Earlier today I noted that a significant bipartisan majority is working toward a course correction on foreign policy. Indeed, the Senate (on a voice vote) and the House (on a 399-19 vote) approved similar bills on Russian sanctions and aid for Ukraine. But that doesn’t mean the far right has gotten a clue.
Consider that 17 of the 19 no votes in the House — call them the pro-Putin lobby — included hard-liners who’ve regularly supported a host of bad ideas on foreign and domestic policy. These include Republicans Justin Amash (Mich.) (who’d like to destroy the National Security Agency), Paul Broun of Georgia (running for the Senate), Steve Stockman of Texas (who ran against John Cornyn in the primary and then disappeared), Tom Massie of Kentucky, Raúl Labrador of Idaho, Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina and Ted Yoho of Florida. These are the fellows who also supported stunts like the shutdown. Yet FreedomWorks endorses Massie and Yoho while Broun’s Senate race gets support from the Madison Project. Although Club for Growth has shown better judgment in Senate races, it is backing Amash for reelection in the House.
In short, the most destructive voices in the GOP’s right flank on issues such as the shutdown can also be among the few holdouts on isolationism in foreign policy. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — who has gone to war against the NSA, voted against cloture on Ukraine and backed the shutdown — is a perfect example.
This also extends to challengers such as tea party favorite Chris McDaniel from Mississippi. He’s been backed by the usual cast of characters, including the Madison Project, the Senate Conservatives Fund and FreedomWorks, and has been on a roll with gaffes (questioning Katrina funding, for example). He’s also either uninformed or ill-disposed to funding the military. He asked a reporter (!): “Relatively speaking, the military budget compared to the rest of our budget is small, is it not?” No, it’s not but Sen. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) would likely agree. It’s actually only about 20 percent of the budget and has been slashed repeatedly while entitlements have ballooned.
So there are a few takeaways. Extreme positions on national security are often an indicator the candidate is problematic in other areas. Despite their weak-on-national-defense positions, groups claiming conservative purity still select these characters. Perhaps they don’t care about national security, or maybe they are still stuck in the Obama-Rand Paul mind-set. In either case, as with so many other issues, these groups and the incendiary figures they support are out of step with the country and the party. And their policy positions in the current international environment are downright dangerous.