“We’re all on the same page until the polls close Nov. 2,” Richard Viguerie, the longtime conservative strategist who has allied with the Tea Party, told The New York Times. After that, “a massive, almost historic battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party begins.”
Indeed, such a battle seems unavoidable. Consider.
The great issue uniting and motivating the Republican Party and Tea Party is the deficit-debt crisis, a national debt nearing 100 percent of gross domestic product and a deficit of 10 percent of GDP.
As to the cause of the deficit that could precipitate a run on the dollar, double-digit inflation, even a default, the Tea Party and GOP also agree — federal spending that consumes 25 percent of GDP.
Both are also on the same page in their opposition to closing the deficit with new or higher taxes.
This means spending must be slashed. But to cut the budget to 20 percent of GDP, where it was before George W. Bush and Barack Obama, requires spending cuts of an astronomical $700 billion a year. Even then, the 2011 deficit would be $700 billion.
As interest on the debt must be paid, or we default, there are only two places you can find that kind of money. The first is the major entitlement programs — Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security — and social spending for education, veterans benefits, earned income tax credits and unemployment compensation.
But a Democratic Party, brutalized and bled on Nov. 2, returning to Capitol Hill with its moderate wing annihilated, is unlikely to collude with a resurgent Republican right and Tea Party caucus in hacking away at social programs that are the Democratic Party’s pride and joy, and the reason that party exists.
Which leaves one place where a bipartisan majority may be found for major spending cuts: defense and the empire, the warfare state.
The “agonizing reappraisal” of commitments abroad that John Foster Dulles predicted half a century ago may be at hand.
And here is where the Tea Party and War Party split the blanket.
If Obama makes good on his pledge of full withdrawal of the 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq by the end of 2011, will the Tea Party and Republican right oppose that withdrawal and join the War Party in demanding that we retain an army in Iraq indefinitely?
If Obama refuses to go to war against Iran, a war that would send oil prices soaring, close the Persian Gulf and be a disaster for the global economy, will the Tea Party join the War Party in denouncing Obama for not launching a third war in the Near East?
If Obama begins his promised withdrawal from Afghanistan next July, will Tea Party Republicans join the War Party and the generals in accusing Obama of inviting an American defeat?
The neocons are nervous the Tea Party may not sign up to soldier on for the empire. Writing in The Washington Post, Danielle Pletka and Thomas Donnelly of AEI have sniffed out the unmistakable scent of “isolationism” among Tea Party favorites.
They are warning that the old right and Tea Party might unite in a “combination of Ebenezer Scrooge and George McGovern, withdrawing from the world to a countinghouse America.”
Sorry, but the old neocon name-calling won’t cut it this time.
After Iraq and Afghanistan, the American people are not going to give the establishment and War Party a free hand in foreign policy. Every patriot will do what is necessary and pay what is needed to defend his country. But national security is one thing, empire security another.
Why should Americans, 65 years after World War II, be defending rich Europeans from a Soviet Union that has been dead for 20 years, so those same Europeans can cut their defense budgets to protect their social safety nets?
President Eisenhower told JFK to bring the troops home from Europe, or the Europeans would wind up as permanent wards.
Was Ike a closet isolationist?
Almost $14 trillion in debt today, we borrow from Europe to defend Europe, borrow from Japan to defend Japan, borrow from the Gulf Arabs to defend the Gulf Arabs. And we borrow from Beijing to send foreign aid to African regimes whose U.N. delegations laughed and applauded as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the General Assembly that 9/11 was an inside job by the U.S. government. Have we lost all sense of self-respect?
In his 1969 “Silent Majority” address, Richard Nixon said that, after Vietnam, America would provide Asian allies with weapons and assistance in defending their freedom. But Americans would no longer do the fighting.
Why are U.S. soldiers still on the DMZ, 57 years after the Korean War? Why are Marines still on Okinawa, 65 years after Gen. MacArthur took the surrender? Cannot Korea and Japan, prosperous and populous, conscript the soldiers for their own defense?
National security, yes. Empire security we can no longer afford.
The only problem with Sen. McGovern’s “Come home, America!” slogan was the timing.