Charles Krauthammer and the “fractured” GOP

In “How fractured is the Grand Old Party?” (Daily Local News, 8/2/13) Charles Krauthammer is cutting too many corners.

1) “Chris Christie recently challenged Sen. Rand Paul over his opposition to the National Security Agency metadata program”

It’s true that the Amash-Conyers amendment that the US House defeated on July 24 would have pertained only to metadata. The wording “limits the collection of any tangible things (including telephone numbers dialed, telephone numbers of incoming calls, and the duration of calls)” to individuals under investigation.

But the debate is about a lot more than metadata; it’s also about the government’s claim to preserve and consult the content of private phone and email messages.

As Paul makes clear in a June 9 Fox News interview, he is not opposing validly targeted message interception but the kind of “generalized” surveillance–“trolling through billions of phone records”– that he believes is banned by the Constitution.

If we are interested in the issue, we should be talking about more than metadata. But Krauthammer isn’t; he just sides with Christie in an action seen as an Obama victory. Krauthammer + Christie + Obama v. Paul, now that’s unusual!

2) “…the natural tension between isolationist and internationalist tendencies has resurfaced”

There is a lot of space between those two extremes. Many principled Republicans and others would like to put US interests first, get decent value for US military and foreign expenditures, and stop subsidizing multinational corporations, particularly in the defense industries.

And as Rand Paul says, “…when we must go to war, we must have a Congressional declaration of war as the Constitution mandates….”

I would have thought Krauthammer would applaud that literal interpretation of the constitution, but it seems not.

3) “World order is maintained by American power and American will”

The world has a lot of powers and wills, as well as the United Nations. When the US tries to do everything, or does it while dragging a few allies along, things go badly–as in Iraq for the past ten years.

4) “America doesn’t need two parties of retreat”

Characterizing the Democratic party as one of “retreat” is preposterous. Go tell that to the perpetrators of 9/11 or to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Though I’m not one of them by a long shot, I don’t believe for a minute that “The Paulites” (whichever Paul Krauthammer is referencing) are “pining for the splendid isolation of the 19th century.” Besides, the US was not at all splendidly isolated then, judging by the large number of foreign wars and conquests.

One of Ron Paul’s points is about “blowback”: if the US kills people in other countries, their friends and relatives don’t like it. Neither would we.

But not killing people abroad is not the same as isolationism; nor is trying to control the world beyond our means to do so. Rand Paul says:

“We are already in two wars that we are not paying for. We are waging war across the Middle East on a credit card, one whose limit is rapidly approaching. And to involve our troops in further conflicts that hold no vital U.S. interests is wrong.”

It’s interesting to see Krauthammer siding with ostensible “internationalists” Christie and McCain and the traditional foreign affairs lobby against someone who, to me, seems to adopt pretty rational conservative positions on the matters we are discussing here (setting aside many of Paul’s other positions).

5) In conclusion

I wonder what Krauthammer is really afraid of. I guess, the Tea Party, its potential to (further) split the Republican party, and its occasional alliance with progressives on some issues like government spying on its citizens.

In the second part of his article, he worries about the Tea Party wing shutting down government spending this coming fall, thus heaping opprobrium on the Republican party.

One might well worry about government shutdown, but I’m sort of surprised. I would have thought Krauthammer was about ultraconservative principles; but now, I see he’s about the Republicans winning elections.

We agree on one thing: a party that is afraid to discuss what it stands for will fracture. And that shoe seems to fit the GOP right now.

The vote on the Amash-Conyers amendment, after extensive lobbying by leadership to vote against it, was 111 Dems and 93 R’s for and 83 D’s and 134 R’s against. You’d expect both parties’ leadership to worry about that, but the news stories are about whether the R’s are splitting.

I guess people expect R’s to march under orders and Dems to follow their own minds and principles?


About politicswestchesterview

Nathaniel regards himself as a progressive Democrat who sees a serious need to involve more Americans in the political process if we are to rise to Ben Franklin's challenge "A republic, madam, if you can keep it," after a passerby asked him what form of government the founders had chosen. This blog gives my views and background information on the local, state, and national political scenes. My career in higher education was mainly in the areas of international studies, foreign languages, and student advising, most recently at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, from which I retired in 2006. I have lived in West Chester since 1986.
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