Tea Partiers…What About The Wars?

Tea Partiers…What About The Wars?


Peter Beinart makes a good point about our massive defense budget and undeclared wars…

In modern times, conservative presidents like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush have tried to reconcile their efforts to rein in federal power with their support for a large military and an interventionist foreign policy. But both times, the latter has seriously trumped the former. Under both Reagan and Bush, aggressive, militaristic foreign policy produced more presidential power and larger deficits.

Tea Partiers say their movement is a response to the way government power, and government debt, grew under both Bush and Obama. But if they looked seriously at the reasons for that growth under Bush, they would see that much of what they’re upset about is the military and homeland security spending justified by his expansive “war on terror.”

Anyone genuinely worried about debt can’t ignore the fact that defense constitutes a majority of federal discretionary spending. And anyone devoted to a strict interpretation of the Constitution can’t ignore the fact that America is still fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention Pakistan, Yemen and lots of other places, without formal congressional declarations of war, although that is what the Constitution requires.

Come on now Peter, we all know something is constitutional when they say it is.

  • kranky kritter

    It’s a valid question, of course. Anyone who says they are deeply concerned about federal spending should be willing to speak to it.

    Personally, I was opposed to expanding our overseas military efforts past Afghanistan in the first place, for a variety of reasons. But I feel that when we do become directly involved militarily, we create a moral “you break it you buy it” contract.

    So I think it would be unethical for the US to prematurely withdraw its military for financial reasons even though we have legitimate financial concerns.

    I am totally uninterested in the liberal evergreen about being unconstitutionally involved in wars. At no point has the raising of this issue gotten any traction. Even IF it’s really a legitimate issue (I take no position on it), no one in any position of real power has ever agreed. It’s a non-starter.

  • Rich Horton

    “tried to reconcile their efforts to rein in federal power…”

    Care to give us an example, Peter?

    Oh, they’ve talked a good deal but they never actually did anything but increase Federal power, except possibly allowing states to decide their own speed limits. (Oooooh…. raaaadical.)

    Why is this striking me as another of those times when if the Democrats wanted to raise funding for some project/office by 40% and Republicans only want to raise the same funding by 20% people like Beinart scream that Republicans want to “cut” funding by half.

    Real politics (like those studied by political scientists) is less about what politicians say and more about what they actually do. Compared to what Republicans actually DO, this isn’t hypocritical… it’s par for the course.

    So Beinart is either dishonest enough to PRETEND that rhetoric matters, or dumb enough to believe it actually does.

  • blackout

    Rich, I’ve read your post three times and still have no idea how it pertains to the to the topic above. Congrats. Obfuscatory and misdirective as always. You might also want to reflect on the inherent contradiction in speaking to political science while also espousing an ideology that hews so far to an extreme. Junk science indeed.

  • Chris

    This is why it’s hilarious that the new congress wants to read the whole constitution out loud, like it has meant anything to them before.

  • Tully

    And anyone devoted to a strict interpretation of the Constitution can’t ignore the fact that America is still fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention Pakistan, Yemen and lots of other places, without formal congressional declarations of war

    Here comes that ignorant bullshit wingnut meme about “formal congressional declarations of war” again. News flash: Congress did indeed authorize the War on Terror in complete conformance with their war-declaring powers under the Constitution. No formally-worded “Declaration of War” containing that exact phrase is needed nor required by the Constitution for Congress to exercise their power to declare war OR to fulfill the requirements of the War Powers Act, only those Congressional authorizations of force, which are de facto and completely-Constitutional Congressional exercises of the Congressional power to “declare war.”

    But hey, don’t take my word for it, I’m just a pseudonymous guy on the net. Let’s ask an expert! I hear this Joe Biden guy in Washington was a professor of Constitutional Law (among other things) before he become VEEP. So let’s ask the Vice-President!

    Reporter: Hey, Mr. Veep, some claim that you gotta have a FORMAL “Declaration of War” to make our current military conflicts “constitutional.” Whadda ya have to say about that, Mr. Veep?

    Joe Biden: The answer is yes, and we did it. I happen to be a professor of Constitutional law. I’m the guy that drafted the Use of Force proposal that we passed. It was in conflict between the President and the House. I was the guy who finally drafted what we did pass. Under the Constitution, there is simply no distinction between a formal declaration of war, and an authorization of use of force. There is none for Constitutional purposes. None whatsoever.

    Thanks for clearing that up, Mr. Veep! I mean, I know this has already been addressed by Congress and the courts numerous times, but some people still think they can just make shit up without anyone noticing.

    (Yes, that’s really what then-opposition-Senator Biden said way back when in response to a press query about the constitutionality of the War on Terror. And yes, it really does reflect what the courts have said as well.)

  • Tully

    So Beinart is either dishonest enough to PRETEND that rhetoric matters, or dumb enough to believe it actually does.

    There you go setting up false dichotomies again … it’s not quite either/or, you know. He can be both dishonest enough to pretend and still believe!

  • http://theunderstandingproject.com daniel noe

    My impression of tea partiers (though certainly not monolithic) is that they were as much concerned with defense spending as they were with other spending.

  • Tully

    There you go disrupting the narrative with reality, daniel. Didn’t you know you’re not supposed to notice Beinart’s conflation of the Tea Party Movement people with the entire GOP?

    Good Lord, next you’ll be telling us that Russ Feingold and Bernie Sanders don’t fairly represent all Democrats. (OK, technically true with Sanders, the Senate’s only avowed Socialist, even though he caucuses Dem.)

  • http://www.donklephant.com Justin Gardner

    daniel, let’s hope, but the GOP lead House has already said they’re leaving defense spending off the table for cuts. My guess? A small handful of Tea Party politicians will raise the subject and be immediately ignored.

    Tully, what narrative? If the Tea Party is concerned with spending, they should undoubtedly demand that we look at cutting defense spending. Same with Republicans. Also, the Tea Party’s message WAS the GOP’s this last go around. Perhaps they’ll diverge, but they’re lockstep right now.

  • Tully

    There ya go, Justin, echoing Beinart’s dishonest conflation of the Tea Party with the entirety of the GOP.

    I’m afraid your lack of attention to what the TPM was saying is showing, if you truly believe that the TPM message was the GOP message. For example, social conservatives in particular got little or no traction in the TPM, while in GOP electoral circles they got an extra helping of rabble-rousing this last campaign season. The factions are far from “lockstep” — save in that leftist narrative.

    Indeed, I believe I’ve mentioned a time or a dozen or three that one of our most promising amusements over this new session will be watching the GOP infighting between the TPM fiscons and the always-agitated religious-right socons. The question is, when will they take off the gloves in public? It could be as much fun as was watching the MoveOns try and fail to destroy Joe Leiberman.

  • Rich Horton


    I’m sorry I didn’t discuss what you wanted me to discuss. Next time send me a note so when I wake up in the morning I can read it and I’ll know what I’m supposed to talk about and what I’m supposed to ignore.

  • blackout

    “Next time send me a note”

    I’ll make it easy. Try discussing the ostensible point of the post rather than pressing it into service as an excuse for ideological blathering. As long as you’re going to ply your brand of blinkered partisanship the least you can do is work within the constraints of the topic at hand. You may print this off and paste it on to your monitor if that helps.

  • blackout

    @Tully “Beinart’s dishonest conflation of the Tea Party with the entirety of the GOP.’

    And Beinart has a monoploy on that? You may want to review Eric Cantor’s remarks this week about the “mandate” and “message” of the November election before pointing fingers at anyone else for conflating the TPM and GOP. The GOP is working assiduously to coopt the TPM and act as if that message not only is, but has been, their own. The mischaracterization of the TPM may be the single best example of bipartisan cooperation to occur in the last two years.

  • kranky kritter

    Good point Blackout. Both parties seem quite eager to spin the Tea Party phenomenon to their advantage. The GOP wants to co-opt, and the democrats want to use the boogeyman to conflate the Tea Party and republicans with all the worst and ugliest and most objectionable conservative things(from the eyes of a garden variety liberal.)

    I continue to think that there is a fair to middling chance that we’ll see substantial growth in the numbers of independent national congressfolk come 2012. Some of these folk will be more opportunists than committed independents or centrists. But that’s OK. If there are enough independents to stop either major party from dominating the dojo, that works for me.

    Maybe that’s pipe-dreaming a bit. But I get the enduring sense that neither party is really getting the whole message from public dissatisfaction. They can only get the part of the message that comes in through their partisan receivers. They are sent the message that the other side has been rejected, and they receive the message that they’ve been approved of.