Dropping foreign policy altogether

DROPPING FOREIGN POLICY ALTOGETHER…. There were, oddly enough, two televised Republican responses to President Obama’s State of the Union address, and for the most part, both Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Michele Bachman (R-Minn.) stuck to very similar, equally-ridiculous scripts.

But before last night’s GOP messages are forgotten entirely, it’s worth noting what the far-right lawmakers didn’t say.

It wasn’t long ago that Republicans considered national security and foreign policy as their greatest strengths, reality notwithstanding. When looking for the president’s political vulnerabilities, the GOP tended to focus on international affairs, and polls showed many Americans, for whatever reason, siding with Republicans on counter-terrorism.

But last night, after Obama spoke at some length about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. troops, and the ongoing terror threat, the Republican responses literally ignored the subject altogether.

Here’s a transcript of Ryan’s remarks, and here’s Bachmann’s. Neither mentioned national security or foreign policy in any way. The closest Ryan came to the issue was when he told viewers:

“We believe government’s role is both vital and limited — to defend the nation from attack and provide for the common defense.”

While the closest Bachmann came was this gem:

“Just the creation of this nation itself was a miracle. Who can say that we won’t see a miracle again? The perilous battle that was fought during World War II in the Pacific at Iwo Jima was a battle against all odds, and yet this picture immortalizes the victory of young GIs over the incursion against the Japanese. These six young men raising the flag came to symbolize all of America coming together to beat back a totalitarian aggressor.”

Not a word about the terrorist threat, not a word about U.S. troops, not a word about two ongoing foreign wars. Hell, I thought the least these two could do was throw around some cheap rhetoric about Gitmo and those rascally Democrats intending to lock up criminals on American soil.

But, no, Bachmann and Ryan just couldn’t be bothered.

It was hard to predict the point at which Republicans stopped engaging in a debate with the White House over international affairs, effectively ceding foreign policy to the president altogether, but here we are.

Update: The Washington Post‘s Jennifer Rubin complained today that other nations might “notice” that the president “isn’t into foreign policy.” She added that “those of us who do care about and focus on America’s role in the world” were “dismayed by the lackadasical attitude, verging on indifference, that Obama displayed” last night.

Maybe Rubin was watching the wrong channel. Obama not only talked about the wars, the terror threat, Sudan, and Tunisia, but also he devoted considerable time to exploring America’s place in the world and how his agenda ties into a competitive global marketplace. It was Rubin’s Republican allies who blew off the subject entirely — a detail her criticism managed to somehow overlook.