President Trump selected Attorney Robert O’ Brien, R-Calif., as his new National Security Advisor just eight days after firing his previous advisor, Attorney John Bolton, R-Md. This will be his fourth National Security Advisor since his election in 2016. The announcement came through a tweet from the President:
“I am pleased to announce that I will name Robert C. O’Brien, currently serving as the very successful Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the State Department, as our new National Security Advisor. I have worked long & hard with Robert. He will do a great job!”
Attorney O’Brien previously worked as a hostage negotiator, having played a hand in the release of A$AP Rocky during his trial in Sweden. He also worked under the Obama and Bush administration as co-chairman of the State Department to strengthen the justice system in Afghanistan and as a representative to the United Nations General Assembly.
Attorney O’Brien seems to echo the approach of the President in terms of capitalizing on being an “outsider.” His experience in handling close interactions with North Korea and Iran likely caught the eye of the President.
Attorney O’Brien has some challenging shoes to fill in Florida as former National Security Advisor, Attorney Bolton, resonated with South Florida voters in March when he called for the ousting of Venezuelan dictator, Nicolás Maduro. South Florida contains the largest population of Venezuelan and Cuban exiles, who tend to see Attorney Bolton as a champion against socialism through his tough stance on Venezuela-Cuba foreign relations. Attorney Bolton also designed the sanctions surrounding U.S.-Venezuela foreign policy.
Attorney Bolton had been gaining momentum in Florida politics under the guidance of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., and Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., who have all expressed support for him.
Sen. Scott said he did not see the firing of Attorney Bolton coming and was expecting a meeting with him that day. “I’ve had a very good working relationship with Bolton whether it’s talking about Venezuela, Cuba or Hong Kong,” said the senator. Sen. Marco Rubio, a longtime supporter of Attorney Bolton, said he “worked very well with [Bolton],” but he ultimately believes it is President Trump’s choice to decide his cabinet.
While the future of the President’s cabinet is shaky, one thing remains clear: He needs to win Florida in 2020 in order to secure reelection. Republicans view Florida as one of the most important battlegrounds for the upcoming elections, and the actions of the National Security advisor could be fundamental to drawing in South Florida’s voters. The President’s anti-socialist message echoes loudly across Venezuelans and Cubans in South Florida who played a large role in giving Trump the Florida win in 2016.
Attorney O’Brien has not made his stance on Venezuela clear, although he is expected to align with President Trump’s aggressive strategy in Venezuela; that is, if he is to survive in the White House. Attorney O’Brien is a traditional Republican who initially opposed some of Trump’s views. In 2015, O’Brien criticized Trump’s close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
For Floridians, Attorney O’Brien’s ascendance to a top national security position means his Warhawk policies and pro-military support could usher in a new era for U.S.-Venezuela relations. His preference of using stick over carrot in his past military engagements in Iran and Afghanistan provide hope for South Florida’s exiles who demand a heavy-handed response to Maduro’s power grab in Venezuela.
Despite disagreement with Attorney Bolton in the White House, President Trump finds consistent support among Broward and Miami-Dade County where more than half of Cubans support Trump. If President Trump is to carry this year’s momentum in South Florida throughout the upcoming election, a hardline approach toward Maduro will be necessary. For the time being, Attorney Bolton’s sanctions on Venezuela will be the foreign policy initiative present in the mind of the Republican electorate in Florida.
Featured Image: Robert O’Brien addresses the UN General Assembly. (Unmodified photo by Cameron W. Terry used under a Creative Commons License https://bit.ly/2l39C1z)