In the upcoming runoff for South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, the losing Tea Party-anointed candidate in that race, attorney Larry Kobrovsky, has said that both primary winners—Charleston County Councilman Tim Scott and fellow Councilman Paul Thurmond—are too “establishment” to deserve an endorsement from grassroots conservatives. This is true, but there’s also another reason to be reluctant to endorse such Republicans: Because neither one of these men is really as conservative as he claims to be—and not just in the obvious ways establishment-weary Tea Partiers might think.
In his recent column “A Tea Party to Nowhere” former CIA counter-terrorism specialist Philip Giraldi writes “Most Tea Partiers claim to want smaller and cheaper government, less interference from Washington in their daily lives… (but) Most also want a strong, assertive national defense and are supporters of an aggressive foreign and security policy.” Giraldi notes the incoherence of conservatives holding both positions:
“They fail to understand that it is precisely the interventionist defense and foreign policies that are driving the bad things they see in government… Ballooning defense and security spending… all accomplished without raising taxes, has been the engine of growth for a $13 trillion national debt, a total that increases by $4 billion every day. The United States now accounts for 45% of the entire world total for military spending, euphemistically referred to as ‘defense.’ The Pentagon budget has gone from $432 billion in 2001 to a projected $720 billion in 2011, not including the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Federal Government is twice as big as it was in 2001… Tea Partiers have unfortunately been fed a line of hokum by politicians aided and abetted by the mainstream media.”
The good news is conservative voters are not as emotionally wedded to the pro-war insanity that characterized the George W. Bush years as they once were. The bad news is most GOP politicians still are, and remain just as pro-war, any war as ever, while simultaneously pretending to be for smaller government and less spending. In SC, congressional candidates Scott and Thurmond are perfect examples of this, where both men claim to be more conservative than the other, yet are still enthusiastic about spending trillions of taxpayer dollars on the most expensive government program in this country’s history—American global empire. Liberal Congressman Barney Frank complained last year that if we hadn’t wasted so much money on the Iraq War we would have enough for national healthcare. The problem with “conservative” Republicans like Scott and Thurmond is that they essentially agree with Frank on the need for astronomical government spending—they just disagree on where to spend.
It would be helpful if Tea Party folks reluctant to endorse men they perceive as establishment candidates, like Scott and Thurmond, would finally make the connection that the most crucial membership requirement for being part of the Republican establishment is a politician’s support for the foreign policy status quo. The reason so many GOP bigwigs went after Rand Paul in his bid for US Senate in Kentucky recently was not simply because Paul has an interest in smaller government, but because he is comprehensive enough in his conservatism to be willing to look at all of government spending—including the Pentagon. This is the same reason the GOP establishment does not attack Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin to the extent that they do Paul, as Palin’s foreign policy views differ little from Dick “deficits don’t matter” Cheney—who understandably, has admitted to being a Palin fan.
True to form, the establishment always tries to frame any criticism of our national security status quo as unrealistic and coming from those who don’t believe in having any defense at all. This is preposterous. There’s a world of difference between actually defending the nation and trying to defend the entire world, our current policy and never-ending predicament. But it is true that we do have a disproportionate view of the actual terrorist threat versus what we sacrifice, or as Giraldi notes “The Tea Partiers should instead understand that terrorists will only tear down the United States if we Americans help them to do so. Irrational fear of a small group of men hiding in a cave in Asia is what drives larger government, the infringement of civil liberties, and more taxes and regulation.”
Giraldi spells out what’s at stake: “So how can the Tea Party turn things around? It can only do so by realizing that the first thing that must be done to fix the government in Washington is for the United States to end its wars overseas and dramatically scale back on its international commitments. There is no good reason for Washington to serve as the world’s policeman and many good reasons why it should cease and desist from doing so.”
For all their conservative rhetoric, today’s establishment Republicans are no more willing to question the efficiency and cost of our national security state than liberals are to question the social welfare state. And arguments about spending and “earmarks” are pointless distractions until conservatives first get serious about addressing America’s two biggest economic drains—unsustainable entitlements and an equally unsustainable American empire.