreign policy advice. Melania Trump, an immigrant herself, has a supportive stance on immigration, indicating that she believes immigration through legal channels is the best method. While illegal immigration may play a vital role in foreign policy and other nations’ opinions on the United States, in general Melania refrains from foreign policy commentary outside support for her husband. Therefore, Trump’s typical familial advisers seem inadequate to fulfill the kitchen Cabinet role for foreign policy.
Who then is both capable, willing, and acceptable to serve in Trump’s kitchen Cabinet? In his own words, Trump indicated that much of his foreign policy is his own, developed using his own intellect. However, ideas, especially good ones, are rarely developed without the influence of others. During the Republican primary, both Cruz and Bush accused Trump of obtaining his foreign policy from Sunday morning shows. While the validity of these claims are yet to be confirmed, it would be interesting if Trump trusted the media to evaluate foreign policy, considering he frequently does not trust them in other areas. Outside of media sources, during the primary Trump had chosen few advisers in foreign policy, who were allegedly no good, even according to Trump. Trump’s inability to surround himself with good foreign policy advisers indicates that his foreign policy is truly developed by whatever influences him at the moment.
In that case, Trump’s media and news sources have to be analyzed in order to understand where he derives his foreign policy from. Although Trump’s Republican opponents may assume that he obtains foreign policy from Sunday morning shows, the past year has indicated that Trump spends a lot of time on Twitter. Therefore, we can assume a good portion of news is obtained from those he follows on Twitter. Interestingly enough, Trump only follows 40 people or organizations on Twitter. Removing Trump organizations, family members, and individuals with no public foreign policy advice, Trump’s Twitter account only follows about 10 people with potential to influence his foreign policy. Interestingly enough, the composition of these individuals somewhat mirrors the composition of Jackson’s kitchen Cabinet, ranging from television news hosts to political commentators.
In summary, Trump’s appointed Cabinet may not have enough influence to develop Trump’s foreign policy, and his kitchen Cabinet may not disagree with him enough to create an useful environment of diverse ideas and solutions. Without a good environment for foreign policy solutions, Trump’s foreign policy will not develop or innovate new ideas. In an increasingly dangerous world in which cyber threats are real, innovative solutions are required in foreign policy. Trump’s strategy creates a dangerously singular foreign policy, with a president prone to prefer looking at Twitter for solutions over considering the advice of experienced officials.
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