In recent years, Republicans have been preoccupied with a curious criticism of President Obama: under his leadership, the United States isn’t as respected as it once was.
As a quantifiable matter, we know the argument is demonstrably wrong. As a political matter, I often wonder whether Republicans remember what it was like at the end of the Bush/Cheney era, when America’s reputation had taken an actual, severe hit.
For quite a while, we were associated with torture and launching disastrous wars based on brazen lies. Our credibility and respect was suffering abroad in ways unseen in many years. It was not uncommon for Americans in the Bush/Cheney era to look for Canadian flags to sow onto backpacks for fear of having to defend Bush’s failures and what he’d done to America’s name. It was President Obama, fortunately, who helped turn the nation’s reputation around.
But GOP presidential candidates continue to say the opposite. Jeb Bush, for example, routinely complains that America has “lost the trust and confidence of our friends.” Scott Walker and Donald Trump recently commiserated over “how poorly” the United States is “perceived throughout the world.”
It’s against this backdrop that many of these same presidential candidates seem desperate to infuriate America’s allies and ignore our international commitments. Greg Sargent yesterday flagged a radio interview with Scott Walker, in which he was asked about the preliminary nuclear agreement with Iran.
HOST: You have said that you would cancel any Iranian deal the Obama administration makes. Now would you cancel that even if our trading partners did not want to re-impose the sanctions?WALKER: Absolutely.
Marco Rubio recently made an identical vow, saying he would “absolutely” defy American allies by scrapping an Iran deal.
This is more than a little crazy.
The GOP line, in effect is, “It’s outrageous that we’ve lost support from U.S. allies, which is why I’m prepared to thumb my nose at U.S. allies, betray an international commitment, and ignore the repercussions.”
It is a disqualifying posture for any national candidate who wants to be taken seriously. Greg added:
This all gets at the complexity of the politics of Iran nukes. The pledge to undo any Obama nuclear deal with Iran is already emerging as a key litmus test for the 2016 GOP contenders. But they are essentially framing the question as a narrow one: Will I stick it to Obama and undo his capitulation to Iran on Day One? You’re damn right I will!But in the real world, a deal would involve not just Obama, but our major European allies, and undoing it could unleash all sorts of international complications.
The president himself, without the benefit of an anger translator, alluded to this yesterday, explaining, “This is a deal between Iran, the United States of America, and the major powers in the world – including some of our closest allies. If Congress kills this deal – not based on expert analysis, and without offering any reasonable alternative – then it’s the United States that will be blamed for the failure of diplomacy. International unity will collapse, and the path to conflict will widen.”
At the same time, our standing on the world stage would crumble – again – all because Republicans’ hatred for the U.S. president led them to abandon our commitment to an international agreement.
The Republican governor of Wisconsin keeps facing tests of national leadership. He also keeps failing them.