Given the larger political circumstances, it stands to reason that the Republican presidential candidates will simply oppose, reflexively, every decision President Obama makes. Right or wrong, popular or unpopular, the GOP field knows whatever the president is for, they’re against.
But there have to be limits to this knee-jerk style of politics. The field’s reaction to the end of the war in Iraq, for example, was completely tone deaf.
Despite their inability to agree on the economy or much else, Republican presidential candidates spoke with one voice in reaction to President Obama’s announcement of a full U.S. withdrawal from Iraq this year.
They were against it.
It was an “astonishing failure” that risked all the gains made “through the blood and sacrifice” of thousands of Americans, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry said he was “deeply concerned” that Obama had put “political expediency ahead of sound military and security judgment.” Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) cited it as another example of the president’s foreign policy weakness, and Jon Huntsman, Obama’s former ambassador to China, called it a “mistake.”
Herman Cain let stand his assessment of last weekend, in which he announced that withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan were “a dumb thing to do.”
They didn’t necessarily all agree on why they were outraged by the news, only that bringing U.S. troops from Iraq is just awful.
Keep in mind, the entire field’s combined experience in these areas is practically non-existent — Mitt Romney’s background shipping American jobs overseas doesn’t count as experience in international affairs — and when they try to talk about foreign policy, these candidates generally just end up embarrassing themselves.
But let’s remember exactly what these candidates were saying yesterday: they want at least some U.S. troops to stay in Iraq indefinitely. This disastrous, costly war began nearly nine years ago, but nearly all of the Republican presidential candidates still aren’t in any rush to end the U.S. mission.
As the nation’s attention has largely shifted to domestic concerns, there’s been far less polling on the public’s attitudes on U.S. policy in Iraq. The most recent data, however, shows that most Americans simply do not support the war.
The American mainstream will very likely consider yesterday’s announcement a terrific development. That the Republican presidential field doesn’t care is rather amazing.