It used to be easy to cover the Republican party when it came to national security issues. For the most part, members of the GOP could usually be counted on to come down on the hawkish side of a debate or vote.
Toss in tens of thousands of casualties, ten years of war, billions of dollars spent, a new front opening in Libya, and a Democrat in the White House, and the situation gets more fluid. (A slew of polls also show a dramatic drop in support for the war in Afghanistan, and if politicians know one thing, it is where their bread gets buttered.)
Jon Huntsman is Exhibit A among the new GOP doves. The former governor of Utah and former ambassador to China says the U.S. should mostly withdraw from Afghanistan and just leave behind elite counter-terrorism units for precision strikes. That means he is to the left of Obama on Afghanistan — and he is considered a serious GOP candidate.
How things change. With the exception of Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul, the candidates in the 2008 GOP field at times seemed like they would have supported an invasion of Canada.
The folks over at the Council for a Livable world do a good job of tracking national security votes in Congress. Their tallies show just how much the ground has shifted on Capitol Hill as well.
- On April 5, nine Senate Republicans joined Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul in an effort to curb the White House’s authority to wage war unilaterally in lieu of an “imminent threat to the nation.”
- In a May 26 shocker, 26 House Republicans joined 178 Democrats and fell just short of passing an amendment in support of a plan to accelerate the withdrawal from Afghanistan. On the same day, 16 Republicans joined 107 Democrats in a failed vote to get U.S. troops out of Afghanistan now, except for small counter-terrorism operations.
- On May 26, 233 House Republicans joined 183 Democrats to approve an amendment that bars President Obama from deploying ground troops to Libya.
Imagine these kinds of votes in 2002, or for that matter, in 2007. Wouldn’t have happened.