Moulton to lay out foreign policy vision in 2020 trial balloon
Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton is wading back into the 2020 presidential conversation Tuesday with a foreign policy speech that seeks a contrast with President Trump and advocates for new thinking about defense spending and alliances.
During a Tuesday morning speech at the Brookings Institution, Moulton will argue his time in the Marines shaped both his approach to foreign policy and his prescription for how America should move on after Trump.
“When your old house gets damaged by a bad renter, or—in this case—a terrible President, you don’t just restore it to look like it was built in 1950; you renovate,” he plans to tell the audience, according to excerpts obtained by NBC News ahead of the address.
“You don’t just rebuild—you build something new.”
Moulton plans to call for “next-generation thinking” in three areas: arms, arms control and alliances.
On arms, the congressman wants to see a shift in investments away from older, less nimble weapons like aircraft carriers and toward investment in newer technology like cyber weaponry, as well as autonomous and hypersonic weapons, with modern arms control agreements to match.
He also plans to spend significant time discussing alliances, criticizing Trump's approach to the relationships with allies. While he'll call for a "re-strengthening" of NATO, he will also call to consider a new approach to alliances, floating a "'Pacific NATO' to counter China."
“Just as we’re not going to counter Russia’s amazingly successful work at undermining democratic elections by simply refurbishing our nuclear arsenal, we need to re-think the strategic role and purpose of NATO. Now is the opportunity, presented to us ironically by this Administration, to renovate and strengthen it for a new world,” he will say.
Moulton will also criticize the prospect of pulling out of Syria “without any plan” and ignoring climate change, which he labels a “national security” threat. On the Middle East, the Iraq veteran wants to see Congress take back power to authorize “clear and achievable missions” that will make plans for withdrawal more transparent.
The heavy emphasis on foreign policy comes one day after a Buzzfeed News interview where Moulton admitted that he’s “thinking about running for president” and going to take a “very serious look at it.”
The Bay Stater had a strong midterm cycle, where he was able to show some fundraising prowess and help a more than a dozen of his endorsed candidates, many veterans or former national security officials themselves, win congressional races.
But he faced some high-profile blowback in the party when he unsuccessfully helped to lead a group of Democrats who opposed California Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s bid for Speaker of the House. While Pelosi ultimately agreed to a term-limit deal and Moulton won some praise about his push for new blood in leadership, the insurgents never found a candidate to oppose Pelosi and Moulton has faced some criticism for helping to lead the charge against Pelosi.
Now openly his presidential trial-balloon phase, Moulton's speech positions him in the foreign-policy lane of the blossoming Democratic primary, one where the clearest fit right now is former Vice President Joe Biden, the former Senate Committee on Foreign Relations chairman who is still weighing a bid.
But it’s unclear how voters will prioritize foreign policy in choosing a candidate—October NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that just 8 percent of registered voters said foreign policy was either their first or second-most important issue going into the 2018 midterms. And so far, the Democratic primary debate has largely focused on domestic issues.