Repub­li­cans can­di­dates tout hawk­ish cre­den­tials in lead-up to Elec­tion Day

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

Repub­li­cans are putting Pres­i­dent Obama’s for­eign pol­icy on the bal­lot this year, and with the GOP poised to make big gains, in­clud­ing pos­si­bly cap­tur­ing con­trol of the Se­nate, the White House will see more con­straints on its poli­cies to­ward Ukraine, Iran and the Is­lamic State ter­ror­ists.

Some an­a­lysts pre­dict a GOP-led Se­nate would join the House in a joint com­mit­tee to in­ves­ti­gate the 2012 Beng­hazi ter­ror­ist at­tack. Votes to beef up mil­i­tary spend­ing and a com­pre­hen­sive de­bate over pol­icy to­ward Syria and the Is­lamic State are also likely in the up­per cham­ber.

But the most likely place for Mr. Obama to face pres­sure is over Iran, where Democrats and Repub­li­cans have pushed for votes on tougher sanc­tions, coun­ter­ing the pres­i­dent’s own move to try to strike an in­ter­na­tional deal on Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram. Se­nate Majority Leader Harry Reid has avoided hold­ing a vote that could po­ten­tially em­bar­rass Mr. Obama, but if the GOP con­trols the cham­ber, such a vote is likely, a se­nior Repub­li­can aide said.

Clif­ford D. May, pres­i­dent of the Foun­da­tion for De­fense of Democ­ra­cies, agreed that’s a likely out­come of a shift in power.

“Congress does not want an Iran deal that gives the regime both sanc­tions re­lief and leaves it a nu­clear thresh­old power,” said Mr. May, who writes a reg­u­lar col­umn for The Wash­ing­ton Times. “But it’s ap­par­ent that Pres­i­dent Obama does not plan to ask for con­gres­sional ap­proval for what­ever agree­ment he con­cludes with Iran’s rulers over their nu­clear weapons pro­gram.”

Much of the fo­cus on in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions would be on Sen. Bob Corker, the cur­rent rank­ing Repub­li­can on the For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee. Mr. Corker de­clined to com­ment for this story.

On the cam­paign trail, Repub­li­cans seek­ing elec­tion this year have cast the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion as clue­less on for­eign pol­icy, ham­mer­ing him for em­brac­ing de­fense cuts, ac­cus­ing him of com­pla­cency in the face of the Is­lamic State and in­com­pe­tency in re­spond­ing to the Ebola out­break.

Polls show vot­ers are los­ing con­fi­dence in the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ap­proach to global af­fairs.

An As­so­ci­ated Press-GFK survey re­leased this week found that likely vot­ers, by a 22 per­cent­age point mar­gin, trust Repub­li­cans more than Democrats to pro­tect the coun­try. It also showed that 60 per­cent dis­ap­prove of the way that Mr. Obama is han­dling the U.S. role in world af­fairs, and 58 per­cent dis­ap­prove of the way he is han­dling the threat posed by Is­lamic State ter­ror­ists.

The GOP is field­ing sev­eral mil­i­tary vet­er­ans in key races — Rep. Tom Cot­ton in Arkansas, Dan Sul­li­van in Alaska and state Sen. Joni Ernst in Iowa — who are well po­si­tioned to win Demo­crat-held seats, and who an­a­lyst pre­dict will likely line up with de­fense hawks like Sen. John McCain of Ari­zona and Lind­sey Gra­ham of South Carolina.

“When you get a Tom Cot­ton tak­ing a re­ally hard-line stand on ISIS but also say­ing Mex­i­can drug lords are in ca­hoots with ter­ror­ists who want to come into Arkansas — that sug­gests we are not deal­ing with an iso­la­tion­ist,” said Nor­man J. Ornstein of the Amer­i­can En­ter­prise In­sti­tute, us­ing an acro­nym for the ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion. “Most of them will come in and be more in­clined to the McCain view of the world than the [Ken­tucky Sen.] Rand Paul view of the world.”

Mr. Ornstein said the good news for Mr. Obama is that he could have an eas­ier time pass­ing trade agree­ments.

Christo­pher A. Preble, vice pres­i­dent for de­fense and for­eign pol­icy stud­ies at the Cato In­sti­tute, a lib­er­tar­ian-lean­ing think tank, said he is sur­prised that Repub­li­cans are push­ing for­eign pol­icy in Se­nate races be­cause “it is not their strong suit.”

“The GOP is still closely as­so­ci­ated with the Iraq war, and that war re­mains very un­pop­u­lar — even more so, if that’s pos­si­ble — given that the cen­tral ob­ject of the so-called ‘surge’ of build­ing a durable Iraqi state that could de­fend it­self and rep­re­sent the in­ter­est of the Iraqi peo­ple ob­vi­ously never ma­te­ri­al­ized,” he said.

K.T. McFar­land, who served as deputy as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of de­fense for pub­lic af­fairs un­der Pres­i­dent Rea­gan, said Repub­li­cans also have some dif­fer­ences of their own to sort out, in­clud­ing over mil­i­tary spend­ing, the use of force in global hot spots and bal­anc­ing pro­tect­ing civil lib­er­ties with na­tional se­cu­rity needs.

“To a cer­tain ex­tent th­ese are the same ar­gu­ments we saw in the late 1970s be­tween fis­cal hawks and na­tional se­cu­rity hawks,” Mrs. McFar­land said. “But this time the dis­cus­sion is likely to be more im­por­tant. In [the] late 1970s the only threat we had was from [the] USSR. To­day it is from rad­i­cal ji­had, ter­ror­ists, cy­ber, eco­nomic [and the] Chi­nese and Rus­sian ex­pan­sion.”

She said she ex­pects the de­bate be­tween what’s be­come known as the McCain wing of the party and the Rand Paul side will in­ten­sify as




Carper the GOP be­gins to search for a 2016 pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee. “There are real dif­fer­ences be­tween se­ri­ous peo­ple,” she said.

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