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Tilting at Windmills

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March 18, 2011

BARBOUR FACES BLOWBACK OVER DEFENSE BUDGET.... It may not be possible to have a dust-up among Republican presidential candidates when there aren't any actual Republican presidential candidates. But if it is possible, we're apparently seeing the first one of the 2012 cycle.

Campaigning in Iowa this week, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) argued that defense cuts make sense. "Anybody who says you can't save money at the Pentagon has never been to the Pentagon," Barbour said. "We can save money on defense and if we Republicans don't propose saving money on defense, we'll have no credibility on anything else."

Wednesday, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) blasted the remarks. Yesterday, Bill Kristol registered his disapproval, too.

Barbour's only substantive argument seemed to be this: "Anybody who says you can't save money at the Pentagon has never been to the Pentagon." This is a) childish, b) slightly offensive, and c) raises the question of how much time Barbour has spent at the Pentagon -- apart from time spent lobbying for defense contractors or foreign governments.

Ouch.

Kristol added that Barbour's remarks constituted "irresponsible pandering." What's more, the fact that the Mississippi governor is skeptical of the war in Afghanistan makes him "an advocate of U.S. retreat."

This, by the way, is the language Kristol, a leading GOP voice, is using in March 2011 -- before any of the candidates have even announced. I wonder what the criticism will look like if Barbour is still advocating defense cuts in, say, December.

Of course, that's part of the point of the pushback. Barbour broached the subject this week, not in a formal speech, but in a more casual setting. By going after him aggressively, the Republican establishment is presumably letting Barbour know: "Don't do that again."

As for the rest of the unannounced field, the Wall Street Journal notes that Pawlenty, Romney, Palin, and Gingrich oppose cuts to the massive Pentagon budget, while Barbour, Daniels, and Ron Paul support cuts.

There are worse things to debate in a presidential primary.

Steve Benen 9:25 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (26)

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Comments

It is , after all , a fresh wind that blows against Bill Kristol .

Posted by: FRP on March 18, 2011 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

Tim Pawlenty. Blasted? That's funny. Did he does his blasting in a faux Southern accent while shaking his skinny fist to the sky?

Posted by: hells littlest angel on March 18, 2011 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

Since coming out of their isolationist phase after WWII, Republicans have been for every war that they personally didn't have to fight in.

The exception was the Balkans, and that was because of Clinton Derangement Syndrome, and the fact that there was no oil there.

Plus, there's too much filthy lucre to be made in the military.
So, no budget cuts for the military, only increases.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 18, 2011 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

And William Kristol also did some blasting. Barbour's lucky that he was only verbally assaulted. A rough-tough militarist he-man motherfucker like Kristol could have really fucked him up if he felt like it.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on March 18, 2011 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

Boss Hog will never be president.

Neither will the other Boss Hog (whose name rhymes with Coot).

Posted by: sandra on March 18, 2011 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

As usual liberals forget that the GOP is a big tent where intelligent debate is possible and welcome.

Posted by: Al on March 18, 2011 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

I am waiting for someone to ask Mitt if he is a hunter who believes in eating what he kills. Mitt will choose the politically correct answer, which is, "Of course I do". Hunters will know he is full of shit, as he has previously described himself as "a varmint hunter", which means he hunts coyotes and foxes and prairie dogs and such.

Posted by: sceptic on March 18, 2011 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

It once was considered profiteering to take largish sized profits on wartime materiel . The change in perception is all the more striking because , if you haven't guessed , the same voices are raised in drumming up business . Which makes it twice culpable , as a profiteering issue , for a weak eyed dreary sort of , umm , citizen .

Posted by: FRP on March 18, 2011 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

It's odd how Republicans go on and on about wasteful government spending and the need to cut it, but when it comes to the defense department, everything runs so clean and efficiently that not a dime can be spared. Kind of pokes a hole in their in their whole rant about big government...

Of course, when you can just make stuff up and people believe you (via Fox News), who needs to be logically consistent?

Posted by: delNorte on March 18, 2011 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, the Straussian attacks... Hasn't anyone ever said to themselves "Golly, these guys always seem to be in favor of war. Why is that, I wonder... ?"

Posted by: MattF on March 18, 2011 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

Did Plenty Crystal do their blasting before or after blasting Obama about the U.S. being broke?

Posted by: Bulworth on March 18, 2011 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

"Since coming out of their isolationist phase after WWII, Republicans have been for every war that they personally didn't have to fight in.

Plus, there's too much filthy lucre to be made in the military. "
- c u n d gulag

Those American "isolationists" discovered what European armament manufacturers learned in WWI: there was money in war. Tanks and jeeps rolled off the assembly lines with no bid contracts and created an industry.

An industry no different than Big Oil or Big Pharma- other than there is just one customer, and no competition.

Posted by: DAY on March 18, 2011 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

The thing is, I'll give Barbour credit for at least admitting that you can't be serious about cutting the budget deficit w/o cutting Defense spending. I think we'd be just fine if we spent as much as the rest of the world combined does on defense, rather than more.

Of course, the other part of the equation- returning taxes to the level they were during the very prosperous Clinton or Eisenhower administration- will never be mentioned by any Republican. Or Dem, for that matter.

-Z

Posted by: Zorro on March 18, 2011 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

is it is clear who Bill Kristol is shilling for in this primary? Is it still Princess Caribou?

Posted by: Rathskeller on March 18, 2011 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

So all the billions of dollars in CASH that was "lost" by the Pentagon isn't an indication that the Pentagon is reckless with taxpayer money?

Yeah, it's those damn teachers and their five-figure pension benefits.

Posted by: karen marie on March 18, 2011 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

It gets better. Barbour's son responds:
"In Sterling Barbour's e-mail to Kristol, obtained by the Associated Press, he writes: 'It just makes no sense to me that a conservative man, such as yourself, would have such a blatantly obvious disdain towards my father.' He added: 'Despite your best efforts, if he decides to run, he will likely win the nomination.'

'My dad would tell me to leave this alone,' Barbour wrote. 'And for the record, I have never heard him say an ill word against you. And he never will. He is the consummate team player. Maybe we should rename him the anti-you?'"

http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/03/haley-barbours-son-slams-bill-kristol-youre-assassinating-my-fathers-character.php?ref=fpb

Posted by: Jon on March 18, 2011 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Hells littlest angel For The Win . Bravo

Posted by: john r on March 18, 2011 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

If the President were to announce a schedule to drawdown forces in Afghanistan during the runup to the Republican primaries, I imagine it could make for some lively debates amongst their candidates. And given that the public likely would support the President, having Republicans fight, in public, should be to his benefit. Just saying.

Posted by: John Dillinger on March 18, 2011 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

c) raises the question of how much time Barbour has spent at the Pentagon -- apart from time spent lobbying for defense contractors or foreign governments.

Kristol's probably right about this part. Barbour's had his fingerprints on a lot of stuff over the years, but try as I might I can't connect him to military matters except possibly as a lobbyist.

Whereas Kristol... um... well, anyway, the point being this probably IS how Barbour knows there's all that waste in defense spending.

(Also, in defense of my beloved governor, I should point out that as far as he's concerned, no matter how many foreign governments he's lobbied for, the government of the United States will always be his very most favorite foreign government.)

Posted by: Matt on March 18, 2011 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

Says Kristol:

Barbour's only substantive argument seemed to be this: "Anybody who says you can't save money at the Pentagon has never been to the Pentagon." This is a) childish, b) slightly offensive, and c) raises the question of how much time Barbour has spent at the Pentagon -- apart from time spent lobbying for defense contractors or foreign governments.

Doesn't a background as a lobbyist for defense contractors increase Barbour's credibility in stating that the there is waste that can be cut in the defense budget? It does, after all, frame it as a statement against a natural bias.

Or is Kristol just throwing out anything that people might respond to negatively without considering how it applies to the specific argument at issue?


Posted by: cmdicely on March 18, 2011 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

Kristol's comments almost make my sympathize with Barbour.

Barbour is absolutely correct that (1) there is no reason why the defense budget should be sacrosanct and (2) there is undoubtedly waste there that could be cut. That this should be a controversial statement doesn't reflect well on Kristol and his allies.

Barbour, astute politician that he is, knows that voters don't buy the line pushed by Kristol, and they don't see any reason why we shouldn't look at the defense budget for cost savings. If anyone is "pandering" it's Pawlenty, Romney, Gingrich and Palin, who are simply trying to appear "tough" on defense.

Posted by: DRF on March 18, 2011 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

There are worse things to debate in a presidential primary.

I vote for flag lapel pins.

Posted by: chi res on March 18, 2011 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

Note the headline on Bill Kristol's blog entry on this subject: "T-Paw vs. Hee-Haw."

Now imagine for a moment that the editor and public face of any media organization not affiliated with the right wing referred to someone with a southern accent as "Hee-Haw." And try to imagine how quickly the Weekly Standard would editorialize about how it proved that the mainstream media thinks all of those real Americans who live in Mississippi are hicks and that NPR ought to be defunded immediately.

Posted by: Rob M on March 18, 2011 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

"apart from time spent lobbying for defense contractors or foreign governments." Ouch
I have a feeling that by the end of the republican primary season, the democrats should be able to make some fairly effective campaign adds using only the words of other republicans.

Posted by: jeff on March 18, 2011 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

Anybody who isn't willing to increase our defense spending to 110% of GDP just isn't serious about national defense. Those cowards should be called out for being weak kneed, Muslim sympathizing, commie liberals and driven from the arena of public debate!

Posted by: Rick on March 18, 2011 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

If you know anyone who knows anything about the Pentagon - where the accounting system actually doesn't work, according to my good friend former senior defense analyst Chuck Spinney - Barbour is correct. In fact, the word through the "military reform" grapevine after the comment was made was that they were surprised Barbour would say such a thing. They also accurately forecast that it would take less than 48 hours for the GOP to smack him down for it.

Who'd'a thunk it? Haley Barbour, messenger of truth.

Posted by: TCinLA on March 18, 2011 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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