Political Animal


February 02, 2012 4:10 PM Test of Hawkishness

By Ed Kilgore

With the sound of another shoe dropping, a small group of Republican Senators (McCain, Graham, Kyl, Cornyn, Ayotte, and Rubio) have announced a proposal to cancel next year’s automatic cuts in defense appropriations and instead wring equivalent savings (over ten years) by freezing pay for federal workers and reducing their numbers by 5% via attrition.

The proposal isn’t going anywhere, if only because Democratic support is extremely limited, and the president has already promised to veto any cancellation of the “sequestrations” called for in last year’s deficit agreement unless it’s replaced with a “grand bargain” involving tax increases on the wealthy.

But it’s mainly interesting as a measure of the residual strength of maximum defense hawks—or from a more philosophical perspective, the neocons who once walked so tall in Washington—in a Republican Party whose ardor for dismantling the New Deal and Great Society and making the tax code even more regressive is matched by a continued passion for federal activism in keeping America armed to the teeth, independent of any alliances (other than with Israel), and hyper-aggressive towards real or imagined foes.

It is, after all, one of the sillier parts of the Tea Party myth that “libertarians” uninterested in foreign policy adventurism have taken over the GOP. Aside, of course, from Ron Paul (and occasionally his senatorial son), you’d never know this was the case given the extraordinary support for truculence towards Iran among Republicans, and the continued determination of many to stay in Afghanistan indefinitely. Indeed, the likely GOP presidential nominee is one Republican who has yet to indicate that he would pursue a foreign policy significantly different from that of the Bush administration. And most of his top national security advisors would look entirely at home taking turns at the podium in an appreciation dinner for Dick Cheney.

What he, and other Republican opinion-leaders have to say about the senatorial save-the-Pentagon initiative will tell us a lot about the relative priority they assign to the various passions of the conservative movement. Don’t bet against guns trumping butter, ever.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Ron Byers on February 02, 2012 4:32 PM:


    This isn't a GOP v Dem issue.

    It is all about the bucks. The defense industry will do anything to make sure the bucks keep flowing. Every congressional district in the country is home to some defense contractor or other. They are horrified at the prospect of cuts. They will stop at nothing to stop any change in their funding.

    Our problem is our elected congress critters, both parties, lack the guts to actually stand up to the contractors. If you think the automatic cuts are going to hold let me show you this bridge in Brooklyn....

  • hells littlest angel on February 02, 2012 4:38 PM:

    Romney's foreign policy will be known as the Bain Doctrine: Look around for countries that are weak, with undervalued assets, and loaded down with surplus, unproductive citizens. Move in and take it over (a hostile takeover, if necessary), sell off assets, "downsize" those surplus moocher citizens, pay yourself off, and set the newly restructured country loose to flourish or go bankrupt.

  • Hedda Peraz on February 02, 2012 4:52 PM:

    Solid thinking, gents!
    But why stop at cutting the federal workforce to divert money to defense?
    Think of all the armaments we could buy, if we simply repealed the 13th Amendment!
    (and we could abolish food stamps; Massah would provide. . .)

  • Jilli on February 02, 2012 5:34 PM:

    So the republican alternative is to not cut the bloated defense appropriations budget - the mother of all black holes of waste - but to put more Americans out of work. In what world does that make sense?

  • c u n d gulag on February 02, 2012 5:55 PM:

    What exactly is our over-financed military protecting, outside of a dying Empire?
    You asshat's helped to piss that all away.

    And how much do we need to spend to defend this rapidly declining country, gentlemen?

    Especially when it was asshat's like you who got us into this predicament.

  • barkleyg on February 02, 2012 6:38 PM:

    "What he, and other Republican opinion-leaders have to say about the senatorial save-the-Pentagon initiative will tell us a lot about the relative priority they assign to the various passions of the conservative movement."

    What it says is that to Republicans, YOUR WORD does not matter; they will SAY anything to get what they want, even after they say they AGREE to the arrangement. It says that the Republican Party a Leaders are morally bankrupt, just like their TEA PARTY base, and what a LOW Base it is!

  • Al on February 03, 2012 9:49 AM:

    Go sequestration cuts!

    Only one problem: what about all them soon to be fired defecse contactorr's employees? If the gravvy trains stops, they'll most likely cut their workforce, and that means tens of thousands.

    Sounds like the last thing Obama needs right now, and that alone could make him budge.

    Thinking it that way, aren't all those contractors sucking "defense welfare"?

  • MNRD on February 03, 2012 3:03 PM:

    The neo-conservatives have doomed themselves by consistently placing partisanship over policy. In order to have sustained sufficient support for the kind of hyper-aggressive military policy that they covet, it was imperative for them to avoid the perception that they are disloyal to the nation. Their extremely graceless hyper-partisan response to the President who got bin Laden and decimated al Qaeda has created too much of a perception that the neo-conservatives are disloyal. In a related matter, the neo-conservatives have also refused to choose between raising revenue or promoting their extremely expensive military policy. This has created the perception that protecting the 1% is a higher priority for them than their military policy. Thus, their military policy winds up being a poor third as a priority after hyper-partisanship and protecting the 1%. That simply won't cut it.

  • barkleyg on February 03, 2012 3:42 PM:

    MNRD: "The neo-conservatives have doomed themselves by consistently placing partisanship over policy."

    Until REPUG leaders learn to LOVE America more than they HATE OBAMA, we are Doomed as a "great" Nation, whatever the HLL that means after King George and his use of TORTURE!