I’m not sure why, but some Republican hawks are panicking about their hold over the party:
Like former ambassador John Bolton, who sent up some smoke signals of his own last month about a presidential run, all King is doing is alerting us to the fact that someone needs to put forward a coherent response to Paul that will assure the country that the GOP hasn’t retreated into an isolationist funk that will undermine any hope that it can appeal to moderates or Reagan Democrats who will never vote for an isolationist [bold mine-DL].
The GOP has a serious foreign policy problem with moderates, independents, and conservative Democrats today, but the problem isn’t that these voters are worried that the party is in an “isolationist funk.” The party is perceived by most Americans to be too aggressive on foreign policy, and it isn’t trusted to be competent or responsible in its conduct of U.S. foreign policy. Paul is one of the very few elected Republicans making any effort to acknowledge and respond to this. Republican hawks haven’t been silent in recent months, nor have they failed to react to Paul. The hawks’ problem is that their arguments continue to be remarkably weak, and denouncing their opponents as “isolationists” and appeasers doesn’t work very well anymore. There was a time when shouting “isolationist” at others might have still had the desired effect of exiling them from the debate, but it has been so overused against so many different policy views that fewer and fewer Americans pay attention to the accusation.
Instead of recognizing that Republicans have lost the public’s confidence on foreign policy because of the failures and unacceptable costs of hard-line and hawkish policies, hawks have concluded that the problem is that they don’t have enough vocal advocates for their cause. Since we are just a few months removed from the spectacle of the Hagel confirmation hearings, the idea that Republican hawks have ceded the field in intra-party debate is amusingly delusional. In fact, it is likely that Republican hawks would do harm to themselves and their party politically if they became even more vocal and aggressive in promoting their foreign policy views. Not only is the public much more concerned about domestic matters, but a majority has rejected what the hawks have been selling over the last seven years. A Republican Party that could credibly present a significantly less militarized, less aggressive foreign policy than the one it currently has would broaden its appeal. What is even more important for the country is that this would significantly improve the quality of its foreign policy.