And what about the rest of the world?
CPAC speakers, with the exception of John Bolton, had plenty to say about the economy but virtually nothing about Egypt, The Post reported yesterday:
On a day of history in the Middle East, there was one topic virtually absent from the speeches of prospective 2012 Republican presidential candidates at the annual Conservative Political Action Committee's convention: Egypt.
The would-be contenders - and others who addressed the gathering - struck a series of common conservative themes, such as reducing the size of government as well as projecting strength and muscle abroad. All attacked President Obama for his domestic and foreign policies.
In a situation that was changing minute by minute, it's not surprising that no one risked sounding off-key. But this raises a key point: How will the GOP contenders fare against Obama on foreign policy and national defense?
It might cheer the fiscal hawks to hear Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels tout his willingness to ax defense spending, but, if he runs, he's going to have to explain how he is going to fight the war on terror, deal with Iran and stand up to Hugo Chavez. Like Mitt Romney on health care, he is kidding himself if he thinks he can just not talk about it. (A former Bush official recently confided, "He's smart. He's funny. But he never showed the slightest interest in foreign policy.")
Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty spent the most time of the top candidates in their speeches on national security, but they will be be pushed to articulate a more specific position on everything from Iran to China to Cuba. Conservatives may not like Obama's approach to the world, but he's going to be fluid on the issues and have the advantage of two years as commander in chief. Will either of these be ready to confront him on the serial errors of his foreign policy team?
Likewise, one wonders who, if anyone, is going to take on Obama's gambit to slash defense, not to lower the budget deficit, but to shift spending to domestic programs. Writing in the Weekly Standard, Gary Schmitt and Tom Donnelly explain:
Republicans will not just resize the government but reshape it, ensuring that Washington does well those jobs it alone must do, and otherwise giving private enterprise and civil society the greatest opportunity to flourish. And the one indispensable task of the federal government -- indeed a principal reason why the Founders felt the need to replace the Articles of Confederation with the Constitution -- is national defense. The saliency of this need is no less apparent now, when we are fighting a war in Central Asia and globally against Islamist terrorists, facing an increasingly ambitious China, dealing daily with securing the great commons of the sea, space, and cyberspace, witnessing continuing instability in the Middle East, and may soon face not one but two rogue regimes armed with nuclear weapons.
The good news is that, in the reconsidered 2011 continuing resolution, the House Republican leadership is prepared to treat defense differently than domestic discretionary spending, adding about $8 billion to the defense levels now in force. . . . It is, however, undeniably the case that the defense budget levels in the resolution the House leadership brings to the floor will be lower than those requested by Barack Obama in his FY2011 budget submission
The authors are right to be nervous about Congress and the presidential contenders. We are beset by multiple challenges in the world. And yet, as Schmitt and Donnelly point out, we have been telling our military to do "too much with too little for too long." The Ron and Rand Paul-Mitch Daniels school of thought would be to do less. But to the extent the party has not drunk the neo-isolationist Kool-Aid, those who do favor a robust foreign policy are going to have to make the case for maintaining a defense that is adequate to the tasks at hand. As for Congress, Schmitt and Donnelly observe: "When the 2012 budget is released, we will truly know whether the new Republicans have the wit and the steadfastness to resist the temptation to slash defense mindlessly, and to insist that a strong defense is entirely compatible with a fiscally responsible and appropriately limited federal government."
As for the 2012 contenders, we'll know when one of them gives a mature foreign policy speech who is equipped to take on the notion that defense spending should be treated like defense spending and to explain precisely what is wrong with Obama's foreign policy. After all, these guys are running for commander in chief, not OMB director.
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