The Triumph Of The Neocons, And The Death Of Fiscal Conservatism

With minor exceptions, all of the potential candidates for the GOP nomination in 2012 seem to have accepted the idea that defense spending, and the Bush-era interventionist foreign policy, are off the table when it comes time to talk spending cuts.

Contrasting himself with Haley Barbour, who said in Iowa this week that the GOP needed to accept the fact that defense cutbacks will have to be on the table in future budget negotiations, Minnesota’s Tim Pawlenty is taking the opposite tack:

AIKEN, S.C. — A day after Haley Barbour called for cuts in defense spending, Tim Pawlenty went the other way.

“I don’t think we should be talking about cutting the Pentagon’s budget,” the former Minnesota governor told POLITICO after a speech at the Aiken Republican Club here. “I think we should be talking about looking for those areas where we might some efficiencies or redeploying money spent on defense to higher-priority areas within defense. In other words keep the defense budget intact, but if we find some savings, some efficiencies, some ways to redeploy money we should do that.”

The contrast between the two presidential hopefuls emerged as fissure over defense spending has begun to open within the conservative movement, with some viewing the outlays as sacrosanct and others arguing that no deficit reduction efforts can be credible.

Pawlenty, siding with the defense hawks in his first trip to the Palmetto State this cycle, reiterated his past support for a defense budget that “continues to grow,” but added that it should grow “perhaps a little more slowly.”

Pawlenty has also cast his lot with other potential Republican candidates for President who have once again taken up the flag of interventionism in the face of this year’s foreign policy crises:

When former President George W. Bush left office in 2009, liberal Democrats and a fair number of moderate, traditional Republicans proclaimed the good news: The GOP neo-cons were dead, chased from Washington in disgrace.

But as Republican presidential hopefuls begin developing foreign policy platforms, a clear and surprising pattern has emerged: They’re back and, so far, winning the fight for the direction of the party.

In spite of the tarnished reputation of the neo-cons and the movement by many in the tea party wing toward a more isolationist foreign policy that is open to real cuts in defense spending, all but one of the leading 2012 candidates — in early speeches and campaign books — appear to be toeing a hawkish, interventionist line and promising increased spending on the Pentagon.

When Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour abruptly broke with that consensus Tuesday in Iowa, he set himself apart from the field and positioned himself to fill a potentially significant opening in the 2012 GOP debate. Former Govs. Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, meanwhile, have differed largely only in their attempts to outdo one another in committing to what Bush called the “freedom agenda.”

“They’re all basically mainstream in their agreement about the [Obama] administration being too friendly toward enemies and too harsh toward allies,” said Randy Scheunemann, who was John McCain’s top foreign policy hand in 2008, has worked for former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and has informally advised other contenders.

No where  is this neo-con unity more apparent than the line that most GOP politicians are taking with regard to the ongoing crisis in Libya:

Pawlenty recently blasted Obama for an “incoherent” response and said he supports a no-fly zone.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum echoed that sentiment, calling for airstrikes and telling a Des Moines, Iowa, radio host that Reagan bombed Libya. “If you want to be Reaganesque, it seems the path is pretty clear,” said Santorum.

Romney was more cautious but echoed the theme that Obama has failed to show leadership.

“The president and his team look like deer in the headlights. Instead of leading the world, the president has been tiptoeing behind the Europeans,” Romney said in New Hampshire earlier this month.

Gingrich, Palin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee also joined the chorus for imposing a no-fly zone on the troubled North African country and took aim at the Obama administration’s handling of the situation.

There’s been no discussion by these prospective candidates about the costs of such a mission, or the fact that that a establishing a no-fly zone has the potential to drag American forces into a wider conflict. Instead, it seems to be little more than a simplistic repetition of the same rhetoric we heard from the Bush Administration in the wake of 9/11,when we were told that “democratizing” the Middle East would some how make the world safer. We’ve seen how that has turned out.

There’s simply no way you can claim to be serious about reducing Federal spending if you’re going to exempt the defense budget, which accounts for approximately 25% of the total budget, from any consideration when it comes times to make cuts.  Sarah Palin made much the same argument as Pawlenty last year when she was telling Tea Party activists that their zeal for spending cuts should not be applied to the defense budget. At that time, I noted:

If we are going rein in Federal spending and make a serious move toward cutting the budget deficit, then there is no area that can be completely off the table, including a $ 700 billion defense budget. To say otherwise while claiming the mantle of fiscal conservatism is to be a completely hypocrite and, if Palin is serious about her comment that defense spending is untouchable, and similarly serious about her previous comments that tax increases are out of the question, then she is demonstrate an astounding amount of economic illiteracy.

You can’t pay for something with nothing, Mrs. Palin, and you can’t call yourself a fiscal conservative if you’re not really serious about spending cuts. And your comments demonstrate a distinct lack of seriousness.

The same goes for Tim Pawlenty, or any other Republican who thinks they can claim to  be serious about fiscal responsibility while at the same time favoring a bloated defense budget, and a foreign policy that requires vast deployments all around the world, is kidding themselves.

 

FILED UNDER: Africa, Deficit and Debt, National Security, US Politics, World Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Steven Plunk says:

    Now that the Obama administration is proposing a NFZ and air strikes does this story even make sense? How does support of the rebels in Libya with a NFZ equate to budget busting at the Pentagon? It will cost something but it could be fairly cheap with Europeans being part of the team..

    The death of fiscal conservatism? Good golly get a grip. These are competing views within the Republican party but not policy. Can’t people at least talk about different ideas on how to go forward without people having a fit?

  2. Steve Verdon says:

    I think bringing the troops home and keeping there would help significantly. Additional cuts might be warranted as well, but the biggest problem regarding our fiscal situation are the transfer payment programs–e.g. Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security. Fix those, and you’ve pretty much solved the problem…of course that is much easier said than done.

  3. wr says:

    Shorter Steve Plunk — The budged deficit is destroying America! It’s the only thing we should think about! Slash funding for everything! Oh, but bombing brown people is free!

  4. legion says:

    So, Pawlenty thinks we should look for efficiencies and priorities in the defense budget, and shift money within the current budget? What the flaming blue hell does he think the countless thousands of budget analysts in the DoD (and each of the services, and each of the various Defense Agencies) actually DO all day, every day? Not to mention their counterparts on the various Congressional military-related committees? What a completely thoughtless, pointless statement.

    Efficiencies in the Defense budget are primarily constrained not by DoD decisions, but by Congressional pork in the DoD’s budget. You want to see efficient re-prioritizing of $$ in the defense budget? Start in Congress.

  5. steve says:

    Steve V is correct, but it is really mostly Medicare. There are plenty of people willing to cut Medicaid, and poor people and children don’t vote. The elderly vote in high percentages, so it is Medicare that is the crux of the issue.

    Steve

  6. TG Chicago says:

    Pawlenty, siding with the defense hawks lobby…

    Fixed it.

    Is this really about being a “hawk” or about sticking your snout into the defense lobby’s trough?

  7. Jay Tea says:

    The thing about Obama and the no-fly zone is this:

    1) It would be almost impossible to impose one.

    2) If one was imposed, it would have had to have been done well before now.

    3) If it was imposed this instant, it would most likely make little difference.

    4) By the time Obama feels comfortable about imposing one, all those people who he encouraged when he said “Kaddafi must go” will be dead or imprisoned.

    Short version: when it might have made a difference (and even that is questionable), Obama dithered; now that the window has closed, he’s apparently leaning towards it.

    I’m trying to find a way he can make himself, his office, and this nation look more ineffective and impotent… and coming up empty.

    J.

  8. …but bombing brown people is free…

    Such biting wit. No doubt calling someone a racist is much easier than actually engaging their arguments.

  9. Steven Plunk says:

    wr, I understand you teach but please stop attempting to treat us like your students. Trying to put words in our mouths is a tiresome traits of those who bully their way around a classroom. It fails to impress.

    Those “brown people” you speak of asked for our help. What part of that is difficult to understand or is it that it doesn’t fit your preconceived notions of evil American military power? Imposing a NFZ in cooperation with European allies would not have cost that much so it has little to do with the deficit either. It looks like more failing grades on your halfway attempt to engage.

  10. An Interested Party says:

    The death of fiscal conservatism? Good golly get a grip.

    One needn’t look at this particular issue to realize that Republicans (well, at least those in the leadership in Washington) really are presiding over the death of fiscal conservatism…what substantial measures are they proposing to balance the budget? What concrete steps are they willing to take to be fiscally conservative? When anyone can answer these questions, do let the rest of us know…

  11. Jay Tea says:

    Mr. Plunk, you gotta understand wr. (Which almost requires a lobotomy.) That we’d be bombing brown people to protect other brown people is irrelevant. It’s only the bombing part that matters.

    Likewise, bombing non-Muslims to protect Muslims (in the Balkans) doesn’t count, either.

    Killing Muslims who want to kill a bunch of more Muslims — and us, for not wanting to allow them to do that — doesn’t count, either.

    Your flaws are in assuming that wr has any actual points, and that he can be talked with reasonably. Once you get past those mistakes, dealing with him is remarkably simple.

    Much like he himself.

    J.

  12. Jay Tea says:

    I get the impression that wr would be most happy if all the brown people just killed each other off and didn’t bother anyone any more.

    J.

  13. Gulliver says:

    wr: Oh, but bombing brown people is free!

    So…just curious. Does one’s brain completely shut down at the first instant he declares himself a liberal, or is it a slow and gradual process somewhat like alzheimers?

  14. tom p says:

    Look folks, end the bush tax cuts, all of them, now. Either you are willing toi do that or you are a charlatan.

    It really is that simple.

  15. Gulliver says:

    What tom p really means:

    We should be able to spend trillions more than we ever have before but unless you’re willing to increase taxes to recoup a small percentage of that, you should just accept it as being a good thing.

    Strawman to the nth degree….

  16. grandpaLou says:

    i watched a commentator tonight estimate that in Afghanistan alone, even after we withdraw combat troops from there, the US will still need to spend $5 to $6 billion dollars a year to support, train and arm the Afghan military and police for an indefinite period into the future.

    The entire Afghan. national budget of their own money for the entire country is less than $1 billion dollars a year.

  17. michael reynolds says:

    Short version: when it might have made a difference (and even that is questionable), Obama dithered; now that the window has closed, he’s apparently leaning towards it.

    I’m trying to find a way he can make himself, his office, and this nation look more ineffective and impotent… and coming up empty.

    Oh, look, it’s Jay Tea: wrong again.

    Imagine my surprise.

  18. ponce says:

    Odds that some American “hero” drops a bomb on a house full of Libyan civilians this weekend?

  19. steve says:

    “Short version: when it might have made a difference (and even that is questionable), Obama dithered;”

    The unintended consequences of unilateral military action in Africa and Asia have become difficult to bear. We have not always, nor should we, involved ourselves in civil wars abroad. It is a mistake to get involved in this at any time.

    Steve

  20. michael reynolds says:

    steve:

    With benefit of hindsight would you have felt the same about Rwanda?

  21. Jay Tea says:

    I’ll answer your question to Steve:

    As heartless as it sounds, we need to limit our military intervention to cases where our national interests are at stake — at least arguably — and we can actually do something meaningful. The Rwandan genocide — as ugly as it was — didn’t affect us directly. Further, the logistics of doing anything were horrific — Rwanda was surrounded by countries that would not be inclined to aid — or even tolerate — our intervention.

    The Balkan bombings were another case where it was arguable if the US interests were at stake.

    Now, in Libya, we’re largely past the point where a “no-fly” policy would have any meaningful effect. Kadaffi’s largely using land forces; if they lost air support, it wouldn’t matter much. Plus, before we could do that, we need to seriously degrade Libya’s anti-air defense systems, and that would take time — time that the rebels simply don’t have.

    Plus, there’s the logistics. Even flying out of Italy, we’re going to need not just fighters, but airborne tankers to give them the necessary range and AWACS to coordinate and direct the missions — plus all the support that they will require. The Navy can help, a bit, as it has both assets, but they have nowhere near the capabilities of the Air Force equivalents.

    And let’s never forget that these planes need a lot of fuel — fuel derived from petroleum.

    Michael, what point or points are you claiming I’m wrong about? The most prominent one is my assertion that we’re past the point where air interdiction would have made a difference; the rest is pretty much derived from that. Go ahead and make the argument that it would change the outcome now. Or, rather, in the next few days or even weeks. ‘Cuz these things take a bit of time to put together.

    J.

  22. michael reynolds says:

    Jay:

    Actually I was asking steve because he’s intelligent and I thought I might profit from his opinions.

    That would also be why I didn’t ask you.

  23. wr says:

    Plunk — First of all, my students are capable of forming a coherent thought and actually responding to the meat of an issue. Sure, I threw in the “brown people” jab for fun, but I notice that none of you hawks who keep screaming “we’re broke” as an excuse to fire teachers and steal their long-since negotiated pensions have any problem shelling out the bucks for yet another foreign adventure. (Fought, of course, by people you will never have to meet.)

    So stop being all squeaming about the fact that you want to kill more Muslims. Just tell me why this is a more important use of our tax dollars than rebuilding our own nation.

  24. michael reynolds says:

    Michael, what point or points are you claiming I’m wrong about? The most prominent one is my assertion that we’re past the point where air interdiction would have made a difference;

    Dude, read the resolution. This is NOT a no-fly zone. Get up to speed before you start nattering on about nothing.

  25. wr says:

    Hilarious. Not one of you “fiscal hawks” who spend all day screaming that “we’re broke” has even attempted to answer the question of paying for this affair. At least Jay Tea seems to believe it’s another attempt to steal the oil — or, sorry, our “national interest” — so maybe it could pay off. But the rest of you?

    You’re all frauds. The only reason you care about the deficit is that it gives you a weapon with which to hurt the poor. Aside from that, spend away.

    And if I’m wrong, then tell me what we should cut from the budget to pay for this adventure. Sorry, what we should cut that won’t just affect people you don’t know.

  26. michael reynolds says:

    You’re all frauds. The only reason you care about the deficit is that it gives you a weapon with which to hurt the poor. Aside from that, spend away.

    I think that’s essentially true. Although not the part about them all being frauds: that’s entirely true. When last I questioned Jay Tea he suggested balancing the budget by eliminating the Department of Education. And when challenged to come into contact with reality, he had nothing.

    But I disagree that this particular intervention is about bombing Arabs. I think it’s about trying to avert a Libyan Rwanda. Yes, of course I’ve been awake for the last decade and know how these things sometimes work out. But Rwanda didn’t work out very well without our intervention, either.

    I’ve talked repeatedly about the need for serious entitlement reform, and I think I need to take a hit on tax rates, too. So I do get the connection between money in and money out.

    That said, I don’t think Libya is Iraq, because I don’t think Obama is George W. Obama is closer to Bush senior, and I don’t expect to find us occupying Libya.

    Actually, I expect we’ll see more from the Arabs than we think. I don’t think this will be expensive financially, or in terms of lives.

    Fingers crossed.

  27. Jay Tea says:

    Well, wr, how about Cowboy Poetry festivals? Ther’es a start.

    Oh, crap, I’m doing it again. I’m taking wr semi-seriously.

    Next, “high speed rail.” It’s simply impractical here in the US, based on both geography and American society.

    Get rid of the Department of Education (its few worthwhile functions can be handled by other agencies) and the Department of Labor (fold its few useful functions into Commerce).

    Cut the White House travel budget by 10% and tell Obama that if he wants more vacations, he can pay for them himself.

    There, that’s without even trying. And here’s an even more radical thought: instead of using it to intervene in yet another Muslim nation — one that hasn’t even threatened its neighbors, and hasn’t committed an act of war against the US in about two decades — simply cut the spending and do NOTHING with the “savings,” reducing our deficit.

    J.

  28. michael reynolds says:

    wr:

    I think Jay just made your point for you.

  29. Jay Tea says:

    Michael, you challenged me, on the moment, to balance the entire federal budget. And dang it, that was the day I’d left my top-secret plan in my other pants.

    I offered EXAMPLES. You want a detailed budget on the spot? Screw you. You want me to do that kind of work based purely on your request? Make me an offer, with some dollar signs behind it, and I’ll consider.

    Here’s another idea: O’Rourke’s Circumcision Principle. You can take 10% off the top of ANYTHING. (P. J. O’Rourke, “Parliament Of Whores.”) No charge.

    J.

  30. Wiley Stoner says:

    Jay Tea, Michael, does not have anything to trim. Take a look at his picture, if you do not have a weak stomach. He looks exactly like what he is. You must learn a lesson I learned long ago here. It is pointless to argue with these people. There is no morals here, nor integrity, knowledge or reason either. Read that headline. What manner of fool would write such a thing. Read the by line.

  31. michael reynolds says:

    Jay:

    Months have passed. And you still have nothing.

  32. anjin-san says:

    Michael.

    I think ol’ Jay is pretty much hopeless. The other day he was going on about how he knew about my strategy to get him to waste his time Googling. He actually seems to believe that. Now he is willing to tell us how to fix the budget. If you pay him.

    I think the song “Less than zero”, is actually about him.

    In other news, Republicans in Congress are discussing eliminating the home mortgage deduction, which would have the dual benefits of putting another nail in the coffin of the middle class AND killing the residential real estate market, at least as far as average homeowners are concerned. Cash heavy investors would no doubt have fat pickings on the carcasses of the dreams of American families. Oh yes, they also want to lower taxes for the corporations who are currently busy counting their record cash holdings. Count me as being shocked…

  33. anjin-san says:

    > “If you want to be Reaganesque, it seems the path is pretty clear,” said Santorum.

    Or you could send in the Marines, have them stay at a location with inadequate security and unarmed sentries.

    I guess you really do just have to be a complete and total idiot to be a neocon.

  34. michael reynolds says:

    Anjin:

    I don’t think they have the balls to kill the mortgage deduction. That’s going right at the middle class.

    As for Jay, I wish you would stop trying to trick him into learning. He don’t need no stinkin’ facts.

  35. Jay Tea says:

    Months have passed. And you still have nothing.

    No duh, Michael. ‘Cuz I ain’t been looking. You made it abundantly clear that you wouldn’t accept anything less than a comprehensive plan to completely resolve the deficit issue, and I said “screw that.” I wasn’t going to spend that much time and effort on a fool’s quest.

    But I’ve relented. Make me an offer, and I’ll invest the time and energy.

    Otherwise… do pound sand.

    J.

  36. Barry says:

    michael reynolds says:

    “steve:

    With benefit of hindsight would you have felt the same about Rwanda?”

    In the case of Rwanda, it’d have been a serious ground forces operation.

  37. wr says:

    MR — I hope you’re right about this, but the fact that this nation simply doesn’t give a damn about the ongoing atrocities in Somalia and the Ivory Coast, among others, suggests that the presence of oil has a weightier influence than our newfound love for the Libyan people — a people, by the way, about whom we didn’t give a damn when we were publicly embracing Khadafi a couple of years ago.

  38. Steve Verdon says:

    wr:
    You’re all frauds. The only reason you care about the deficit is that it gives you a weapon with which to hurt the poor. Aside from that, spend away.

    Michael Reynolds:
    I think that’s essentially true.

    Geee, thanks assholes. And we all know you are a bigot Michael with your views that liberals are smart and non-liberals are morons. With you two in the conversation its going to always be so good!

  39. tom p, the Bush tax cuts are over. They are now the Obama tax cuts, as long as we are talking about integrity and the like.

  40. wr says:

    That’s right, Verdon, go ahead and complain about how the big meanie liberals hurt your manly conservative feelings. Because if you couldn’t whine about this, you might actually have to answer the question about paying for our newest military adventure. And you won’t do that, because you don’t actually give a damn about the deficit except as a tool to hurt poor people

    Sorry if I hurt your manly conservative feelings again.

  41. Steve Verdon says:

    Because if you couldn’t whine about this, you might actually have to answer the question about paying for our newest military adventure.

    If you are referring to Libya I’m opposed to intervention you moronic jerk. Instead of ascribing positions to your opponents why don’t you ask first? Jackass.

    And you won’t do that, because you don’t actually give a damn about the deficit except as a tool to hurt poor people

    Sorry if I hurt your manly conservative feelings again.

    I’m not a conservative you retard.

  42. Steve Verdon says:

    I offered EXAMPLES. You want a detailed budget on the spot? Screw you. You want me to do that kind of work based purely on your request? Make me an offer, with some dollar signs behind it, and I’ll consider.

    Actually, the NY Times had a nice little application that allowed you provide some moderately detailed budget proposals a few months back.

    My post using that application.

    And I’ll just point out how stupid wr really is. My first post in this thread noted that bringing home the troops from Iraq and Afghansitan would significantly help our fiscal situation. I also commented that additional cuts to the military might be warranted as well.

    Note that the link to my deficit reducing post also suggests something along the lines as means testing Socials Security and also increasing the cap on incomes that are subject to the FICA tax. And I was in favor of allowing the Bush tax cuts for incomes over $250,000 expiring.

    But I just want to hurt the poor.

  43. wr says:

    Sorry, Verdon, must have confused you with the other Steve.

  44. michael reynolds says:

    Verdon:

    Actually, I can see where you would have taken that personally, but it was unintended on my part. I didn’t track that you would be conflated in that group because I know that whatever else we may disagree on you’re a very serious guy when it comes to real deficit reduction. The fact that I know your positions excluded you in my mind from inclusion in that snark.

    So, my bad, and my sincere apologies.

  45. Steve Verdon says:

    wr says:
    Friday, March 18, 2011 at 14:59 • Edit

    Sorry, Verdon, must have confused you with the other Steve.

    michael reynolds says:
    Friday, March 18, 2011 at 15:00 • Edit

    So, my bad, and my sincere apologies.

    Goddammit this is not how internet flame wars are supposed to end, dammit.

    Thanks, and I retract my insulting remarks as well.

  46. michael reynolds says:

    Enh, we’ll all hate each other again soon enough.