So much for the water’s edge

SO MUCH FOR THE WATER’S EDGE…. Two weeks ago, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) traveled to Israel to criticize the Obama administration and undermine U.S. foreign policy. As The Hill noted at the time, “Cantor’s comments leave the high-ranking Republican open to Democratic criticism for criticizing the president while on foreign soil.”

Since Cantor faced no pushback whatsoever, Mike Huckabee felt comfortable doing the exact same thing yesterday, traveling to Israel to condemn the U.S. approach in Israel. Huckabee’s traveling partner, a state lawmaker from New York, said, “Obama policy in Jerusalem … has just been a horror.”

Now, there’s obviously room for debate when it comes to U.S. foreign policy. I think Obama’s right; conservative Republicans like Huckabee and Cantor think he’s wrong. Fine. The larger point, however, is that the right is supposed to abhor American politicians criticizing the United States on foreign soil.

Glenn Greenwald takes a stroll down memory lane.

Here’s what happened in 2006 when Al Gore gave a speech at a conference in Saudi Arabia in which he criticized Bush policies towards the Muslim world — as summarized by The New York Times‘ Chris Sullentrop:

“As House Democrats David Bonior and Jim McDermott may recall from their trip to Baghdad on the eve of the Iraq war, nothing sets conservative opinionmongers on edge like a speech made by a Democrat on foreign soil. Al Gore traveled to Saudi Arabia last week, and in a speech there on Sunday he criticized ‘abuses’ committed by the U.S. government against Arabs after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. A burst of flabbergasted conservative blogging followed the Associated Press dispatch about the speech, with the most clever remark coming from Mark Steyn, who called the former vice president ‘Sheikh al-Gore.’ The editorial page of Investor’s Business Daily accused Gore of ‘supreme disloyalty to his country’. . . .”

TigerHawk does the best job of explaining why speeches like this get some people so worked up:

“There is simply no defense for what Gore has done here, for he is deliberately undermining the United States during a time of war, in a part of the world crucial to our success in that war, in front of an audience that does not vote in American elections. Gore’s speech is both destructive and disloyal, not because of its content — which is as silly as it is subversive — but because of its location and its intended audience.”

The Wall St. Journal‘s James Taranto accused Gore of “denouncing his own government on foreign soil” and quoted the above accusation of “disloyality.” Commentary was abundant all but accusing Gore of treason for criticizing the U.S. in a foreign land.

Put aside the question of whether you believe the president is right or wrong about the Israeli settlement issue, because in this case, that’s a secondary question.

The central issue here is whether elected officials should travel abroad to criticize and undermine the foreign policy of the American government. If Huckabee, Cantor, and their pals want to trash the U.S. approach on Fox News, from the floor of the House, or in a press release, that’s merely annoying. But these are the exact same conservatives who said it was treasonous for an American to go to foreign soil and work against the sitting president.

It’s almost as if there are two separate standards in place.