Sen. Sam Brownback filed documents with the FEC this a.m., allowing him to create an exploratory cmte. In a presser, Brownback highlighted the following as his reasons for a presidential bid:
“to rebuild the family and renew our culture” to bring back “genuine conservatism and real compassion” “to raise the level of discussion about issues of life at home and abroad; renewed fiscal restraint, tax reform, and economic growth; and a vigorous yet compassionate and consistent foreign policy.” to “achieve much… with courage, generosity, and realism.” ~Hotline
I have already outlined why I think a Brownback candidacy will go nowhere (his emphasis on the compassionate conservative theme is one reason), but the speed of his campaign’s failure will be determined to some degree by the meaning he gives to this phrase about “vigorous yet compassionate and consistent foreign policy.” All three of those adjectives leap out at me as warning signs of a very, very foolish foreign policy. Vigorous sounds like interventionist to me, but it might not necessarily be that. (The later mention of achieving things with “realism” is a small ray of light that hints that he does not have some knee-jerk reflex against the very name of realism, which might conceivably have desirable foreign policy implications.) Compassionate certainly suggests drippy humanitarian interventionism, and we have good reason (e.g., his Darfur advocacy, his appearances with Obama on AIDS in Africa, etc.) to think this is exactly what Brownback means by it. Consistent implies that there will be no double standards or different treatment for different countries depending on such things as strategic national interests, regional stability or previous commitments.
That is, the treatment we mete out to Sudan over Darfur would require us to treat Pakistan in similar fashion for its repression of Baluchis, and likewise Burma for its treatment of the Karen, Mexico for its treatment of the people of Chiapas, Russia for its prosecution of the Chechen war, and so on and so forth. In the Mexican case, maybe he could team up with Mel Gibson, George Clooney and Zach de la Rocha in a campaign for “Mayan rights” and call it Apocalypto: Never Again! (Perhaps he could use his good offices as President to get RATM back together for one last Zapatista-flavoured reunion in a cunning bid for the radical leftist and alternative music-loving student vote–Karl Rove, eat your triangulating heart out.)
Consistency can sound wonderful in the abstract, but a lot of foreign policy involves making the best deals possible with regimes one would rather denounce. If Brownback’s idea of a consistent foreign policy is what I think it is, it suffers from the classic mistake of thinking one solution fits all problems and thinking that all conflicts and structural realities of other societies are “problems” that can or should be ours to solve. It is political optimism run rampant. We have endured enough of that nonsense in the last few years to last us a lifetime. Dressing it up in the dull pastels of compassionate conservatism will make it doubly unwelcome.
Given his attention to Iowa politics in the last cycle, he has probably made some good friends there who will remember his support two years hence. Brownback might make an okay top-four showing in Iowa, but he will run out of money before he is able to get any traction anywhere else. His obvious, biggest problem: most people would respond to questions about him with the question, “Sam who?” Amusingly, the media’s fits of Obamania (which, as correspondents have noted, is entirely artificial media hype of the worst kind and is the same kind of media hype Obama has been receiving since he first appeared on the political scene) may work to raise Brownback’s profile on the national scene for free. The downside is that Brownback will have to keep appearing in public with Obama, which will decidedly hurt his credibility with the very “genuine conservatives” he will seek to represent.
Oh, yes, one other killer for Brownback’s campaign: he is a pro-immigration, pro-amnesty Senator in an intensely anti-immigration, anti-amnesty party. Because of his Catholicism and social conservatism, I had previously said that he was the Santorum of Kansas, but on this he is decidedly not Santorum-like at all. It is a no-brainer that the Bush Mk II that is Sam Brownback’s campaign will sink from its own weight.
Update: Here (from another paleo who graduated from UChicago) is an even more powerful indictment of Brownback on immigration. I make no endorsement of the Opus Dei-bashing in it, but he skewers Brownback’s immigration record very well.