The Great GOP Unraveling

No sooner was John McCain faced with Jeb Bush’s challenge on immigration from his right, as Jeb did an about-face on his past support for a path to citizenship, when he had to pivot and face Rand Paul’s challenge on drone policy from his left, as Paul filibustered John Brennan’s CIA nomination because he feared Obama was about to launch drone strikes on Americans sitting in cafes in San Francisco.

Today, McCain called Paul a “wacko bird,” along with his pals Ted Cruz and Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan.

Now you can say that John McCain is 76 and on his way out, but remember that his little sidekick Lindsey “Butters” Graham is 57, and their new amiga, Kelly Ayotte, who replaced Joe Lieberman, is only 44.

This isn’t a John McCain problem, this is a GOP problem.

The libertarian wing of the Republican Party has now latched on to the Tea Party element, strengthening both.  Paul and Cruz are both Tea Party guys and libertarians.

The GOP has taken up the Tea Party cry to cut government spending, while trying to protect defense spending.  But the Tea Party/libertarian types don’t want to spare defense any more than they want to spare social programs.  They want to cut the whole damn thing, which makes it impossible for them to co-exist with the neo-cons.

Interestingly, neither McCain nor Paul reflects where the country is.  Since we’re war weary, we’re not with McCain that we should have stayed longer in Iraq and should stay in Afghanistan forever.  But since we’re war weary, we like the drones, which keep the terrorists at bay, while allowing our guys to go safely home at night to their families after they’ve taken out a bad guy.  And while Rand Paul isn’t as extreme on foreign policy as his dad Ron, his lack of concern about Iran’s going nuclear isn’t where the country is either.  So in Goldilocks terms, neither McCain nor Paul is just right for the country, one is too hard and the other is too soft.  If the country is sick of the neo-cons, they don’t want them replaced by neo-isolationists.

Adding to the mix — and the mess — you’ve got the primaries of 2014 and 2016.  Immigration and drones are two very different issues, but having gotten blindsided by Jebbie, Marco Rubio felt he had to support Paul on the filibuster to placate the Tea Party people he will need for a 2016 run.  Similarly, Mitch McConnell felt compelled to praise Paul because he fears a Tea Party primary in 2014.

Then there’s  the money.  The Koch Brothers are libertarians first and Republicans second.  Their financial support will redound to those who spout the libertarian line.  By contrast, Sheldon Adelson, who basically bought Newtie a campaign in 2012, has said that he doesn’t care about gay marriage or abortion, he just cares about Israel.  So his money will go to those who toe the neo-con line.

The GOP is trying to accommodate some very strange bedfellows — and it looks as if no one will get a good night’s sleep anytime soon.


The NYT has an excellent article* pulling back the curtain on the supposed liberal, gay-rights group “Use Your Mandate” that is running ads against Chuck Hagel’s nomination for Secretary of Defense purportedly from the left.

But the Times traces its ad buying back to Smart Media, a GOP company that does work for, wait for it, the Emergency Committee for Israel, Bill Kristol’s neo-con group that has gone after Hagel not just professionally, but personally, by smearing him as an anti-Semite.

Smart Media also has done work for John McCain, who has refused to back his supposed “friend” Hagel.  Other clients include Christine “I’m Am Not a Witch” O’Donnell, and Jon Huntsman, Jr.  The Times couldn’t find any liberal groups or politicians Smart Media has represented in the past.

I hope Dem Senators put this pathetic, tacky sleaze on the record at the Hagel hearings.

* “Secret Donors Finance Fight Against Hagel,” Jim Rutenberg



It’s Hagel for DoD

Despite all the preemptive strikes against him from the neo-cons, including nasty smears unfairly accusing him of being anti-Israel and even anti-Semitic, it looks as if President Obama will nominate former Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) to be Secretary of Defense.

Ryan Crocker, former ambassador to Lebanon, Kuwait, Syria, Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan, had an excellent column in the WSJ a couple of days ago (“Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense”) praising Hagel.  Some excerpts:

“Mr. Hagel understands far better than most the evils of Hamas and Hezbollah, both backed by Iran.  He also appreciates the importance of looking in and among those groups for fissures that might lead to internal debate, dissension or division — or even to areas of agreement with the U. S.

“I still remember his frank but nuanced conversation with Pakistan’s then-president, Pervez Musharraf, and the message he carried back to Washington:  The U. S. has to implement a multidimensional policy of pressure and support, adjusted to fit prevailing circumstances.  Above all, America needs to demonstrate strategic patience,– a sense that it is in this relationship for the long run and won’t abandon the region as in the early 1990s, a decision that inadvertently paved the road to 9/11.”

“Mr. Hagel would run the Defense Department; it would not run him.”

Fool Me Once…

As the debate progressed and we were introduced to Mitt the Dove on foreign policy, I felt so foolish that I hadn’t seen this coming.  He did in the foreign policy debate exactly what he did in the first debate on domestic policy — move sharply and dramatically to the middle.

So whatever Obama said and stood for, we then heard that championed by Me Too Mitt.

He ran as far and as fast from his neo-con image and advisers as he could, trying to hurl himself into the arms of women voters.  This election won’t turn on foreign policy, but it will turn on how big the gender gap is.

When Mitt said “We can’t kill our way out of this mess,” and talked about dealing with the Muslim world through economic development, education, gender equality, and the rule of law, he wasn’t really telling us his strategy for the Muslim world, he was telling us his strategy for American women.  If he doesn’t care about gender equality here, why would he care about it there?

Mitt didn’t need to win (and he didn’t), he just needed to keep his momentum going.  Saying something glaringly stupid as Ford did on the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe would have stopped that momentum cold and doomed him.

So the main goal tonight was to avoid a gaffe that made him seem unready to be commander in chief.  He achieved that.

The next goal was to calm down women voters who might worry that he’s too hawkish.  He achieved that.

His strategy told me that his campaign is feeling confident right now.  Pretty, pretty confident, as Larry David would say.  If they weren’t confident, he would have felt the need to be much more aggressive against the President, rather than amiably agreeing with him.

They know the election is still about the economy (where Mitt was aggressive), so why make waves on foreign policy when he had more to lose than to gain?

Behind that cautious playing-it-safe was a calculated playing-to-win.