At The American Conservative, Curt Mills explains how Matt Gaetz could go from being a Republican backbencher to the future of American foreign policy. He writes (abridged):
Matt Gaetz will not be president, Matt Gaetz tells me, because Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is going to be.
DeSantis is among the most popular and intriguing Republican officials in the country, winning a mega swing state in 2018 on a campaign most pundits, yours truly included, wrote off as a lost cause. DeSantis shocked Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum and he did so by embracing Trumpist populism—and taking a hard line on immigration. He’s governed, to acclaim, in the same way. DeSantis is the polar opposite of Maryland’s Larry Hogan and Massachusetts’s Charlie Baker—Republicans soaring by offering essentially decaf liberalism in blue states. DeSantis is showing that critics of Trumpism are once again wrong. Love it or hate it, it’s working.
Gaetz may be a cable news star, but he is also a wonk. He has an intricate knowledge of politics on the granular level. He knows Florida’s map like the back of his hand, and a congressional district map even better. He delivered Florida’s North—a Republican power base—for DeSantis, and helped staff his administration after last fall’s victory.
Gaetz is carving out the same kind of space Senator Hawley, also under 40, has on the Right. Take a marquee issue of the president’s base—in Hawley’s case, Big Tech, in Gaetz’s, foreign policy restraint—and become an authority on it. And then one never knows what the future looks like.
Like Elizabeth Warren—the Massachusetts Democratic senator who the congressman thinks will be the Deomcratic nominee and lose to President Trump—Gaetz is a veteran of high school debate. Gaetz says this shaped his views on foreign policy, with the topic one year being engagement or confrontation with Russia. His policy chops come in handy. He may hate lobbying, but Gaetz is the de facto chief lobbyist to get the U.S. to pull its support for the Saudi campaign in Yemen.
Unlike other foreign policy realists, he is a Trump fan rather than Trump skeptic. What that affords him: he gets to tell the president when his administration should cut bait.
Gaetz also has not feared checking the administration on Iran, a more controversial stance in the Republican ranks.
Perhaps Gaetz is just the latest example of the growing libertarian-to-nationalist pipeline. Hardly a day goes by now without reading that Tucker Carlson or Peter Thiel, two of last decade’s leading libertarians, argue for new powers for the state in an increasingly horrifying 21st century.
Gaetz has his haters. Most prominent among them is probably former House speaker Paul Ryan, the man not for this moment.
Considering Ryan’s legacy is a failed vice presidential bid, a failed budget proposal, a failed healthcare reform effort, a ceded House majority, and charmlessly plutocratic tax reform, I think we can deal with a fresh approach.
It’s not clear, yet, if that’s Gaetz. But it’s not clear that it’s not.
Read more here.