One of the most interesting results of Super Tuesday is that the anti-establishment candidate in the Republican race is soaring, Donald Trump, while the anti-establishment candidate on the Dem side is just sputtering along, Bernie Sanders. And while politics is a great mystery, one likely reason for Trump’s success is that he has taken on the establishment foreign policy in the Republican Party– neoconservatism, which gave us the Iraq war– while Sanders has largely laid off the establishment foreign policy in the Democratic Party, liberal interventionism, which also gave us the Iraq tragedy.
Trump’s critique has put him at war with the neoconservatives. Neoconservative godfather Bill Kristol is stunned that Trump may actually capture the support of Republican establishment figures. Lately he compared Trump to Hitler.
What’s depressing is how many conservatives are behaving like Austria.
Kristol used another Hitler metaphor, “appeasement,” in a piece bewailing Trump’s effect on the party:
it’s worth fighting to save a respectable political party, an admirable political movement, and a great country from a charlatan and a demagogue. There’s nothing inspiring about the appeasement of Donald Trump.
In his quest to take up George W. Bush’s mantle, Rubio has arrayed a fleet of neoconservative funders, ranging from pro-Israel billionaire Paul Singer to Norman Braman, a billionaire auto dealer who funds Israeli settlements in the West Bank. His list of advisers is like a rolodex of Iraq War backers, ranging from Bush administration alumni Elliot Abrams and Stephen Hadley, to [Hillary Clinton supporter Robert] Kagan and serial war propagandist Bill Kristol.
But Rubio had a less-than-impressive night last night; and Scott McConnell at the American Conservative says that we may be witnessing an realignment, in which the neocons are purged from the Republican Party and they cross the aisle to the Dems in order to maintain their outsized influence.
The escalation of personal rhetoric has meant that there is now no chance that Rubio would be selected as Trump veep, which would be one way in which neoconservatives could enter the foreign-policy apparatus of the next administration. It has long been clear that Rubio represented the neoconservatives’ best chance for restoration: his campaign was overlaid with a kind of neocon signaling, from the core “New American Century” slogan (evocative of PNAC) to the prominence of certain advisors, to the hawkish positions on every conceivable foreign policy issue, to the the lockstep adherence to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s positions…
If… the neoconservatives continue their migration towards Hillary, the end result will a race in which the Republican candidate is running to the left of the Democratic candidate, at least in terms of the social base of his coalition and on foreign policy. This would amount to a major realignment in American politics, certainly one more dramatic than anything we’ve seen in the postwar era.
Some say that the Rubio-Trump war has destroyed the Republican Party. Ben Sasse, Nebraska Senator, announced that he will go for a third party candidate:
If Donald Trump becomes the Republican nominee, my expectation is that I will look for some third candidate
The neoconservatives surely brought this destruction on the party by imposing a hawkish foreign policy on the Republican establishment. Kristol once bragged that he had purged the James Baker-Brent Scowcroft Realists from the party in the 1990s, but the lesson of Trump’s rise is that the Republican establishment then abandoned a truly conservative principle, don’t intervene; and GOP voters don’t like regime change. One response on twitter to Kristol:
Trump is karma coming back to kick neocons in the ass for the Iraq debacle
McConnell points out that the neoconservative rage at Chris Christie for backing Trump and thereby forgetting all his foreign policy coaching echoes the neocon exasperation at George W. Bush for forgetting some of his lines in his second term. “[T]he big shock to me has been that although the president said the words, he just did not absorb the ideas,” his former speechwriter David Frum wrote.
Many on the right are jubilant over the neoconservative panic. At antiwar.com, Justin Raimondo declares that Trump has killed neoconservatism inside the Republican Party and some day he might even indict neocons for war crimes. Raimondo ascribes Trump’s rise to a thoughtful populist movement. Even the evangelical Christians who are supposed to love Israel are going for Trump because they don’t like regime change.
Both Rubio and Cruz are attacking Trump for his declaration that he would be “evenhanded” when it comes to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The neoconservative orthodoxy that insists on unconditional support for Israeli actions, no matter how vicious and cruel — and in spite of how inimical it is to American interests – is being successfully challenged by Trump. What has everyone surprised is that evangelical voters, who were supposed to be in Cruz’s camp, have been won over by Trump – and this in spite of his supposedly “anti-Israel” stance…
What really horrifies them, however, is Trump’s sharp critique of the Iraq war, which he calls “a complete disaster,” and his condemnation of George W. Bush’s legacy. He dared not only to question the dogma that “Bush kept us safe,” but he also targeted the neocons who surrounded him:
“They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction and there were none. And they knew there were none. There were no weapons of mass destruction.”
This is why the neocons are determined to destroy Trump. After all, if The Donald says he’s ready to prosecute Hillary over her emails, why wouldn’t he go after the neocons for lying us into war – for causing the death of many thousands under false pretenses? Trump can be vindictive – and this is one area where one can only hope that he lives up to his reputation.
Raimondo says that an Emergency Committee for Israel ad aimed at Trump because he loves dictators may only have driven voters to support Trump, because it reminds them that neoconservatives supported regime change in Iraq and in Syria and want another cold war with Russia. Here’s that ad.
Again, the chief contrast here is to the Democratic side.
Bernie Sanders opposed Hillary Clinton’s Iraq war vote energetically, but he has never tried to animate the base by extending his critique by stating, she’s never seen a regime change she didn’t like. While Trump has directly taken on the neoconservative donor base of the Republican establishment and called out Sheldon Adelson, Sanders has never that I’m aware of called out Adelson’s billionaire Democratic double, Haim Saban, who has committed Hillary Clinton to support Israel. Sanders obviously feels safe slamming Clinton for her friendship with 70s bad-guy Henry Kissinger; but he has never gone after her friendship with the universally-despised Benjamin Netanyahu. That would be one way to try and rally African-American support, but Sanders hasn’t gone there yet. Maybe he will take some anti-establishment cues from Donald Trump.