News & Politics

Here Are 5 of President Trump’s Most Outspoken Right-Wing Critics Following the Putin Summit in Helsinki

Some right-wingers are refusing to fall in line and give Trump their unconditional support.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

For all its terrible and wrong-headed ideas, the modern-day Republican Party can be incredibly disciplined and focused. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Washington establishment Republicans had strong reservations about Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election, but after Trump won the GOP’s nomination, most establishment Republicans rallied around him and “circled the wagons,” as conservatives are fond of saying (conservatives love their cowboy/John Wayne/Wild West imagery). Regardless of what McConnell or Ryan might be saying about Trump behind closed doors, they have been quite willing to work with him closely in order to pass as much far-right legislation as possible—and even after Trump’s controversial meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on July 16, most Republicans continue to back the president. There are some major exceptions, however. 

Some right-wingers are refusing to fall in line and give Trump their unconditional support simply because he is a Republican—especially after the Putin summit. Here are five prominent right-wing voices and long-time GOP allies who have been outspoken critics of Trump in recent days.

1. Sen. John McCain

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Although the word “maverick” has often been used in connection with John McCain, the 81-year-old Republican senator from Arizona usually votes with his party. Major exception: McCain was among the three GOP senators who—much to the disappointment of Trump, McConnell and Ryan—voted against overturning the Affordable Care Act in 2017 (the other two were Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski). And McCain certainly wasn’t putting party over principle when, on July 16, he issued a blistering condemnation of 

Trump’s meeting with Putin—which he denounced as “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.” Trump, McCain asserted, “proved not only unable, but unwilling, to stand up to Putin” and gave the Russian president “an uncontested platform to spew propaganda and lies to the world.”

2. George F. Will

For decades, George F. Will and the late National Review founder William F. Buckley were among the leading conservative voices in mainstream journalism. They were the go-to pundits when the mainstream media needed someone to debate a prominent liberal and give a right-wing perspective. But in the Trump era, Will has felt increasingly uncomfortable with the Republican Party. Will hasn’t been shy about expressing his view that Trump has been terrible for the GOP brand and the conservative movement—and on July 17, the 77-year-old columnist joined McCain in his condemnation of Trump’s meeting with Putin. According to Will, “America’s child president…..has a weak man’s banal fascination with strongmen whose disdain for him is evidently unimaginable to him. And yes, he only perfunctorily pretends to have priorities beyond personal aggrandizement.”

3. Max Boot

As hawkish as President Barack Obama was on foreign policy during his eight years in office—as greatly as Obama expanded the U.S.’ military presence in Afghanistan, and despite the fact that he gave the executive order that ended the life of al-Qaeda terrorist Osama bin Laden—neocon Max Boot often insisted that he wasn’t hawkish enough. Boot was a foreign policy advisor for the two Republicans Obama defeated in presidential elections: McCain in 2008, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in 2012. Regardless, Boot is no fan of Trump, and in a July 20 column, he declared, “How I miss Barack Obama.” Denouncing Trump’s meeting with Putin as a foreign-policy disaster, Boot asserted that as critical as he was of Obama in the past, he would now “take Obama back in a nanosecond” because “his presidency appears to be a lost golden age when reason and morality reigned. All of his faults, real as they were, fade into insignificance compared with the crippling defects of his successor.”

4. Sen. Jeff Flake

Hard-right Republicans like Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona usually reserve the you’re-ashamed-of-America rhetoric for Democrats. But Flake, who won’t be seeking reelection, was no apologist for Trump’s meeting with Putin. Following the summit, Flake accused Trump of “giving aid and comfort to an enemy of democracy.” And on Twitter, Flake posted, “I never thought I would see the day when our American president would stand on the stage with the Russian president and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression. This is shameful.”

5. Rick Wilson

In 2016, GOP strategist Rick Wilson was one of the leading voices of the Never Trump movement on the right. But unlike all the Republicans who have been rallying around Trump since he was sworn into office in January 2017, Wilson has been a consistent critic of the president—and he had no kind words for him after the meeting with Putin. Wilson, in a July 16 article for the Daily Beast, complained that Trump “refused to condemn any of Russia’s malicious, murderous, destabilizing behavior in the world, including its obvious and proven attacks on the United States and our allies.” Wilson went on to say, “On his best day, Trump is a dopey man-child, an egomaniacal narcissist who wears his many tells on his sleeve. Written across Trump’s soft, jowly face is a catalog of his blatantly obvious weaknesses—for flattery, money, sex and status. He’s a walking catalog of the seven deadly sins.”

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Alex Henderson is a news writer at AlterNet and veteran political journalist. His work has also appeared in Salon, Raw Story, Truthdig, National Memo, Philadelphia Weekly, Democratic Underground, L.A. Weekly, MintPress News and many other publications. Follow him on Twitter @alexvhenderson.