As Congress wrestles with whether to punish Syria, the question has scrambled what it traditionally means to be a Democrat or Republican on foreign policy, as lawmakers forge unlikely — and sometimes awkward — alliances.
There was a time when, generally speaking, many Republicans wanted to change hearts and minds, overthrow dictators, and spread democracy. Similarly, many Democrats wanted to avoid hostilities where U.S. interests are tangential and seek broad international consensus before committing armed forces.
Today, those lines are far less distinct.
Exhibit A presented itself this week when President Obama’s congressional foils, House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, announced their support for the president’s call for a military strike against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
Adding further contrast, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, after a meeting with congressional colleagues at the White House this week, said he wanted more information on the president’s plan. (An aide to McConnell said he could not provide an update on the Kentucky Republican’s position, even after three Republicans voted with the Democratic majority in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to advance a resolution authorizing the use of force to the floor.)
Republican Reps. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Mike Pompeo of Kansas published an op-ed in The Washington Post supportive of the administration’s proposal but also thoroughly skeptical of the president.
“We understand why many of our GOP colleagues are undecided about a use-of-force resolution. Indeed, we have reservations about the president’s implied course of military action,” the congressmen wrote. “Yet Congress has its own constitutional duty to defend U.S. interests, and those interests shouldn’t be neglected simply because we have doubts about Obama.”
Although the two lawmakers back the strike, it is far from certain that a House GOP Conference whose default position is to block Obama will get on board. In a sign of just how toxic it is for Republicans to back the president, Boehner said he would not whip an authorization vote, saying it was the White House’s job.
Both Pompeo and Cotton, who is running for the Senate against conservative Democratic incumbent Mark Pryor in 2014, hold tea-party influenced views on social and fiscal issues but are a world away from fellow tea-party conservatives like Sen Rand Paul, R-Ky., who disagrees with the administration’s assessment that a strike would help secure allies in the region. Paul also represents a constitutionalist wing in his party that puts him particularly at odds with hawkish Republicans. For instance, Paul on Wednesday offered an amendment to the Senate’s resolution in committee — it was defeated — that would have underscored Congress’s power to declare war.
“It should be made explicit that the Constitution invested the power to go to war in Congress,” Paul said.
Of course, the contrast is not just seen among Republicans. Democrats are also divided. At Wednesday’s Senate Foreign Relations hearing, Sens. Tom Udall of New Mexico and Chris Murphy of Connecticut voted against their party to send a resolution authorizing force to the Senate floor.
“I know none of us want to be involved in a long-term conflict in Syria,” Murphy said. “I worry that the resolution and authorization today would make it difficult for us to avoid that reality.”
Some Democrats are torn between loyalty to Obama and a philosophical objection to the use of force to meet the challenges in Syria. At Wednesday’s House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Democratic lawmakers raised questions about America’s role in ousting Assad.
“The situation in Syria is that of a national civil war, an ethnic and sectarian conflict, that America cannot solve and should not try to,” said Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y.
Indeed, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is trying to sort out her members’ positions. “Please offer further suggestions or ideas you may have as to what you can support, so I can convey your concerns to the White House,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to her colleagues.
Practically speaking, aides and political-science experts say they expect the Senate will take up the resolution, but the question is unclear in the House.
The coalition of Republicans and Democrats that would be needed to send the resolution to the president’s desk amounts to a vote-counter’s nightmare, suggests Rutgers political-science professor Ross Baker.
“The problem the president faces in the House is not a problem of adding votes, but rather he confronts a subtraction problem: subtract the libertarian/tea-party people in the right wing of the Republican Conference and the Code Pink/MoveOn faction of the Democratic caucus and you barely have enough persuadables to reach 218,” Baker said.
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”