Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy, a confidant to President Donald Trump, told Business Insider in a recent interview that the president’s recent maneuverings on a series of issues — many of which related to foreign policy — signal that he’s moving more toward the middle.
Ruddy said Trump is “more of a centrist to begin with” in Ruddy’s estimation.
“He campaigned on a populist message, not a conservative, rigid ideological message,” the conservative media executive said. “So I think he should be true to himself. And I think he’s more likely to appeal to a bipartisan approach, he won’t have to appeal to extremes.”
“And so far, it looks like he’s heading in that direction, which is great,” he continued. “But they don’t have all the personnel in place that they need experienced personnel that they need to implement a lot of that strategy.”
Although the Trump administration has no major legislative achievement to show during its crucial first 100 days, Ruddy said he gives the administration “high marks” for its early months in office. He said he believes it’s “pretty impressive” what the Trump White House has “been able to accomplish.”
Still, he said, it is taking “a little bit of time” for the White House staff “to gel.”
Reporting over the past few weeks has shown a widening divide in the West Wing. The split has come between the New York faction of advisers — which includes National Economic Council head Gary Cohn, senior adviser Jared Kushner, and assistant to the president Ivanka Trump — and the more nationalist, conservative populist faction led by chief strategist Steve Bannon.
Ruddy, who has been deeply critical of White House chief of staff Reince Priebus in past months, said Trump has not made any negative mention of Bannon or Priebus to the Newsmax CEO.
“Well, I can tell you I try to stay the hell out of all the inside politics,” he said. “I have a day job called Newsmax and I love what I do. I don’t get involved in the management of the executive office, and I think the president will promote those people who are doing the best job for him and move to the side people that are not. He has never said anything negative to me about Steve or Reince. So, I can tell you … that and I wouldn’t go beyond it. We’ll see.”
On foreign policy, Ruddy said he believed Trump would move from his “America First” isolationist platform to a “far more traditionalist” doctrine, and he believes Trump has done so in his first few months in office.
“He’s aligned with China, supported [South] Korea against Kim [Jong Un], he’s bolstered NATO, he’s actually pulling for hikes in NATO spending, reversed himself on NATO, Middle East, he’s given some caution to the Israelis on not going too far too fast, he hasn’t moved the embassy [to Jerusalem],” Ruddy said.
“Iran, he’s taken a traditional hardline approach. Syria, I mean, Obama was against Assad, now he’s against Assad, and Russia, where it looked like he was extending a pretty serious olive leaf, he’s now begun to take a more confrontational approach at the moment on that.”
“That’s more traditional and bipartisan consensus,” Ruddy said. “Where I think he’s starting to differ is in Korea, he’s taking a much more risky and provocative approach there. And no other president has gone that far since [President Harry] Truman fired [Gen. Douglas] MacArthur. And the risk is, if he accomplishes basically encapsulating or dethroning Kim, with the help of the Chinese, he basically will make a historic move on the chess table using the Chinese and it will be unbelievable that he will be able to get this starter accomplished in such short order.”
But, obviously, that comes with a huge “risk,” as Ruddy acknowledged.
“The risk is you trigger a nuclear confrontation on the Korean peninsula and maybe something worse,” he said. “I think it’s great that he’s confronting the Korean situation, which every president has basically kicked down the can, kicked the can down the road since Truman. But on the other hand, a peace approach might prove better, but we’ll see. He’s been elected and he’s a guy who’s a risk taker.”
The Newsmax CEO, who is also a member of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, visited Trump in the Oval Office after the president delivered his February address to a joint session of Congress. Ruddy has known Trump for more than a decade.
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