Setting the record straight: Conservatives are the authors of the freedom agenda
As other conservatives and I have done, Eugene Robinson raps the knuckles of Republican CPAC speakers who barely spoke about Egypt. But then he presents an incomplete and ultimately misleading picture of conservatives' approach to Egypt, suggesting conservatives haven't supported the Egyptian revolution.
Let's recall that the freedom agenda, the far-sighted vision championed by George W. Bush and largely opposed by every prominent liberal pol and pundit, put forth the idea that the Arab world was fully capable of embracing democracy and that it was folly to rely on alliances with tottering despots in the mistaken belief that they offered stability. It is this agenda that so many conservatives have continued to champion while bitterly criticizing the short-sightedness of Obama's Muslim outreach gambit (i.e. coddling dictators). Egypt has been no different.
Let's note just a few of the pro-Egyptian revolution figures and groups Eugene left out -- Sen. John McCain (R- Ariz.), the conservative members of the Egypt Working Group, the Foreign Policy Initiative and House Foreign Affairs Chairwoman Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.). Who had been most critical of Obama's lackadaisical reaction to the recent Egyptian parliamentary elections? Conservatives. It wasn't the Nation that led the journalistic attack on Obama's timidity on Egypt; it was the Weekly Standard.
And by the way, among the presidential candidates, I would highlight Tim Pawlenty's outing on "Meet the Press," in which he excoriated the administration for a multiplicity of voices on Egypt and came out foursquare in favor of democracy.
Eugene is right that there has been timidity and opposition in some Republican quarters on Egypt. There is no denying that there remains an isolationist strain in conservative circles, but it is neither the predominant view nor the position adopted by Republican House and Senate leadership. So let's be fair: The strongest and most consistent voices in favor of democracy in Egypt and throughout the Middle East have been on the right, namely among the much maligned neoconservatives. They were after all roundly vilified for pushing for democracy not only in the Middle East but around the globe -- until even the Obama administration could no longer pretend that "engagement" of autocrats is the key to peace and stability.
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