The Republican Foreign Policy Tent Continues to Shrink, and Republicans Don’t Even Notice It
Ramesh Ponnuru reviews different episodes of Republican and conservative infighting in the last month and concludes:
In each of these episodes, some Republicans have seemed to dislike one another more than they like defeating Democrats and enacting conservative policies. After elections in which conservatives attracted the allegiance of only a minority of voters, they have reacted by trying to kick people out rather than bring people in.
Ponnuru is referring here to CPAC’s rejection of Christie, the Hagel filibuster, and the Club for Growth’s usual self-defeating election tactics. I already discussed Christie and CPAC earlier, so I won’t revisit that here. I have no quarrel with his criticism of the Club for Growth, which has excelled over the years in throwing away Republican-held seats in Congress for the sake of getting its approved candidates on the ballot. If they want to back primary challenges against Republicans that voted for Ryan’s budget, they are probably doing their group and their cause more harm than good. That said, the Republicans’ majority in the House is likely secure enough that it isn’t going to be threatened by any losses that result from this.
That brings me to Hagel. Ponnuru’s complaint about the filibuster of Hagel is not that the Senate GOP turned itself into a joke during its opposition to the nomination. He isn’t concerned that the confirmation process signaled to realists and skeptics of new wars that they have no place in the national GOP. What bothers Ponnuru is that the filibuster created an occasion for intra-party criticism of those Republicans that voted for cloture. As he sees it, the problem with this is that it equates a vote for cloture as a vote for the nomination, and that creates an unreasonable standard for opposing a nominee while dividing Republicans unnecessarily. The only thing Ponnuru sees wrong with Senate Republican opposition to Hagel was that it got a little too carried away at the end. The movement right spent the last three months openly vilifying and lying about Hagel, and this is the most Ponnuru can say about it.
Naturally, he fails to acknowledge the anti-Hagel campaign was a perfect example of how the GOP has been “trying to kick people out rather than bring people in.” It was from start to finish an effort for all intents and purposes to expel Hagel from party, and to reject anyone that might have sympathized with even some of his mild dissents on foreign policy. It was exactly the sort of self-destructive, ideologically-driven stupidity that Republican reformers normally find so objectionable, but on matters of foreign policy and national security they prove to be just as clueless.