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Jewish World Review Oct. 27, 1999/17 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760

David Limbaugh

David Limbaugh
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The false charge of isolationism -- IN THE REAL WORLD of domestic politics, Republicans have a tougher road to hoe than Democrats. So, why do they always want to make it harder on themselves?

They begin the battle for ideas with several PR strikes against them, so they have to be just a little bit smarter when it comes to selling their ideas. The trouble is, they aren't.

Just think about it. Republicans are always depicted as mean-spirited ogres, and the liberal press does everything it can to further that image.

Instead of being properly portrayed as champions of liberty, Republicans are fraudulently accused of:

  • wanting to starve school children and deprive the elderly of their Medicare benefits;

  • condoning violence in society and schools by opposing gun control legislation;

  • promoting corruption in government by refusing to enact campaign finance reform measures;

  • being racists for opposing affirmative action;

  • being uncompassionate towards the poor because of welfare reform;

  • increasing the ranks of the homeless through their inhumane capitalistic policies;

  • being intolerant for espousing moral absolutes, traditional family values and failing to support gay rights legislation;

  • being in the pocket of big tobacco companies because they oppose government-initiated lawsuits designed to circumvent the proper legislative route;

  • sabotaging education and children because they oppose educational decisions being made by the federal government;

  • being insensitive and disrespectful towards women's rights because they oppose the murder of babies in the womb;

  • being greedy because they advocate lower marginal income tax rates and abolition of the Federal Estate Tax.

You'll notice that all of the above positions have to do with domestic policy. But not long ago, Republicans were considered ogres on foreign policy issues, too. During the Cold War, Republicans were generally chastised as warmongers and paranoids for their hard-line approach to Communism.

But with the Reagan-engineered victory in the Cold War and the Bush-led triumph in the Gulf War, Republicans have vindicated themselves and have pretty much owned foreign policy issues.

President Clinton took office with a draft-dodging cloud hanging over him and with little foreign policy mandate. Since taking office, he has gutted the military budget while expanding our overseas commitments. He has rarely met an instance of foreign unrest that he believed was inappropriate for U.S. intervention.

Clinton's foreign policy has been as aimless as it has been ambitious. In very few of his internationalist adventures has he bothered to articulate a justification for our intervention, least of all the vital security interests of the U.S.

Last week, Clinton's national security adviser, Sandy Berger, in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, expanded on a theme first propounded by President Clinton after the Senate rejected his nuclear test ban treaty. The theme: Republicans have fallen into a "new isolationism."

Well, the charge has been made. Are the Republicans good for it? Of course not, and Clinton knows better. But "isolationism" has a negative ring to it. It fits nicely into the portrait Clinton and liberals always try to paint of Republicans.

The intended implication is that Republican capitalists care only about themselves and have no compassion for the less fortunate in their own country, much less for those in other nations.

But the truth is that before Clinton called Republicans isolationists, Republicans were accusing each other of the same thing. As I have written before, certain Republicans have denigrated other Republicans who opposed the Kosovo intervention as Buchananites, meaning "isolationists."

All Republicans, both hawks and doves, believe that U.S. military intervention in foreign countries is appropriate only when our vital national interests are at stake, though they don't always agree to when that is.

Before the Clinton pejorative "isolationists" sticks, Republicans should try to forge a consensus as to what constitutes our vital national interests. Do we have an interest, for example, in Serbia but not in Rwanda? Why?

Those who refuse to ratify nuclear treaties that may result in our unilateral disarmament or that surrender decisions concerning our nuclear security to international bodies cannot fairly be called isolationists. They are patriots.

Republicans cannot prevent Bill Clinton from mischaracterizing their positions, but they don't need to aid and abet him. But unless they get about the business of defining themselves on foreign policy beyond this nuclear treaty, Clinton will define them by default.

JWR contributor David Limbaugh is an attorney practicing in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and a political analyst and commentator. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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10/20/99: Clinton's mini-meltdown
10/18/99: Senate GOP shows statesmanship
10/13/99: Senate must reject nuclear treaty
10/11/99: Bush bites feeding hand
10/06/99: Jesse accidentally opens door for Pat
10/04/99: Clinton and his media enablers
09/29/99: Reagan: Big-tent conservatism
09/27/99: The Clinton/Gore taint?
09/22/99: Have gun (tragedy), will travel
09/20/99: Hillary's blunders and bloopers
09/15/99: GOP must remain conservative
09/13/99:Time for Bush to take charge, please
09/10/99: Bush's education plan: Dubya confounds again
09/07/99: Pat, savior or spoiler?
09/02/99: Character doesn't matter?
08/30/99: Should we judge?
08/25/99: Dubyah's drug question: Not a hill to die on
08/23/99: Should Dubyah start buying soap ... for all that mud?
08/16/99: 'W' stands for 'winner'
08/11/99: The truth about tax cuts
08/09/99: Hillary: Threading the needle
08/04/99: What would you do?
08/02/99: No appeasement for China
07/30/99: Hate Crimes Bill: Cynical Symbolism
07/26/99: Itís the 'moderates', stupid
07/21/99: JFK Jr. and Diana: the pain of privilege
07/19/99: Smith, Bush and the GOP
07/14/99: GOP must be a party of ideas
07/12/99: Gore's gender gap
07/08/99: Clintonís faustian bargain: our justice
07/06/99: The key to Bush's $36 million
06/30/99: Gore: a soda in every fountain
06/28/99: 'Sacred wall' or religious barrier?
06/23/99: GOP must lead in foreign policy
06/21/99: Crumbs of compassion
06/16/99: Compassionate conservatism: face-lift or body transplant?
06/10/99: Victory in Kosovo? Now What?