Michele Bachmann: The Tea Party's new hawk
Despite all of Bachmann's Tea Party credentials, she's not looking like an isolationist when it comes to foreign policy. Quite the opposite, Bachmann is increasingly vocal in her role as the Tea Party's hawk, pushing the movement back toward the policies of military-based interventionism.
For now, Bachmann is filling the space within the Tea Party left vacant by its former mother hawk, Sarah Palin. The former Alaska governor -- who has not yet made her intentions clear as to the 2012 race -- was once advised by neoconservative foreign-policy consultant Randy Scheunemann, but she has now switched her stance and her advisory team. Her foreign-policy positions are now crafted by Peter Schweizer, a Hoover Institution fellow who blogs for Andrew Breitbart's website Big Peace.
As of now, it's unclear how far Palin's foreign-policy shift will take her. But as the prospect of her presidential candidacy dwindles, it matters increasingly less. Bachmann, meanwhile, in a marked and seemingly calculated way, has come out forcefully seeking to separate out national security from the Tea Party's cost-cutting, budget-slashing, government-shrinking agenda.
In a June 28 interview with NPR, Bachman criticized Obama's announcement to draw down troops in Afghanistan, accused the president of placing political considerations ahead of national security, and implored the president to follow the advice of outgoing International Security Assistance Force commander Gen. David Petraeus, who recommended a slow pace of withdrawal.
"Gen. Petraeus, who's in charge of winning the war effort in Afghanistan, understands that we need to win the war on terror. We must never forget that 9/11 was hatched in the caves and the mountains of Afghanistan. The Taliban has a presence there. Al Qaeda has a presence there. We must defeat them in their backyard. And it's important that Gen. Petraeus and [Lt.] Gen. [John] Allen have the resources that they need to be successful in southern Afghanistan and then also in eastern Afghanistan," she said.
If that sounds extremely close to the position of the leading GOP hawk senators, such as McCain, that's because it is. In fact, Bachmann met with McCain in late June to discuss national security issues and Afghanistan, according to two sources familiar with the meeting. That's not to say she is taking his advice directly, but she is seeking his counsel.
"People assume that Bachmann is a[n] isolationist, but she's not. She's actually pretty hawkish," said one GOP consultant who is working with another candidate and did not wish to be named.
Bachmann did not vote to authorize the war in Libya; she also did not vote to cut off most funding for the mission there, breaking with her own party leadership. Bachmann's stance on Libya isn't as supportive of the mission as McCain's, but it represents the deep frustration throughout Congress with the president's handling of the mission, the consultant said.
"Obama's bungling of the Libya war has made it almost impossible for Republicans to support him even as they continue to support his even less bungled Afghanistan strategy," the consultant said.
In an interview, McCain noted that the GOP candidates aren't straying too far from the party's traditional stance on national security. The death of the hawkish GOP has been exaggerated, McCain said.
"That's the same thing [that] was said in 2007, when a majority of the Senate wanted to withdraw from Iraq. In the end, it's not a matter of the influence of one senator or one wing of the party; it's a matter of principle and a matter of national security."
(Bachmann's campaign did not respond to requests for information about her in-house foreign-policy advisors.)
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