Criticizing for the sake of criticism

CRITICIZING FOR THE SAKE OF CRITICISM…. The Obama administration’s policy towards Egypt of late can probably be summed up with “cautious nudging.” U.S. officials, of course, don’t know how the recent uprising will shake out, but with varying degrees of subtlety, they’ve pointed Mubarak towards the door, while planning for his departure.

President Obama’s handling of the crisis has earned some plaudits from high-profile foreign policy observers like Marc Lynch and Aaron David Miller, but what’s been even more interesting is the deference the White House has received from congressional Republicans.

Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), the chairwoman of the House subcommittee in charge of foreign aid, told CNN yesterday she and the administration are on the same page, and on Sunday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) offered their backing for the White House’s approach. Politico reported, After months of pounding President Barack Obama on every front, Republican congressional leaders finally have found a reason to praise him — his handling of the fast-moving crisis in Egypt.”

But the support is not universal. Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), last seen screwing up over New START, seems to have decided yesterday that a day without Obama criticism is like a day without sunshine.

A top Senate Republican leader accused the Obama administration Monday of failing to promote democracy around the world with the same vigor of President George W. Bush, possibly leaving Egyptian protestors wondering if the U.S. really stands with them.

“We might be in a better position if we had more closely followed President Bush’s prescription for support of greater democracy in all parts of the world,” Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Arizona, said as he stepped off the Senate floor Monday. “If we had maintained that position and had that reputation in the world…then our calls today for restraint would have more credibility because the people of Egypt would know our heart was with their desire for greater representation.”

This strikes me as a great example of a Republican criticizing just for the sake of doing so. There’s no real coherence to Kyl’s concerns, or even much of a point. U.S. officials called for the Mubarak regime to show restraint, and for the most part, it has. Does Kyl really believe Egyptian officials — or Egyptian protestors — are making decisions based on their perceptions about White House rhetoric on democracy promotion?

Indeed, his finger waving notwithstanding, Kyl, who’s never demonstrated any expertise on foreign policy, didn’t articulate a competing policy at odds with Obama’s approach, he just wanted to complain about the departure from Bush’s rhetoric and professed agenda.

Kyl may not have noticed, but as Matt Duss explained, Bush was wrong: “Bush’s democracy agenda was a huge failure for a number of reasons, but not least because it featured as its main advertisement the smoking ruins and charred bodies of Iraq. There was also the Bush administration’s tendency to pull the plug when it became obvious that democracy might mean the political victory of people the U.S. didn’t like, as happened in Egypt. Or, as in Gaza, to try to reverse the outcome through a coup.”

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