Graham or DeMint? Or, to put it another way, Reagan or Ron Paul? Whither goest the GOP in the world?

Charleston’s City Paper records another skirmish in the internecine battle between Republicans over America’s role in the world:

After the Republican presidential debate in Myrtle Beach last week, Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Fox News, “I hope people in the country understand that we’re Ronald Reagan Republicans in South Carolina. We believe in peace through strength and we’re not isolationists.”

In an interview the next day, Graham’s fellow South Carolinian Sen. Jim DeMint said on Fox Business,”If we spread ourselves too thin around the world we’re not going to be able to defend the homeland, particularly with the level of debt that we have right now. It’s foolish for us to think that we can have military bases all over the world, spend billions of dollars when we’re going broke back home. It just isn’t going to happen.”

Austerity may be a bad word to Graham when it comes to Pentagon spending, but for DeMint it’s the very definition of conservatism. When Republicans like DeMint and his Senate ally Rand Paul say that Pentagon spending cuts must happen, Republicans like Graham and his Senate ally John McCain call such actions “isolationist.” When Paul was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010, McCain said he was worried about the “rise of isolationism” in the GOP. When Paul later led the charge against President Barack Obama’s military intervention in Libya, both Graham and McCain trotted out the isolationist label again…

I’m sure you don’t have to ask where I stand.

40 thoughts on “Graham or DeMint? Or, to put it another way, Reagan or Ron Paul? Whither goest the GOP in the world?

  1. bud

    No Brad we don’t.

    No matter how utterly indefensible it is there are those who choose to ignore Eisenhower’s military, industrial complex warning. Seems like on this issue at least Jim DeMint is on the side of pragmatism, common sense, peace, respect and decency. Perhaps with a few more libertarian thinking Republicans joining the traditional Democratic doves we can change foreign policy to better reflect the reality of the world and the true American values cherished by sensible people on both sides of the aisle.

  2. Doug Ross

    Tom Davis also posted criticism of Graham on this issue today on Facebook. I think we’re going to see a real challenger for Graham’s seat when it comes up. Lindsey’s going to have to start reading the John McCain Flip Flop Handbook to pretend he’s a conservative during the primary.

  3. Doug Ross

    From the link on Tom Davis’ page:

    “: “Republicans like Graham approach Pentagon spending the way liberals approach welfare. In much the same way conservatives are always accused of throwing the poor out on the street whenever they suggest reforming welfare, anyone who suggests cutting military spending is labeled an isolationist. Such scare tactics have served liberals well for decades. They have also served Graham well, but perhaps not for much longer, as Republicans follow DeMint’s lead and reassess the contradictions in their own philosophy that prevent the GOP from becoming the conservative party it should be.”

  4. Brad

    Yeah, that’s been the conventional wisdom for awhile — that Tom is going for Lindsey’s seat.

    But I heard a different theory from a local Republican leader last week. It goes like this: Tom Davis endorsed Ron Paul to position himself to run against Nikki Haley in ’14. Here’s the way it goes: Tom knows that even if Romney wins the nomination, he loses to Obama in November. Then Tom is in a position to say to the Tea Party, “She calls herself one of you, but she endorsed Romney — who lost to Obama. Whereas I endorsed Ron Paul, so you’ve gotta love me.”

    The great thing is that it’s so low-risk — for Tom and for the country — since Paul would never win the nomination. So the guy he endorses remains the relatively unscrutinized ideal of many Tea Partiers.

    I have no idea whether there is even an iota of truth in that. I spoke briefly to Tom about getting together after the primary. I need to get back with him and set that up. I have a lot of questions…

  5. bud

    It certainly is a positive to sign to see more and more folks in the GOP coming out in favor of reducing our military budget. I suspect much of it has to do with who the commander in chief is right now. I never saw even the smallest hint of military pullbacks during the George W. Bush years. So even though I’m encouraged I take it all with a grain of salt. With a President Romney I suspect these same newly minted doves will return to their hawkish roots.

  6. Brad

    Bud, your partisanship is blinding you to what is happening.

    What this is is a long-term trend, of certain Republicans becoming more anti-tax, more anti-spending and more anti-government year by year.

    For the longest time, the ones who went so far as to want to withdraw from the world and reduce the military were shouted down. Not any more. The Tea Party revolution has brought to the fore a lot of stuff that the mainstream wouldn’t pay attention to before. Now, radicalism has become sufficiently mainstream in the GOP that you see these sorts of aboveboard coversations. And gradually, people like DeMint are succeeding in marginalizing the non-extremists.

    This is part of a movement that is occasionally intertwined with others. You see strains of several things weaving into this:
    — Old-style Jeffersonianism (which wasn’t even pragmatic in Jefferson’s day, which is why he repeatedly violated it while in the White House — the Barbary Pirates, the Louisiana Purchase), much less today. It was a fantasy of a small, isolated nation of rugged individualists who didn’t need anybody, even each other.
    — A simple desire not to pay taxes, which has been out there since the first taxes were levied.
    — A sort of mystical belief in “private good, public bad.” If it’s the government, it’s automatically bad — even when it’s the military.
    — The belief that the worst kind of government is federal, which possibly arises from a notion that “the farther from me decisions are made, the more likely they’ll be made by people who are not like me.”
    — Isolationism. The notion that what those foreigners get up to is none of my concern is as old as the republic, although most national leaders over the past century have not shared that belief.
    — Nativism. A sort of American good, foreigner should stay where he came from, view. Almost no one owns up to feeling this way, but an awful lot of people certainly act as though they do.

    Put it all together, and in its most extreme form, you have people who want not only to pull our military back to within the territorial U.S. and put them to protecting us from Mexicans crossing the border, but who want to end foreign aid and other forms of involvement in the world.

    It’s not because of Obama. Although his presence in the White House does make it a little easier for some to think in this “new” way.

  7. bud

    What this is is a long-term trend, of certain Republicans becoming more anti-tax, more anti-spending and more anti-government year by year.

    Well at least there’s something positive to come out of the Tea Party movement and whatever trend may have pre-dated that. There’s always a silver lining so this must be it.

  8. Steve Gordy

    Brad, I’ll take your criticism of Bud for excessive partisanship seriously when you devote an equal amount of space to critiquing some of the wilder posts by the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of the other side (you know who they are).

  9. Brad

    Actually, I don’t. Who are they? And which side is “the other side?” You mean the side opposite to Bud?

    So you’re accusing me of being a partisan Republican? Just because Bud and I have this ongoing debate about partisanship?

  10. bud

    Put it all together, and in its most extreme form, you have people who want not only to pull our military back to within the territorial U.S. and put them to protecting us from Mexicans crossing the border, but who want to end foreign aid and other forms of involvement in the world.

    Extreme? Most of what I’m hearing is a sensible recognition that we don’t need to spend as much on the military as the next 20 nations combined. Even the most radical proposal that I’ve heard suggests spending about what the next 10 spend. Seriously Brad, it’s Lindsey, John McCain and YOU who are appearing more and more radical and extremist on this. I find it extremist to continue to keep troops in super wealthy nations like Germany. Yet the pro-military extremists don’t bat an eye and continuing to fund that during a time when there is no threat from Russia or anyone else in that region. Or to continue to operate 11 colossal nuclear powered aircraft carriers when no one else even has 2. (The French have one but it’s slightly smaller. The Chinese are refurbishing an old Russian carrier that is far less capabable than even the French ship).

    It should tell you something that people as completely different as Jim DeMint and me agree that it’s a good thing to reduce our military footprint around the world. Let’s hope this positive trend continues.

  11. bud

    Steve, that’s an interesting comment about partisanship. Here we may actually find something with bipartisan support and what does Brad do? He bitches about it. Go figure.

  12. Phillip

    “I’m sure you don’t have to ask where I stand.” No, we don’t: in spite of consistently and eloquently decrying the all-or-nothing positions of blind partisans on most issues, you continue to posit this issue as a false choice between pure isolationism versus a blank check for any-and-all American adventurism abroad. Truth is, there’s nothing terribly wrong with either of the brief quotes from Graham OR DeMint (and believe me, I’m squeezing my skull tightly right now to keep it from exploding as I find myself agreeing with something DeMint has said). “Peace through strength” and non-isolationism is perfectly compatible with a more reasonable, more highly scrutinized approach to national security. Assuming that the entire world will not join forces to fight us, we can afford to be armed at a level equivalent to 75% of the rest of the planet’s military might combined, instead of greater than all of it. One need not “withdraw from the world” to say that it is morally wrong and/or strategically shooting-oneself-in-the-foot to choose to go to war in some instances.

  13. Doug Ross

    “Now, radicalism has become sufficiently mainstream ”

    Mainstream radicalism — the latest oxymoron.

    Maybe those of us who feel the government has gone too far are just right.

  14. Kevin

    It is becoming increasingly hard to pin either party down on a coherent foreign policy philosophy. The best I could come up with is that conservatives generally believe in an engaged foreign policy based on American national security interests and American military leadership, while liberals believe in an engaged foreign policy based on humanitarian good and foreign alliances. Both sides have an isolationist streak on their fringes – the right being based on nationalistic tendencies and the left being based on anti-war sentiments.

  15. Brad

    Phillip, “withdrawing from the world” includes all sorts of foreign aid as well as the projection of military power. Correct me if I’m wrong, but haven’t we heard some of that from Ron Paul?

    For my part, I hear it whenever somebody says — and we hear this across the spectrum now — “let’s do some nation-building at home for a change.”

    I’m all for the nation-building at home — improving our infrastructure, education and yes, universal health care — but not INSTEAD.

    If you’re not hearing isolationism, you’re not listening. Unfortunately, too many people are so eager to cut back on the military that that’s all they hear. They miss the xenophobia, and the apathy. But I hear more than that. And it’s something we particularly have to be alert to in this country. Isolationism has been deeply rooted in our society since the beginning, and to this day, there’s a powerful pull within the hearts of many Americans to throw up a missile shield, patrol the border and forget about the rest of the world while we occupying our minds thinking about American Idol. And that’s an attitude I resist with every fiber of my being.

  16. Brad

    And Kevin — you put what I think very succinctly.

    And whether the indifference to the rest of the world is based in nationalism, or in anti-militarism, or in opposition to paying taxes, I find apathy appalling.

  17. Phillip

    And re Kevin’s last comment and yours, naturally I see the spectrum oriented on a different axis: what you might be calling “indifference to the rest of the world,” I might call “respecting the sovereignty of other peoples and right to self-determination.” And what you might call “engagement” with the world, or “lack of indifference to the world,” I might call “viewing world affairs strictly and myopically through the prism of American self-interest.”

  18. Brad

    Phillip, SURELY you’ve noticed that there is a very strong strain in our country of simply not giving a damn. I don’t know what started it — the desire to cut ourselves off from the Old World and its problems, or the insulation provided so long by our oceans (likely both), but it is deeply ingrained in a huge proportion of our population.

    Doubt it? Peruse our mass media, and then go look at any news publication in Britain. Those nasty old former imperialists over there actually CARE what’s happening in the rest of the world. If we want to know what’s happening here in the Americas, we have to read British publications, or follow the BBC.

    Blame the media? Nope. They’re just providing what their readers and viewers have made it clear that they want. They are reflecting the indifference toward the world that is ubiquitous in this country.

  19. Burl Burlingame

    The problem with military spending is that it’s often sloppy and counter-productive. The reason is that each branch of the military has separate procurement systems. Sometimes, they can’t even talk to each other on their comm systems.

  20. Phillip

    If you’re talking Ron Paul, then yes, I do hear “isolationism.” And that’s part of Paul’s main problem, which is that he’s pretty rigidly dogmatic across-the-board. I’ve been saving a link for just this moment: interesting piece by Kevin Drum in Mother Jones that makes the point that Paul is not doing the anti-neocon, (mostly)-anti-interventionist arguments any favors by pushing his arguments so far in opposing pretty much ANY use of American troops overseas except under the absolute strictest definition of self-defense. Still, I am glad that Paul is helping lead some in the GOP and among pure (not neo) conservatives to reclaim their natural, well, conservatism, about American interventionism abroad.

  21. `Kathryn Fenner

    So, Brad,if we are going to build nations at home and abroad under your administration,are you not espousing the same guns-AND-butter economics that the Bushies used to squander the Clinton surplus?

  22. Doug Ross

    “I’m all for the nation-building at home — improving our infrastructure, education and yes, universal health care — but not INSTEAD”

    An easy objective when you don’t have to pay for doing both. We are well beyond the point of being able to do both things well. If you can’t fight a war for a decade without paying for it, you shouldn’t be in the war in the first place.

    That billion dollar embassay in Iraq is the equivalent of 100 new elementary schools.

  23. bud

    Seriously Brad no one is talking isolationism in the same way we practiced it in the years leading up to World War II. But simply acknowledging that we spend mammoth amounts of money to fund troops and send aid to countries that are not in need of being defended seems pretty sensible. And apparently many on both sides of the aisle are starting to recognize this. Why do we need to send billions to Isreal to maintain illegal settlements in places that most of the world recognizes as neutral territory? Why do send aid to Pakistan so that it could shelter terrorist organizations? Why do we station 20,000 troops in South Korea when their GDP is now outstripping many wealthy nations of Europe? This is all money that serves no national interest purpose but does stir up animosity that gives radicals an attractive option for those who are nominally moderates.

    Most of us have little problem sending humanitarian aid to nations struggling with poverty and disease. What bothers most of us this ongoing effort to build nations and maintain obsolete alliances that serve us no particular purpose. That’s not radical but rather it’s pragmatic.

  24. j

    Doug, I agree, but I know we can do both. It’s such a shame what our country did to others (and even to our own nation) when led by such individuals of misguided and poor judgment (this may be a kind assessment given his utter lack of inquisitiveness and the motivations of his cohort Cheney).

  25. Phillip

    Brad, I would agree with you that many in the US don’t care at all what’s going on in the rest of the world, but I would also suggest that this plays itself out in different ways. For example, people who don’t know or care much about the long-term history and culture of a country or region are sometimes more likely to blindly accept our government’s assertions that our military intervention in said region is in their (and our) best interests. (I would argue that this ignorance of the world-at-large vs. first-hand personal awareness of the world-at-large has been played out in the very personalities of the last POTUS and this one). The good thing about some of the British press which you mentioned (one of the things I enjoy most about the Economist, for example) is the extent to which they’ll keep up with developments in countries or areas that are NOT directly related to current points of greatest controversy among the major powers of the day, things you don’t hear about in US mass media.

  26. Brad

    Absolutely. As someone who lived longer in Ecuador than any other one place growing up, I particularly appreciate British coverage of Latin America, our own neighborhood, which American media largely ignore.

  27. Steve Gordy

    It ought to be humbling to American moguls that THE ECONOMIST does a better job of covering most of the world than we do. But I’m biased; one of their former columnists was a grad school friend of mine.

  28. bud

    Apparently the folks in Japan, especially Okinawa, have had enough of a US military presence in their country. Is it not time to bring WW II to and end. This is an article from an obscure website called War is a All this happy talk from those on the right who point to our continued occupation of foreign countries suggesting we actually are a positive influence in faraway lands is nothing more than another big lie by the military/industrial complex. Rather than closing bases in the U.S. why not begin closing them overseas? It’s the right thing to do and will generate huge savings that can help with budget deficits. On this issue Ron Paul is spot on.

    Japanese Delegation Wants the U.S. Out of Okinawa

    By davidswanson – Posted on 24 January 2012

    A 24-member delegation from Japan is in Washington, D.C., this week opposing the presence and new construction of U.S. military bases in Okinawa. Participating are members of the Japanese House of Councilors, of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly, and of city governments in Okinawa, as well as leading protest organizers and the heads of several important organizations opposed to the ongoing U.S. military occupation of Okinawa.

  29. Brad

    If I recall, the Okinawans weren’t particularly welcoming the day we arrived, either. Oh, well. There’s only so much you can accomplish with nylons and chocolates…

  30. bud

    Rather than being flippant about it Brad why don’t you give some brilliant insight into why we should continue to stay? This is about as much of a no-brainer as it gets. We are trying to find ways to save money. Our presence is not wanted. The Japanese are an extremely prosperous, advanced country that really needs no help defending itself. And, there is no viable threat to Japan. So what exactly are we doing there? This is a no-brainer on steroids. Bring the damn troops home.

  31. Brad

    I gave a facetious answer rather than a serious one for the following reasons:

    — Pretty much anywhere you have troops, someone is not going to be happy about it. I don’t make my decision as to whether troops need to be in a place based on whether everyone who lives there is thrilled about it. Use that basis, and we’d never send troops anywhere, no matter the need.

    — I don’t know enough about our Okinawa presence to have an informed opinion as to whether we need to maintain it or not. I DO know that we have been far too ready to close foreign bases — which are the bases we actually need, more often than we need domestic ones — and that one of our main bases covering that part of the world, Subic Bay, closed a few years ago. That makes me reluctant to close ANY in the region, but as I say, I don’t know enough about this one specificallly.

    — We’re supposed to be turning our strategic focus to Asia, according to what was put forth by the administration in recent weeks. The new Marine presence in Australia is connected to that. I’d like to see some information from the administration on the importance, or lack thereof, of our Okinawa presence.

    — After the hell our Marines went through to take that island, I want to hear a very strong case made for withdrawing before we do so. And it’s going to have to come from something more credible and balanced than a site called “War is a Crime.”

  32. bud

    After the hell our Marines went through to take that island, I want to hear a very strong case made for withdrawing before we do so.

    Come on Brad, that’s just terribly lame and irrelevant. The Marines sacrificed greatly to defend the principals of democracy and to make life a bit better for everyone, including the people of Japan. That mission was accomplished 67 years ago. Or to give you the benefit of the doubt maybe 50 years ago after a lengthy occupation and to provide a needed defense while the Japanese recovered from the war.

    Besides, weren’t you the one who lectured us ad-naseum about the importance of respecting an argument REGARDLESS of it’s source? Heck I’d never heard of War is Crime until a few hours ago so I have no idea what their motivation is (beyond the obvious) but it seems to me they make a credible argument. And frankly Brad your argument here is very weak. Sadly that weak argument seems to be winning the day. In the meantime we continue to run up huge deficits and piss people off throughout the world.

  33. Brad

    Bud, a site called “War is a Crime” isn’t even asking me to give it a chance. It is only seeking to communicate with people who already agree with it.

    Here’s the thing: You are going to be prejudiced in favor of anyone wanting to close a forward base. To change your mind, someone would have to make a pretty strong argument.

    I am going to be prejudiced against closing a forward base, and will need to hear really good arguments in favor to change MY mind. Saying “War Is A Crime” is a LOUSY way to start the argument.

    Personally, I’d be more inclined to talk about bases in Germany. At the same time, I’m not going to say “close them” without hearing all sides. One of the things I’ll want to hear is where is it that you believe those assets need to be instead of Germany, and what’s your plan for putting them there.

  34. bud

    Here’s the more fundemental problem with this situation. The burden of proof is on the people who want to leave Okinawa to demonstrate that we shouldn’t be there. That’s about as ass-backwards as it gets. The burden of proof SHOULD BE on the shoulders of those who want to continue with what is obviously an imperialistic, overbearing occupation of a foreign country. Every single overseas base should be evaluated every 5 years and a justification provided for it’s existence. Otherwise we are in violation of the principals of democracy and the spirit of the United States Constitution.

  35. bud

    In other words I’m supposed to listen to an argument regardless of it’s source and you can ignore it because of the source. Not going to convince anyone that way.

    If I come across as angry it’s because I am. We are constantly berated by the urgency of maintaining a huge military yet there is never any credible argument made for it. In the meantime folks go hungry in this country. Schools lack vital supplies. The unemployed are left to fend for themselves. And medical care goes unprovided. It’s obvious we can’t afford everything. Yet here we are in a foreign land defending a rich nation against a non-existent threat. Why? Apparently because we’ve done so for 67 years and it’s become a part of our national culture. So many things are done this way. It’s why we outlaw marijuana bongs but not tobacco piples. It’s why we tax billionares less than working poor. It’s why we don’t have healthcare for tens of millions when everyone else in the world covers all it’s citizens and for less money. The attitude that it’s the way we’ve always done things is so obnoxious that it just cries out for change. And I’m very angry about it.

  36. Brad

    As I said, Bud, I don’t know enough about this to have a position. But if you were to ask me why I would want a base on Okinawa, defending Japan would not be my first reason — even if it also accomplishes that.


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