Others have already written on the shockingly anti-Semitic tropes that New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd chose to weave into her bizarre attack (“Neocons Slither Back”) on vice-presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and one of his advisers, Dan Senor, who is Jewish. I suppose the left is so drenched in the language of “Israel firster” and “Israel lobby” and images of a hanging Jew, this rhetoric has become a reflexive writing tic, like framing columns as conversations with taxicab drivers.
But for now I’ll turn my attention to the grossly inaccurate portrayal of Ryan as an empty vessel into which neocons supposedly pour their toxic brew. Aside from being grossly insulting that a man seeped in conservative thought, widely read and traveled and a 14-year veteran of the House wouldn’t have his own views it contradicts the other elite line that Romney-Ryan have no foreign policy views at all or they are muddled. Moreover, aside from Dan Senor, who is the convenient piñata in the tale of neocon manipulation, how does one account for non-neocons like John Bolton (a ferocious critic of the enthusiasts for the Arab Spring), Condi Rice (whose proximity to Mitt Romney sends shudders through the conservative foreign policy community) and a coterie of diverse voices peppering the candidates with advice? (Policy director Lanhee Chen doesn’t exactly fit with Dowd’s iconography, does he?)
But more to the point, a casual Google search would have turned up many thoughtful explications of Ryan’s national security views including his speech to the Alexander Hamilton Society and his budget plan (“The United States cannot retreat in its aggressive campaign against the global network of terrorists intent on taking American lives and destroying the American way of life. Steadfast leadership from the military, the heroism of its men and women in uniform, and the unseen efforts of the intelligence community remain instrumental in preventing terrorists from repeating the atrocities perpetrated on American soil on September 11, 2001.”) These occurred well before Ryan was even contemplated as a VP pick, let alone under the spell of the forces of darkness Dowd concocts.
It is fashionable, I guess, for media who fixate on horse race politics and armchair psychology to slot politicians into boxes — neocon, realist, etc. (Although it is interesting the president is never pressured to slot himself into an ideological camp.) However, it is largely meaningless because last time I checked these general dispositions don’t require an application or loyalty oath. Moreover, it avoids actually having to address and debate policies.
But I think I can help. Having interviewed Ryan numerous times and both attended and read his speeches (in which he spells out what he thinks) before he became the VP nominee, I am comfortable summarizing some basic Ryan views and how they contrast with the president.
President Obama thinks insensitivity causes violence by Muslim extremists. Ryan thinks Islamic extremism causes violence.
Obama thinks we can radically shrink the amount we spend on national security. Ryan doesn’t.
Obama thinks settlements and excessive closeness to Israel prevent a Palestinian -Israel peace deal. Ryan thinks it is Palestinians’ refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state and give up the right of return.
Obama thinks the Russian election deserved praise. Ryan thinks it was a travesty.
Obama thinks Russia and China at the United Nations should determine the response to Syria. Ryan thinks the United States should determine the response.
Obama thought that U.S. support would taint the Green Movement. Ryan thinks failing to support the Green Movement was a mistake of historic proportions.
Obama thinks foreign policy amounts to speeches and “engagement” to avoid conflict and make America more loved. (He believed his mere presence on the stage would soothe the Muslim world.) Ryan thinks foreign policy requires using the full array of soft and hard power to advance U.S. interests and values.
Obama thinks there is an international community worth being part of. Ryan thinks there is an alliance of democratic countries with common values and interests
Obama thinks the problem is our enemies misread us. Ryan thinks the problem is Obama misreads our enemies.
I don’t know what you call Obama’s brand of foreign policy (feckless?). I think Ryan’s can be characterized as a repudiation of the McGovern-Carter-Obama view that the real problem in the world is the cloddish Americans.
Whatever you think of Romney-Ryan, you’d think their ideological opponents could come up with a critique that is more than name-calling. But maybe not.