Home/Daniel Larison/How Did I Not See This Coming?

How Did I Not See This Coming?

I would always defer to my former boss [Newt Gingrich], if you will, as I was a pup freshman as he was speaker, on issues of foreign policy. ~Gov. Mark Sanford

Via Will at Ordinary Gentlemen

Well, I would say this pretty much puts to rest Reihan’s fears of burgeoning antiwar sentiment on the right. Then again, one might point out that on any number of issues Sanford has not deferred to Gingrich’s judgment. Gingrich quite publicly backed the invasion of Iraq, and just a few weeks back Sanford relayed his objections to the war in Iraq to Michael in his profile of the governor. One assumes that the skepticism he showed regarding the bombing of Yugoslavia made him wary of backing the invasion at the time. As for Gingrich’s view on Kosovo, I don’t think Gingrich was doing much publicly to back the campaign so soon after his resignation, but it is basically unimaginable that he would have been in opposition to it. It’s not just that Sanford defers to Gingrich on North Korea policy, but that he pretends that he would never disagree with him, when we already know that he has agreed with him and the general direction of foreign policy Gingrich et al. represent.

Now I understand that Sanford is a member of the Republican Party, he was appearing on FoxNews, and he might actually want to be elected to another office someday, so I can’t say I am surprised. I suppose I am not so much disappointed in such an embarrassing statement from Sanford as I am depressed that the range of acceptable foreign policy debate in leading Republican circles stretches all the way from “attack them” (it does not really matter which state we’re discussing) to the cliche of “actions, not words.” When Chris Wallace is the one playing the role of the reasonable skeptic of military action to Sanford’s relative belligerence, there is no hope for sane foreign policy taking root in the GOP.

P.S. Yes, Freddy, some people might be a tad disappointed.

Update: After thinking about it a little more, I realize that Sanford’s deference to Gingrich is worse than it seemed at first. He isn’t just deferring to him to obscure the non-interventionist streak in his own record, but he is also doing it because governors always feel obliged to defer in this area to supposed wonks. In practical terms, this means that any governor, no matter how good his instincts and no matter how sound his past views, will end up deferring to more interventionist wonks for the simple reason that the GOP is lousy with interventionist wonks and has very few representing another side of the debate. At the risk of exaggerating, I don’t think it’s too much to say that we saw the basic reason for Republican foreign policy dysfunction on display in that one clip: all the most likely potential candidates for presidential office (i.e., governors) end up receiving horrible advice from entrenched wonks, and many of the former don’t know or care enough to recognize how bad the latter are at what they do, and the governors don’t have the confidence to risk pushing back or challenging them even when the wonks say crazy things about attacking North Korea.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

leave a comment