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KRAUTHAMMER: How fractured is the GOP?

Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer

WASHINGTON — A combination of early presidential maneuvering and internal policy debate is feeding yet another iteration of that media perennial: the great Republican crackup. This time it’s tea party insurgents versus get-along establishment fogies fighting principally over two things: (a) national security and (b) Obamacare.

National security

Gov. Chris Christie recently challenged Sen. Rand Paul over his opposition to the National Security Agency metadata program. Paul has also tangled with Sen. John McCain and other internationalists over drone warfare, democracy promotion and, more generally, intervention abroad.

So what else is new? The return of the most venerable strain of conservative foreign policy — isolationism — was utterly predictable. GOP isolationists dominated until Pearl Harbor and then acquiesced to an activist internationalism during the Cold War because of a fierce detestation of communism.

With communism gone, the conservative coalition should have fractured long ago. This was delayed by 9/11 and the rise of radical Islam. But now, 12 years into that era — after Afghanistan and Iraq, after drone wars and the NSA revelations — the natural tension between isolationist and internationalist tendencies has resurfaced.

In fact, both parties are internally split on domestic surveillance, as reflected in the very close recent House vote on curbing the NSA. This is not civil war. It’s a healthy debate that helps recalibrate the delicate line between safety and security as conditions (threat level and surveillance technology, for example) change.

The more fundamental GOP divide is over foreign aid and other manifestations of our role as the world’s leading power. The Paulites, pining for the splendid isolation of the 19th century, want to leave the world alone on the assumption that it will then leave us alone.

Which rests on the further assumption that international stability — open sea lanes, free commerce, relative tranquility — come naturally, like the air we breathe. If only that were true. Unfortunately, stability is not a matter of grace. It comes about only by Great Power exertion.

In the 19th century, that meant the British navy, behind whose protection America thrived. Today, alas, Britannia rules no waves. World order is maintained by American power and American will. Take that away and you don’t get tranquility. You get chaos.

That’s the Christie/McCain position. They figure that America doesn’t need two parties of retreat. Paul’s views, more measured and moderate than his fringy father’s, are still in the minority among conservatives, but gathering strength. Which is why Christie’s stroke — defending and thus seizing the party’s more traditional internationalist consensus — was a signal moment in the run-up to the 2016 campaign. The battle lines are drawn.

Obamacare

The other battle is about defunding Obamacare. Led by Sens. Mike Lee and Ted Cruz, the GOP insurgents are threatening to shut down the government on Oct. 1 if the stopgap funding bill contains money for Obamacare.

This is nuts. The president will never sign a bill defunding the singular achievement of his presidency. Especially when he has control of the Senate. Especially when, though a narrow majority (51 percent) of Americans disapprove of Obamacare, only 36 percent favor repeal. President Obama so knows he’ll win any shutdown showdown that he’s practically goading the Republicans into trying.

Never make a threat on which you are not prepared to deliver. Every fiscal showdown has redounded against the Republicans. The first, in 1995, effectively marked the end of the Gingrich revolution. The latest, last December, led to a last-minute Republican cave that humiliated the GOP and did nothing to stop the tax hike it so strongly opposed.

Those who fancy themselves tea party patriots fighting a sold-out cocktail-swilling establishment are demanding yet another cliff dive as a show of principle and manliness.

But there’s no principle at stake here. This is about tactics. If I thought this would work, I would support it. But I don’t fancy suicide. It has a tendency to be fatal.

As for manliness, the real question here is sanity. Nothing could better revive the fortunes of a failing, flailing, fading Democratic administration than a government shutdown where the president is portrayed as standing up to the GOP on honoring our debts and paying our soldiers in the field.

How many times must we learn the lesson? You can’t govern from one house of Congress. You need to win back the Senate and then the presidency. Shutting down the government is the worst possible way to get there. Indeed, it’s Obama’s fondest hope for a Democratic revival.

Charles Krauthammer is a syndicated columnist for the Washington Post. Email him at letters@charleskrauthammer.com.

Comments

Elbonian 1 year, 1 month ago

As someone who grew up Republican, I'm appalled at the "my way or the highway" attitude of the now party of the greedy, by the greedy and for the greedy. While I was never in the Rockefeller wing of the Republican Party, it was a mistake to impose ideological orthodoxy rather than sticking with Reagan's 11th commandment. Now, even my idol, Barry Goldwater, could not be a modern Republican as he was pro-choice and pro-gay-rights. If Rand Paul is truly ready to saw off the last vestiges of moderation, then the Republican Party is doomed to minority status, with only gerrymandering and similar electoral tricks left for them to keep power here in the USA.

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notblind 1 year, 1 month ago

Funny how well the [R]s are doing at the state level. Ever notice how the really messed up areas of the country have a long history of [D] leadership ?

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Why_not 1 year, 1 month ago

I suppose that might explain why the states with that use the most tax dollars are red states.

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notblind 1 year, 1 month ago

Link ??? Yeah right.....

Detroit anyone ? Chicago ?????? Any city in California ???????????

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Haughton 1 year, 1 month ago

A blog is an OPINION piece.

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notblind 1 year, 1 month ago

I do now see where you get your juvenile tone.

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Haughton 1 year, 1 month ago

Really? Addicting Info? That is hysterical.

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Haughton 1 year, 1 month ago

If you were to scroll down, this POLITIFACT actually debunks your theory. OUCH!

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Haughton 1 year, 1 month ago

This is a liberal BLOG, aka OPINION piece.

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Haughton 1 year, 1 month ago

The Economist articles are editorial (aka opinion) pieces as well. John Micklethwait, the editor, writes this BLOG.

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Why_not 1 year, 1 month ago

My comment was concerning states.....not rural cities and counties. Apples and oranges my friend.........facts are facts. Red states take more federal tax dollars.

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FordGalaxy 1 year, 1 month ago

why_not: You realize that red states are made up of cities and counties, right?


It sounds like you really want to point an accusatory finger at red states for what they take in as far as tax dollars are concerned, but you don't want to give credit to the reasons behind that money being taken in.

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Why_not 1 year, 1 month ago

In the initial comment by notblind, he referred to "states". My replies simply did the same.

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Haughton 1 year, 1 month ago

OPINION vs Fact. Do you even know the difference?

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Haughton 1 year, 1 month ago

Yet another BLOG (aka opinion piece). Why_not, might I suggest you actually READ the links you are posting.

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news2me 1 year, 1 month ago

NO. This is the life of Why_not! It sits around waiting for Kevin to post something so it can feel the slightest amount of superiority and dominance in life. Obviously it found something to fill the void when Kevin is doing normal stuff. I can just see it now googling a few key words any reporting whatever pops up. Why_not Troll! Ha ha ha ha!!!

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kevin 1 year, 1 month ago

Liberals never admit mistakes. They have to make sure they keep telling their constituents how they are being better "paid for" under their control. I do not see many poor donkeys in Washington do you? The two philosophies are way apart and will never agree on anything. Do better just praying for Liberals to stop stealing from its citizens for their own benefit.

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Why_not 1 year, 1 month ago

Looks like I stirred things up and now there are conservatives crawling out from under rocks everywhere. :-)

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news2me 1 year, 1 month ago

Ha ha ha ha !!! You are the one that lives under a rock all the time, and under the bridge like a troll here! You don't have the ability to stir things up, since you never have anything valuable to contribute to a discussion. Just like one of the posters stated above, you didn't bother to read one thing you linked to --- and reaffirmed with everyone what I have known all along.

Thanks for the morning laugh. The thought of you sitting around posting garbage, day and night, because you have NO life other than Internet troll is hysterical!

Ha ha ha ha !!!!!!! :- )

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Why_not 1 year, 1 month ago

It's a shame that anytime someone posts views that are contrary to yours, you automatically resort to vile name-calling and slurs. I suppose people like you need that to boost your self esteem and overcome insecurities. If this is true then just continue with your garbage because it doesn't bother me one bit.

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news2me 1 year, 1 month ago

Why_not, you don't have any "views" except the one that is behind kevin sniffing and trolling on a constant basis. NO ONE likes a brown nosing troll. All we have to do is look at your comment history and follow the troll train of nothingness! When I do feel the need to come here and catch up, I can ALWAYS find YOU doing the same exact thing - adding aboslutely NOTHING to any discussion.

Nice try turning YOUR problems on me, but EVERYONE that contributes here knows that YOU are THE problem. Day and night, YOU troll this site and JUST admitted that YOU are THE trouble maker: "Looks like I stirred things up".

This is ALL about YOU - Why_not! That is the way YOU want it! YOU have taken yet another article and mucked it up to get attention for Why_not. YOU did that yesterday posting a bunch of crap well before I decided to rub YOUR nose in it! YOU obviously LOVE the negative attention I am giving YOU so eat it up! =)

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news2me 1 year, 1 month ago

Pay attention to Why_not everyone!

Why_not this entire board is dedicated to YOU.

It's all about YOU - Why_not !!!!


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news2me 1 year, 1 month ago

...... YOU are welcome, Troll !! :)

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Why_not 1 year, 1 month ago

Troll? And what is it that you think you are doing? The question in the headline of this article is answered by people like you....it's your way or no way. Have a good day. :-)

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news2me 1 year, 1 month ago

Hahahaha!!! I am on Why_not Troll Patrol today!

The GOP is just fine, it's the liberals like you that contribute nothing (see YOUR links above - hahahaha!!!) and cry fake tears when YOU are caught! Your same old whining, different day talking points are all over the Internet and YOU can't even pick a decent counter to contribute to the debate of the day! Hahahaha! YOU are a perfect example of the liberal one track mind! It's all about YOU and YOUR entitlements!

Have a good day yourself, looks like you don't have too many! =(

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Why_not 1 year, 1 month ago

Your mindless jabber doesn't affect me at all......just another angry conservative...haha

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news2me 1 year, 1 month ago

Hahahaha!!! It most certainly does affect YOU because you keep responding. My posts are spot on regarding YOUR pathetic existence, and YOU are upset that I won't let YOU forget what a liberal loser YOU are! I can just picture you now, sitting by yourself all day and night long, trying to come up with something to post that makes YOU appear even slightly intelligent. EPIC FAILURE 24/7!! Hahahahaha!!!

How can I be angry at challenging a loser like YOU. This is hysterical at YOUR expense!

Hahahahahahaha!!! Hahahahahaha!!! Hahahahahaha!!!

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Haughton 1 year, 1 month ago

Mr. Krauthammer,

Your first paragraph is redundant and is starting to become as predictable as the Blame Bush media filler we have all come to know all too well. Every time President BHO finds trouble, the media comes out with something in an attempt to take American minds off his horrible leadership. Putting a big spotlight on the GOP is not working to take our minds off the downfall of this country with BHO leading the way.

My guess is adding you here as an opinion editorial is a desperate attempt at more media mind games. US citizens are opening their eyes to the historical failure of the BHO administration. Even people that voted for BHO are being forced to admit the truth of the matter.

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