In many ways, Scott Walker’s speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday was another success for the Wisconsin governor as he continues to solidify his frontrunner status in the 2016 Republican race. A packed house of attendees gave Walker multiple standing ovations. “Calls of ‘run, Scott, run,’ became a brief chant toward the end of Walker’s presentation,” reports The Post’s Robert Costa.
Despite the show of strength, one section of Walker’s speech should concern the governor and his fellow Republicans as they prepare to take on Hillary Clinton. Asked how he would face the Islamic State, Walker cited his showdown with demonstrations against his anti-union laws in 2011. “If I can take on 100,000 protesters,” he said, “I can do the same across the world.”
The most obvious problem, of course, is that Walker appeared to be comparing labor activists to a group that beheads people for fun and profit. But even Walker knew that comparison was in poor taste: Afterward, he told reporters, ““There’s no comparison between the two, let me be perfectly clear.”
But what Walker said right after that clarifiication — “I’m just pointing out the closest thing I have to handling a difficult situation was the 100,000 protesters I had to deal with” — shows just how deep the GOP’s foreign policy problem goes. Across the board, the Republican field has no serious candidates with real foreign policy experience. Of course, plenty of candidates from both parties have run for president without that experience — none of the last three presidents has had any. But it is already clear that Republicans would like to use foreign policy against the Democratic nominee (and by the Democratic nominee, I mean Hillary Clinton) in 2016. They will try to make issues out of the nuclear negotiations with Iran, the Clinton Foundation’s donations from various foreign governments and Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine. And they will try, desperately, to blame her for everything that happened in Benghazi, Libya. If the GOP candidate, though, is a man who by his own admission has never faced anything more dangerous than people chanting at a state Capitol (or a former governor who has been out of office for years or a first-term senator), Republicans will have a hard time winning a “who will better handle foreign policy?” debate. (UPDATE: For another example, see Marco Rubio’s laughable claim Friday that Obama won’t fight the Islamic State “because he doesn’t want to anger Iran,” even though Iranian forces have been fighting the Islamic State for months.)
Furthermore, because none of the potential GOP candidates has foreign policy chops, most of them have fallen back on parroting the same tired hawkish talking points that have defined the party since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Even at CPAC, long a more libertarian-leaning confab than most big dates on the GOP calendar, almost all the candidates have taken strongly interventionist stances. Republican strategists should be worried about that, given the low support (historically speaking) for military action overseas these days. The rest of the country should be worried that Republicans seem determined to continue their hawkishness even after years of war have already cost us so many lives.