James Joyner discusses Republican hawkish hostility to Hagel in connection with the diminishing space for moderate Republicans and realists in the party:
Lindsey Graham notwithstanding, Hagel’s views on most foreign policy issues of the day are well in the mainstream of the professional foreign policy establishment. It’s why so many legends of the business — Brent Scowcroft, Colin Powell, Zbigniew Brzesinski, Robert Gates, Jim Jones, and so many more — have lauded his nomination.
Problematically, while Scowcroft, Powell, and Eisenhower are admired by professionals in their field, their party’s leadership views them as Republicans in Name Only — if not outright apostates. It’s a status they share with Richard Lugar, George H.W. Bush, Jon Huntsman, and, yes, Chuck Hagel.
Either the Republican Party has to re-embrace its traditional foreign policy agenda, or those of us who have been left on the outside looking in will have to conclude that it’s no longer our party.
The predicament James describes is one that has been at least 10-15 years in the making. Obviously, it became much worse during the Bush years, but instead of abating once Bush left office it continued to intensify. Moderates and realists might be partly forgiven for thinking that the second Bush term hinted at the possibility that the GOP was slowly returning to its senses, but that gave Bush’s second term too much credit and underestimated the extent to which many self-described realists inside the administration contributed to its disastrous record. Except for Powell, almost all of the self-described realists that served in the Bush administration remain firmly in the Republican orbit and are in no danger of leaving the party. Indeed, many of them served as advisers in some capacity on the Romney campaign, but clearly had little or no influence on the candidate’s policies. Some Republican realists went out of their way during the campaign to find hints of prudent thinking in Romney’s camp that were notable for being so rare and isolated. If party leaders are going to take seriously the possibility that they are in danger of losing current supporters, Republican realists and conservative voters have to stop making excuses for deeply flawed, hawkish candidates and refuse to support future nominees that hold reckless and aggressive foreign policy views.
It’s understandable that the party couldn’t suddenly switch so quickly from Bush-era foreign policy between the repudiation in 2006 and the next presidential election, but it would have been a normal and healthy reaction to the failures of the Bush years to make some significant changes by the next presidential election. That didn’t happen. Worse than that, the eventual nominee was so desperate for shore up his partisan support that he seemed to revert to the rhetoric and many of the ideas of the first Bush term as if Bush’s failures had never happened or had already been forgotten. The party has a chance in the next few years to start recovering from these mistakes, but that recovery won’t be possible as long as the energy, activism, and organization remain on the side of Republican hard-liners.