Grand old foreign policy

2013-07-31 10:33
Liz Cheney (File, AP)

Liz Cheney (File, AP)

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Chicago - The next election could mark a major change in direction for Republican foreign policy, if current events are anything to go by.

When Liz Cheney, daughter of the infamous former Vice President Dick, decided a few weeks ago that she was going to run for the Wyoming seat in the US Senate that is up for grabs in the 2014 elections and is currently occupied by the very popular Republican Michael Enzi, there immediately began a side fracas.

Rand Paul, part-conservative, part-libertarian Senator from Kentucky weighed in on her chances: "When I heard Liz Cheney was running for Senate I wondered if she was running in her home state of Virginia," Paul said, mocking Cheney's time spent in Washington, DC as part of the USA's political elite: A criticism that is a potent and effective political charge (Mitt Romney tried this at times against Barack Obama in the lead up to the election last year).

Why, you may ask, is a Senator from Kentucky remarking about a woman - who is likely to lose the primary to represent her party in the elections next year anyway - when he has no real personal stake in the race? Well, he does, really. In the Republican primary for Paul's 2010 Senate run, Dick Cheney endorsed his opponent (a chap called Trey Grayson), saying, "I have looked at the records of both candidates in the race, and it is clear to me that Trey Grayson is right on the issues that matter - both on fiscal responsibility and on national security."

The real focus for Cheney was Paul's "national security" ideas: Paul is a libertarian anti-interventionist (in more cases than the US would commonly suggest) who believes strongly in dissolving the deluge of security programmes set up during the Bush-Cheney era, such as the indiscriminate spying operation by the National Security Agency recently uncovered by The Guardian, the massive overreach of the Patriot Act, unnecessary wars and influence peddling where it is unwelcome or costly, and elements of the drone programme (especially its use within US borders, or against US citizens) - largely in the name of civil rights. Paul also wishes to slash the defence budget - anathema to anything Cheney Senior has ever suggested, and Cheney Junior is likely to ever suggest.

Now, it is unlikely that this debate can be fully had between Rand Paul and the Cheneys as it won’t really have all that much impact on decisive politics: Them folks can all take jabs at each other, but none of them are likely to feel anything too sensitively.

This is just the beginning

That's about to change, however. Although it is far too early to delve into 2016, recent polling (which, to be fair, is all over the place) shows that Rand Paul and popular New Jersey Governor Chris Christie are two of probably five candidates who have anything resembling decent name-recognition at the moment (with the others being Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush).

Paul and Christie have now started taking pops at each other over the government's attitude toward fighting terrorism, with Paul holding his ground on how he believes the government should be reined in according to the Constitution, while Christie bashed libertarians last week, mentioning Paul specifically, and added, "These esoteric, intellectual debates [about government surveillance, NSA etc] — I want them to come to New Jersey and sit across from the widows and the orphans and have that conversation. And they won't, because that's a much tougher conversation to have."
Paul wasn't awed, and fired back on Friday through a statement and social media, and on Monday on Fox News. Paul tweeted on Friday, "Christie worries about the dangers of freedom. I worry about the danger of losing that freedom. Spying without warrants is unconstitutional," and followed up on Monday saying, "It's really, I think, kind of sad and cheap that [Christie] would use the cloak of 9/11 victims and say, 'I’m the only one who cares about these victims'. Hogwash."
This argument between arguably the two of the most prominent Republicans in the country follows a high-profile near miss in the House of Representatives last week, where a vote was taken on an amendment to a defence spending bill, spearheaded by libertarian Justin Amash, to defund the NSA's spying programme on Americans who are not suspected of anything. While it was assumed the vote would come down on the side of the establishment government policy, which it did, the amendment was only voted down by twelve votes (205 to 217), meaning had six representatives voted the other way, it could have turned out very differently. It was also a bizarre vote, with both parties split evenly:  Democrats voted for the amendment 111-83, while Republicans were 94-134 against it.

National Security is going to be contested hotly in the USA's upcoming future, not only among liberals and conservatives, or anti-interventionists and hawks, but by everyone. Liz Cheney, Rand Paul and Chris Christie are merely the beginning. Just wait until election season.

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