Bruce Herschensohn

One of my favorite conservative columnists recently started a column with the words, “Back before the Republican Party was saddled with John McCain as its nominee…” How was the Republican Party “saddled” with him when more Republicans voted for him than for anyone else running in the Republican primaries and caucuses?

I was one of those who voted for John McCain in the California primary—and did it with enthusiasm. As someone as conservative as the columnist, of course I have had disagreements with Senator McCain on some issues, but all the issues of disagreement are secondary to winning the war in which our nation’s survival is at stake, as well as the survival of civilization as we know it. I am convinced that John McCain was born to be commander in chief in this war. Foreign policy and the military are in his blood. That is not true of the Democrats’ choice.

Early in 1961, President Kennedy invited former Vice President Nixon to the Oval Office to discuss world affairs. Former Vice President Nixon was seated on a lounge chair while President Kennedy was pacing the floor as they discussed Cuba, Berlin, the Congo, Laos, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Indonesia and the U.N. President Kennedy stopped pacing and said to former Vice President Nixon, “This is the stuff of presidents! I mean, who cares if the minimum wage is $1.15 or $1.25?” He meant, of course, that the minimum wage “is the stuff” of Congresses.

Voters, whether they are Republicans or Democrats, generally believe that presidents establish both foreign and domestic policies. They don’t. Presidents can advocate domestic policies but Congresses generally decide them. President Clinton advocated National Health Care. The Congress killed that one. President George W. Bush (43) advocated Social Security Reform and Immigration Reform. The Congress killed both of them. It is different when it comes to foreign affairs. Clinton sent our armed forces to Bosnia, Somalia, Haiti and Kosovo. Bush sent our armed forces to Afghanistan and Iraq. Throughout our entire U.S. history our Congresses have only committed five declarations of war, while there have been some 234 foreign military engagements ordered by presidents with or without congressional approval. Since World War II, with little exception, no matter the domestic policy pursuits of presidents, it has been foreign affairs that have taken center-stage of their administrations from the atom bomb to the Korean War to the Cuban Missile Crisis to Vietnam and Cambodia to the Iranian Hostage Crisis to “Tear down this wall, Mister Gorbachev!” to the liberation of Kuwait.

Bruce Herschensohn

Bruce Herschensohn is currently teaching a graduate course at Pepperdine University on U.S. Foreign Policy.