That sort of noninterventionist position contributed to the defeat of Rep. Mick Mulvane’s (R., S.C.) bid to lead the Republican Study Committee, a 173-member bloc of the party’s most conservative members.RSC elected Rep. Bill Flores (R., Texas) as chairman on Tuesday. He took 84 votes to Mulvane’s 57 in the second round of voting. . . .Another of its signatories, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R., Texas) was elected to succeed McKeon as Armed Services Chairman on Tuesday, handing another victory to RSC’s national defense contingent. . . . The Republican Party’s libertarian wing suffered another defeat on those issues with the election of Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.) as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Nunes has defended National Security Agency surveillance programs that have come under fire from civil libertarians since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden stole and leaked classified documents about those programs last year.
Certainly, some of the sentiment stems from total frustration with the White House. At an extraordinary session at the Reagan National Defense Forum at the Reagan library in California on Saturday, former defense secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and former national security adviser Stephen Hadley took turns slamming the administration while Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, one of the panelists, squirmed in his seat.
In a bipartisan bashing, the former officials and McCain denounced the White House for micromanaging military operations (while praising Bush 41 and Bush 43 for refraining from doing so), stupidly telling the enemy what we will not do, abandoning the people of Ukraine by refusing to give them weapons to defend themselves and refusing to explain on a daily basis why we are fighting, how we are doing it and what we are trying to accomplish. Panetta warned that the president has “to be able to use every possible option on the table … You never tell the enemy what the hell you’re going to do!” He lectured the president in absentia that he takes an oath to defend this country and “if you are going to do it, you have to be wise and flexible enough” to use all available tools. Gates was even harsher, excoriating Obama for not matching his military authorization with his rhetoric. Without Special Operations forces, embedded trainers and advisers and forward air spotters we cannot defeat the Islamic State, he said. “It cannot be done.” And to the applause of the crowd and some panelists he declared, “The president of the United States cannot make a threat, cannot draw a red line and not fulfill, not carry it out … The credibility of the entire country is on the line, and it sends a powerful message to ISIS or anybody else when we don’t follow through on threats.”
In short, it is impossible to be taken seriously on national security as a Republican these days without renouncing chapter and verse the folly of the administration and reiterating the dangers of phony red lines, an insufficient strategy against the Islamic State and the inanity of the defense sequester cuts. Watching Panetta, Gates, Hadley and McCain, one could see a seasoned group of advisers whom any conservative seeking the presidency should consult and perhaps re-employ in national security posts. But if you have run around echoing Obama on “no boots on the ground,” the war-weariness of America, erasure of Syria’s red line and paranoid rationales for curtailing vital intelligence-gathering and defense spending, you should beware. The most informed, numerous and influential members of the party will eviscerate your presidential aspirations. And they should. Enough is enough. The country cannot endure another president this bad — or worse — when it comes to keeping us safe and secure.