Fellow Republicans, support Obama now!

The situation in Afghanistan is bad and getting worse. Young Americans are losing their lives in a war that may soon lose the support of the American people.

Fellow Americans, will we give in to despair, or will we find a new HOPE? Will we accept a painful defeat, or will we have the AUDACITY to seek a brighter future? Will we surrender to the partisanship of the old way of politics, or seek innovative BIPARTISAN solutions?

You get my drift. Several months ago, it didn’t seem very interesting when leading Republicans said they would support Obama’s new strategy for Afghanistan, rather than criticize it because Obama is Democrat. After all, it’s easy to announce one’s support for a policy that is already popular on both sides of the aisle.

Now the situation is different. But the message from Republicans (except George Will) is the same. Accustomed to accusations of hyper-partisanship, Republicans seem to be thoroughly enjoying the chance to support Obama when he’s supporting a war that Democrats have increasingly turned against. Even before l’affare Will, Bill Kristol wrote,

as a decision looms for Obama on a new strategy requiring increased numbers of troops in Afghanistan, a Washington Post-ABC News poll last week discovered that “majorities of liberals and Democrats alike now, for the first time, solidly oppose the war and are calling for a reduction of troop levels.” Conservatives and Republicans are far more supportive of the war–they “remain the war’s strongest backers”–and a majority of conservatives don’t merely support the war but say they approve of President Obama’s handling of it.

So much for charges of knee-jerk or unprincipled partisanship. Conservatives support a president they generally distrust because they think it important the country win the war in Afghanistan. And despite temptations to make political hay out of a war that’s getting more unpopular, and despite doubts about Obama as commander in chief, Republican political leaders remain supportive of the war effort. They are urging Obama to commit himself unambiguously to win the war and to approve General Stanley McChrystal’s coming request for more troops. And in urging the administration to follow this course, they are willing to see the president get credit for doing the right thing.

Sure, we’re giving ourselves a big pat on the pack. But we deserve it. Dan Senor and Peter Wehner struck a similar note in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. They write,

The president’s actions have clearly unsettled some members of his own party, who hoped he would begin to unwind America’s commitment in Afghanistan. Mr. Obama not only ignored their counsel; he doubled down his commitment. There should therefore be no stronger advocates for Mr. Obama’s Afghanistan strategy than the GOP.

Senor and Wehner make the important observation that America has a “long history of political parties out of power advancing a neo-isolationist outlook.” The GOP often gave into that temptation in the Clinton era.

Although supporting a Democratic president is certainly bipartisan, it’s important not to forget the political benefits of facilitating a bitter divide between a Democratic president and his own party. For those who want a reason to describe GOP support for Obama as selfish, there it is. But usually, when someone gets ahead by doing what’s right and good, progressives call it enlightened self-interest.

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