Last weekend, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., tried his hand at dissecting GOP foreign policy attitudes. I commend the senator for trying to come to grips with this vital question that is getting so little, if any, national discussion. As foreign events grow ever more threatening, the view of the now both culturally and congressionally dominant party -- the GOP -- becomes central to the range of political options that President Obama has, as a practical matter.
There are two factors to assess: 1) Is the pre-tea party GOP in the process of shifting significantly from its free trade, strong, assertive military posture that it has maintained for two generations and 2) do the new tea party members have a discernible position, and if so, what is it?
According to the Washington Post, Graham's position is that with the advent of the tea party members: "The Republican Party is going to have two wings...the isolationist wing and the wing led by (John) McCain, Graham and (Jeff) Sessions that says you'd better stay involved in the world because if you do disengage, you'll regret it."
The senator called lack of candidate debate on national security "stunning" and called on the electorate to "challenge" the newly elected lawmakers "early on" as to their views of the world. He then challenged the freshman lawmakers to go home and explain why no treaty with Russia is a good thing.
He concludes his assessment with a dark warning of what happens when the idea of isolationism during an economic downturn takes hold: "(R)eally bad people get a pass, because the United States starts looking inward."
I share Graham's macro fear of an isolationist America permitting Hitler-like characters to rise and roam the world. It has happened before and it can happen again.
But it is my sense that the senator is laying this danger excessively on the tea party members and movement. In fact, the trend away from a fully muscular, assertive, free trade GOP has been unfolding for years. And that trend has paralleled (or followed) the shifting attitudes of the base GOP electorate.
This is not to say that the GOP is isolationist. Rather, it is to suggest that the inartful and questionable military ventures of the U.S. in the last 50 years have driven both GOP members and voters to want to make a case-by-case assessment of what the U.S. role should be. Likewise, merely invoking principles of free trade no longer convince typical GOP voters that any trade deal is in our interest.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.