No tea party unity on foreign policy

Rebel fighters load their vehicle-mounted weapon on the outskirts of Zlitan, near Misrata's western frontline (Reuters)

Tea Party movement-backed lawmakers have marched in lockstep toward the goal of shrinking the government but that unity dissolves when it comes to America’s role in the world.

Republicans who were elected to Congress with support of the grassroots movement have bucked Republican orthodoxy by supporting some defense spending cuts, and they have been at the forefront of criticism of the U.S. Libya intervention.

But they appear more divided on how quickly to pull out from Afghanistan, with some favoring a quicker drawdown than President Barack Obama has proposed and others, a slower one.

“It’s really a little bit of a trap to suggest that there is somehow a foreign policy view of the Tea Party,” said Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute think tank.

The movement has no clear-cut ideology beyond keeping government small and cutting spending so it is not clear how strong a force on national security issues the Tea Party will be. Movement support helped strip $450 million from funds for an alternate engine for the F-35 fighter aircraft.

Tea Party-backed lawmakers have led criticism of the Libya intervention. On Thursday, a House proposal to defund U.S. military operations in Libya came close to passage with considerable Tea Party backing; about two-thirds of the 59-member House Tea Party caucus voted for it.

The measure was sponsored by Republican Justin Amash, who was elected last year with Tea Party support, and liberal Democrat Dennis Kucinich. It failed on a vote of 199-229.

Foreign policy has simply not been the Tea Party’s chief concern. U.S. Representative Ron Paul, the Republican presidential contender who has been called the “intellectual godfather” of the movement, is anti-war and non-interventionist.

PAUL VERSUS BACHMANN

Paul’s son, Tea Party adherent and freshman Republican Senator Rand Paul, also teamed up with Democrats in a New York Times opinion piece calling for removing all U.S. combat forces from Afghanistan by the end of next year.

This would make America “more secure and stronger economically,” Paul argued, along with Senators Jeff Merkley and Tom Udall. It was time to act “aggressively to bring our troops and tax dollars home.”

Pletka said it is wrong to assume that the hands-off world view of the Pauls were the “heart and soul” of the Tea Party.

“I don’t think that everybody who is fiscally responsible is also interested in leading America’s retreat from the world,” Pletka said.

The leaders of the Tea Party caucuses in the House and Senate, Michele Bachmann and Jim DeMint, are taking a more hawkish, traditionally Republican approach to the Afghan war.

DeMint told CNN recently the United States should “finish the job” in Afghanistan and not “withdraw too quickly.”

When Democrat Obama last month announced the start of the drawdown of troops from Afghanistan, Bachmann accused the president of putting politics ahead of national security.

“We must never forget that 9/11 was hatched in the caves and the mountains of Afghanistan. The Taliban has a presence there. Al Qaeda has a presence there. We must defeat them in their backyard,” she told National Public Radio.

Critics of the Afghan war seem to be “outliers” among Tea Party-backed lawmakers as well as in Congress at large, agreed Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz, a war critic who says he is “very much Tea Party-oriented.”

But Chaffetz believes voter attitudes on Afghanistan are shifting his way. He told Reuters he gets a positive response in Utah whenever he discusses the need to leave Afghanistan.

“It’s a guaranteed applause line. I can stand up in front of any audience, make the case, and get huge applause,” Chaffetz said. “On Libya, it’s even stronger. Nobody knows why we are there.”

6 Responses to "No tea party unity on foreign policy"

  1. eve  July 11, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    “Tea party backed lawmakers” also voted in favor of the most recent “Patriot Act” extension.

    Nuff said?

    Also, why is this pic showing rebel fighters?

    Is this a subliminal stab at those who still believe the US should follow and abide by US Constitutional Law as terrorists?

    Finally, these some of these same “Tea Party backed lawmakers” (aka representatives) still support sending 3 BILLION dollars (with a B) per year to Israel, while our nation continues to suffer economically.

    Add Egypt to that, and a host of other countries which receive foreign aid and one wonders where the priorities lie in regards to the US citizen?

    Would we not be better if we told every country which receives US Foreign Aid “sorry, but it’s our turn, since it is OUR money.”

    The Federal Reserve sent untold amounts of money to foreign countries to bail out their banks, Wall St. tycoons made record bonuses and the US workers watched their jobs be sent over seas.

    They continue to do so, and Eric Cantor (Rep-Virginia) still seeks to obtain i higher amount of foreign aid from the US to Israel?

    Ron Paul is (out of the choices we have) the most pro-American choice we have I suppose.

    Our foreign policy should be to secure our borders and protect the legal citizens withing, while deporting those who are here illegally (regardless of nation origin).

    What we really need is a policy which puts American citizens first economically and socially, while ensuring freedom and prosperity are the goals we seek as a nation.

    I look forward to hearing from everyone here on CHB regarding our “foreign policy.”

  2. eve  July 11, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    please excuse the numerous typo’s.

  3. b mcclellan  July 11, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    The only tools the fools have chosen to employ are blood willingly given by our volunteer military and or bribery, which is the outright theft of Americas prosperity.
    They cannot see past their own greedy crooked ways to give a damn about anything but ruling the world and these two instruments are the closest at hand and easiest to wield to accomplish their bent..

    We have no national or foreign policy, only broken and corrupt profiteering leadership.
    If you can call it that, leadership that is..

  4. griff  July 11, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    The only reason most of these hacks oppose our “humanitarian” mission in Libya is because there’s not a Republican running the show.

    Money and oil folks. You’re sending your sons and daughters off to die so some one else can get obscenely rich and still rape you at the gas pump. We may as well swap out Old Glory for the Jolly Roger.

  5. woody188  July 11, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    I think the national “lamestream” media keeps mixing up tea party with Neo-cons. Why else would they ask the Neo-con stronghold aka the AEI what they think about the tea party?

    Shucks, it was the AEI and it’s off-shoot, the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) that got us involved in Iraq and Afghanistan and wrote the PATRIOT Act years BEFORE 9/11.

    • griff  July 11, 2011 at 6:12 pm

      You mean they didn’t just whip up all 342 pages in a little over a month? The borders of my comfort zone are getting smaller by the day.

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